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José Ingenieros, El Hombre Mediocre, and Social Integration in Turn-of-the-20th-Century Argentina

Summary and Keywords

The life of Italian-Argentine scientist and intellectual José Ingenieros (1877–1925) has been considered a clear example of the potential for upward social mobility based on talent that existed in Buenos Aires at the turn of the 20th century. Born Giuseppe Ingegnieros in Palermo, Sicily, from a working-class family, Ingenieros was able to become both one of the most internationally renowned Latin American intellectuals and scientists—his scientific and philosophical works were translated into several languages—and also a socialite of high visibility befriending some of the most prominent members of the Argentine social elite. His trajectory seems to be an example of unparalleled success. Nevertheless, a close look at recently unearthed sources, particularly his private correspondence, not only shows a different picture of Ingenieros’s life and works, but also forces us to reconsider accepted knowledge about the possibilities offered to immigrants by turn-of-the-century Argentine society. His trajectory constitutes an excellent case study for the analysis of both the potentials and the limits of social mobility in Argentina at the time, as well as the relationship between intellectuals and power during the transition from the oligarchic republic established in 1862, after the unification of the country, to the really democratic republic based on universal (male) suffrage introduced in 1912. An analysis of the context of production of his most popular work, El hombre mediocre, provides an opportunity to contrast his public image with the social insecurities he expressed to his relatives and friends.

Keywords: José Ingenieros, El hombre mediocre, Argentine intellectual elites, upward social mobility, immigration

According to Oscar Terán, the trajectory of José Ingenieros (Palermo, Italy, 1877–Buenos Aires, Argentina, 1925) shows that by the beginning of the 20th century, the Argentine intellectual field had developed its own mechanisms of inclusion for incorporating those who possessed only symbolic (that is to say, noneconomic or social) capital.1 Ingenieros (he Hispanized his surname in the 1910s, although he had used the Hispanized José since he was a child) was the son of Salvatore Ingegnieros, an exiled socialist typographer with strong connections to Freemasonry, who had been a founding member of the International Workers’ Association.2 Ingenieros arrived in Argentina with his family as a young child and through his own effort and intelligence was able to quickly climb the social ladder, attaining both international stature as a scientist and thinker and high social status at home. As a teenager, he participated in the foundation of the Argentine Socialist Party, and just a few years later he became one of the leaders of its left wing. In 1897, together with writer Leopoldo Lugones, Ingenieros embarked on publishing the short-lived newspaper La Montaña, which combined elements of socialist and anarchist ideologies. Gradually, Ingenieros abandoned political activism and devoted himself to science.

A firm believer in deterministic positivism, after an outstanding career in psychiatry, psychology, and criminology, and having produced some highly successful works on sociology and history, in the 1910s Ingenieros dabbled in philosophy. Very soon, he became widely respected in this field as well.3 During his career, he authored dozens of books on scientific and philosophical topics, some of which were translated into French, Russian, German, and Italian—the German edition of his Principios de Psicología carried a preface by Nobel laureate Wilhelm Ostwald—as well as hundreds of articles in prestigious journals worldwide. Toward the end of his relatively short life, Ingenieros became a keen enthusiast of the Russian and Mexican revolutions, befriending Yucatecan socialist governor Felipe Carrillo Puerto (who addressed Ingenieros as “maestro”). In the 1920s Ingenieros cofounded the Unión Latinoamericana to promote Latin American union against the threat of U.S. imperialism. Moreover, Ingenieros was seen—and saw himself—as an example of an autonomous intellectual who could talk to people in power (including the president of the republic, as will be shown) from a position of equality. By the last decade of his life, Ingenieros was considered not only a maestro de la juventud but also the most prominent Latin American intellectual. He was probably the first Latin American scientist whose ideas were widely recognized in Europe and one of the very few (if not the only one) whose works circulated across the ocean and were discussed in European universities.

Looking at his outstanding achievements in numerous fields, Ingenieros’s trajectory seems to be an example of unparalleled success. Yet the examination of his recently opened archive, held at the Centro de Documentación e Investigación de la Cultura de Izquierdas en la Argentina (CeDInCI) in Buenos Aires, shows a different picture. The personal letters to his parents and friends attest that Ingenieros, allegedly a poster child of Argentine social mobility and an example of a self-made man who scored triumph after triumph relying only on his own intelligence, felt uneasy about his social position, which apparently was much more fragile than usually thought. The material held at the archive, therefore, allows for a reexamination of his position in society as a case study of social mobility based on talent and integration into the social elites in turn-of-the-20th-century Argentina. His life constitutes also a gate of entrance into other more general topics, such as the relationship between intellectuals and power during the transition from the oligarchic república posible to the república verdadera based on universal (male) suffrage introduced in 1912.4

Argentina was a rare case in Latin America. Between 1862 and 1930 the country enjoyed a long period of political stability. Nevertheless, although formally democratic and based after 1912 on universal (male) suffrage, the Argentine political system was a relatively narrow one, led by social and political elites. The presence of a large number of foreign immigrants who had no voting rights contributed to this situation. Toward the turn of the century, as society became more complex, some enlightened sectors of the elites realized that they could not maintain the oligarchic system indefinitely. The presence of an antisystem party (the Unión cívica radical) and of increasingly combative labor unions made reform more urgent. In 1912 President Roque Sáenz Peña, with the support of progressive sectors of the elite, passed an electoral law (known as Ley Sáenz Peña) that provided universal (male) mandatory and secret balloting. This law opened the doors for the empowerment of the first popularly elected president: Hipólito Yrigoyen, in 1916.5

This discussion concentrates on a specific moment in Ingenieros’s life: the production of his most popular and widely read book, El hombre mediocre (1913), and the context in which it took place. For many reasons, this book was a turning point in its author’s life. It was written in the aftermath of a conflict he had with President Sáenz Peña, who denied him a professorship at the School of Medicine of the University of Buenos Aires. In a footnote included in the first edition of the book, Ingenieros explicitly identified Sáenz Peña as the archetype of mediocrity.6 Yet this book enjoyed a large international readership and had a projection in time that went far beyond the conjunctural conflict with the president. The whole chapter on “archetypes of mediocrity” in which the footnote referring to Sáenz Peña appeared was removed from later editions of the text, published after the president’s death in 1914. Abandoning the hardest edges of determinist positivism, Ingenieros introduced the concept of the “ideal” (discussed in “The Text: The Ambiguities of El hombre mediocre”), which would occupy a paramount place in his writings from that moment on. The scientist thus became a moralist and a philosopher. Moreover, analysis of the circumstances surrounding the production of this text provides ground for the formulation of broader hypotheses about certain aspects of the Argentine society of the time, particularly the possibilities and limits of integration of immigrants into the local elites.

The Text: The Ambiguities of El hombre mediocre

El hombre mediocre was published in Spain in 1913, when Ingenieros was already a widely recognized scientist and intellectual, and became an immediate bestseller. It was first delivered to the Buenos Aires bookstores in January 1913, and by April the first edition of ten thousand copies had sold out. A second edition also consisting of ten thousand copies was soon prepared and delivered to bookstores all around Latin America. Even in Paris the book enjoyed some success (a rather surprising fact considering that it was published in Spanish). In three days, the three hundred copies sent to three Parisian book stores sold out. The book was soon reviewed (very positively) not only throughout Latin America but also in Paris and New York. Ingenieros expressed in a letter to his father his own surprise at the fast success of his book.7

Like most of Ingenieros’s books, El hombre mediocre originated in a collection of previously published essays. In this case, the articles, published between 1910 and 1912 in the prestigious Argentine newspaper La Nación and in Archivos de Psiquiatría y Criminología (a scientific journal published under Ingenieros’s general editorship), were revised versions of his lectures on psychology delivered at the University of Buenos Aires in 1909 and 1910. El hombre mediocre consists of an analysis of the characteristics of the mediocre man, a type of individual that Ingenieros defined in social, moral, and psychological terms. He placed the mediocre man (he does not talk about women) between the inferior beings, that is, misfits and degenerates unable to adapt to basic social rules, and the superior beings, that is, men of genius, the only ones able to innovate and to become the bearers of the ideals of perfection. Inferior people had a detrimental effect on the society, while superior beings were the ones who could—through their ideals—bring the future to the present. Ingenieros also characterized them as the bearers of virtue. The only ones fully adapted to the social environment were the mediocre men: the “honest people.”8 Mediocre men were people “without attributes,” imitative by nature, unable to produce original creations. They were not the statistically defined “normal being” but rather the typical member of a flock.

Although Ingenieros was interested in mediocrity from the psychological point of view and claimed that he was performing a “psychological autopsy” of the mediocre man, he ended up with a moral characterization of mediocrity. Thus, says Ingenieros, “The mediocre, individually considered, through the moral and aesthetic lens . . . is a negative and deplorable entity.”9 Nevertheless, Ingenieros judged a social group composed of mediocre people to be a necessary component of society. Grounded in his devotion to evolution, he found evidence of the necessary nature of mediocrity in its very existence. Were mediocre men not necessary, natural selection would have made them disappear. Furthermore, mediocrity constituted the conservative, balancing element of society. Mediocre men were the ones who preserved the heritage of superior people from past generations while placing limits on the destabilizing nature of today’s geniuses.

In El hombre mediocre Ingenieros introduced the concept of the “ideal.” He defined “ideal” as the imaginative capacity “that allows for the generalization of experiential data, anticipating their possible results and abstracting ideals for perfection.”10 From this definition Ingenieros would later try to construct a whole metaphysics based on science. Thus, his ideals were not a priori constructions, but were firmly rooted in experience.

In Ingenieros’s view, youth was the opposite of mediocrity. Young people were thus characterized as the only dynamic element of society, the only one capable of becoming the bearer of the ideal. This preaching of the value of youth generated for Ingenieros a mass of (young) followers. According to him, old age was linked to mediocrity. Moral analgesia, wrote Ingenieros—who was obsessed with his own aging—accompanied the physical insensibility associated with old age.11

Many people considered El hombre mediocre a sequel to Uruguayan José Enrique Rodó’s influential book Ariel (1900), although Ingenieros hardly mentioned it. Many of the topics Ingenieros addressed had been discussed by Rodó thirteen years before.12 Like Ingenieros, Rodó—also a child of modernism—associated beauty with virtue and had mixed feelings about democracy. Rodó also treated youth as the only possible bearer of the ideal. Nonetheless, for the Uruguayan, as Oscar Terán has pointed out, “ideal” referred either to those values that were not attached to the practical world or to Alfred Fouillée’s idées forces, ideas that had the quality of becoming action.13 Ingenieros’s concept of the ideal, then, was not the same as Rodó’s. For the Argentine, still faithful to positivism, the ideal had to be based on experience.

Both thinkers had an aristocratic conception of society and a similar definition of what a legitimate aristocracy should be: one based on talent, opposed both to the aristocracy of birth and to the democratic masses. Rodó and Ingenieros despised the idea of an equalitarian society, and both considered that the masses had to be led by an elite of intellectuals and scientists. Finally, the two authors drew from similar intellectual sources: Renan, Taine, and Nietzsche. The main difference between Ariel and El hombre mediocre was that Rodó focused the third (and most influential) part of his short book on the characteristics of Anglo-American culture. He considered it the incarnation of utilitarianism and positivism defined as a passion for the practical, to the detriment of beauty and spiritual values, instead of treating it as a philosophical school of thought. North America was Caliban while Latin America was Ariel, following the Shakespearean metaphor. Although separated by thirteen years, Rodó’s and Ingenieros’s texts shared a certain intellectual and cultural climate. Later in his life Ingenieros would also become a militant anti-North America.

Unlike Ingenieros’s scientific texts, which he wrote in plain language with abundant references and footnotes, El hombre mediocre lacks an erudite apparatus, while its style shows the influence of literary modernism. In the 1890s and early 1900s, Ingenieros had been closely associated with Nicaraguan poet Rubén Darío.14 Most references included in the book (there are some exceptions) are to classic authors and personalities who represented virtue, such as Socrates, Christ, or Giordano Bruno, to mention a few. Moreover, Ingenieros introduced a pedagogical style that sought to construct a reading public for his book. As Alejandra Mailhe has pointed out, El hombre mediocre conveys an ambivalence between “the praise of the genius against the mediocre man and the avid search for a massive public (precisely composed of mediocre people because of its massiveness) who, thanks to their ‘mimetic’ identification with the values of the minority of merit, seem willing to allow themselves to be led by it.”15 In the end, the designated reader of the book is the one who can escape mediocrity precisely by reading Ingenieros’s text and by identifying himself with the author. In fact, Ingenieros offered a set of signs that allowed potential readers to identify themselves as carriers of the “ideal.” Belonging to the class of “idealists” were those who felt a knot in the throat when remembering Socrates’ hemlock or “the cross raised for Christ” (it was in fact a “Renanian Christ,” deprived of any supernatural dimension). Also, those who could enjoy profoundly “reading a dialogue by Plato, an essay by Montaigne, or a speech by Helvetius”16 could aspire to belong to the class of idealists.

The characteristics of the elite of idealists that readers of El hombre mediocre could aspire to join were not limited to moral or intellectual qualities; they were defined also in aesthetic terms. Therefore, those who “are enraptured by a beautiful dusk, like to promenade with Dante, laugh with Molière, tremble with Shakespeare . . .” could also be considered as members of the elite of idealists.17 El hombre mediocre thus continued the path inaugurated by Ariel. The latter, written in the wake of the Spanish-American War, reflected the early crisis of positivism; the former, produced on the eve of World War I, saw Ingenieros combine his strong commitment to positivism with elements of the antipositivistic climate of ideas that was developing fast at that time (particularly among the youth).

The tensions between elitism and evolutionism that had been present in Ingenieros’s previous works were particularly apparent in El hombre mediocre. Although the author did not abandon the deterministic matrix, in this book he was forced to make some concessions to the idea of free will that had been absent in his earlier work. Hence, he recognized that “free will is a mistake that is useful for the emergence of the ideals. This is why it practically has the value of reality.”18 The main problem emerging in this text is the incompatibility between the radical individuality attributed to the man of genius and the combination of Darwinism and Lamarckism that was at the basis of Ingenieros’s thinking.

The Problem of Democracy

Some authors have suggested that writing El hombre mediocre was Ingenieros’s partial response to the crisis of the oligarchic political system that ended in 1916.19 An intellectual whose prestige grew in the shadow of the república posible, Ingenieros introduced negative remarks on the idea of democracy, which he associated with mediocrity: “All democracy is conducive to mediocrity and [is an] enemy of any form of individual excellence; this is why original young people do not participate in governments until they [the youngsters] lose their edge.”20 Democracies, wrote Ingenieros, are “states without being nations, countries without being fatherlands.”21 This poverty of democracy was the result of the parliamentary system. According to Ingenieros, the problem with democracy was that its point of departure was a false premise: the existence of a “people” capable of assuming the state’s sovereignty. In Ingenieros’s view, such “people” did not exist, since the “masses of poor and ignorant people do not have the aptitude to govern themselves: they just change their shepherds.”22 Superficially, these comments might suggest that El hombre mediocre could be understood as a manifesto against the imminent implantation of popular democracy. In this view, Ingenieros, who failed to gain full recognition as a state expert of the república posible, suspected that his chances of occupying a central place in the república verdadera would be even more limited.23 Although a widely recognized expert in such disciplines promoted by the state as psychiatry or criminology, he held only relatively subaltern positions in the growing technical structure of the Argentine state during the oligarchic republic. He had reasons to suspect (as many others did) that the democratic republic would pay less attention to expertise and knowledge than the república posible. In El hombre mediocre, however, Ingenieros took some of his old preoccupations and ideas to their extremes without reference to the political conjuncture. Those ideas remained more or less stable during his intellectual and political trajectory. What changed was the context of their justification.

As Oscar Terán and others have noted, Ingenieros always held an elitist conception of politics and distrusted the masses. Thus, in an article titled “La paradoja del pan caro” published in La Montaña in 1897, he was mystified by the fact that the people did not react to the high price of bread: “The strange thing, the only strange thing, is that the people are mute. One would believe that they had their tongues cut off, or that they only have them to lick the perfumed hand of their master who beats and starves them to death.”24 He concluded that “the heads of people are saturated with the stinking moral miasma that is called prejudices.”25 Thus the people, for the radical socialist Ingenieros of the late 1890s, were just passive actors whose minds were filled with bourgeois and religious lies.

A few years later, in 1901, when his socialist activism was drawing to an end and was being replaced by an equally active scientific militancy—although he would continue to identify himself as a socialist—Ingenieros had an epistolary exchange with his friend the anarchist militant and pedagogue Pascual Guglianone. There he insisted that “the mass is ignorant and I believe that its rise [enaltecimiento] will take, not years, but whole generations to happen.”26 Ingenieros concluded the letter by asking rhetorically: “In the name of which scientific conviction can a proletariat who lives in misery and ignorance fight? No, in those who suffer only feelings speak, the brain does not exist. Physiological misery blunts all the functions of the body, including the ability to think.” This inability to think turned the laboring masses into dangerous entities that allowed themselves to be led by any demagogic caudillo.

There is a difference between Ingenieros’s ideas of 1901 and those of four years earlier. While in 1897 he had expected a political avant-garde (formed by intellectuals like himself) to take the lead in the “elevation” of the masses, by 1901 he saw this role being played by an elite of state experts (which he expected to lead or at least to join). The role of this elite—grounded in the possession of scientific knowledge—was to prepare intelligent legislation that would improve the laborers’ living conditions. Both in the 1890s and in the early 1900s, improvement of the conditions of the laboring classes depended upon the action of an elite defined by the possession of knowledge. In both cases, Ingenieros saw himself as the model for such an elite. A few years later, in 1904, he helped prepare a progressive project for a labor code presented by Minister Joaquin V. González, who was his friend. “State socialism,” inspired by the ideas of Gustav von Schmöller and Adolph Wagner, had become fashionable among the Argentine liberal elite since the late 19th century. Ingenieros had explicitly rejected it during his years of socialist activism in the name of the inevitability of the revolution. In the early 1900s, however, he recognized a reformist policy as the only instrument available for the gradual improvement of the living conditions of the working class (and by then he emphasized that this betterment could only be gradual). Therefore, Ingenieros, the aspirant revolutionary leader of the late 1890s, became the aspirant state expert of the 1900s. As he pointed out in El hombre mediocre, “Earlier, it was presumed that governing required a certain science and art. Nowadays, it has become accepted that Gil Blas, Tartuffe and Sancho are the unappealable referees of that science and that art.”27 The only elites that Ingenieros recognized as legitimate in El hombre mediocre were the same ones he had recognized as legitimate in 1897 and in the 1900s: those that could include him as a leading member, that is to say, those based on the possession of talent and of some kind of expert knowledge (political at the time of his socialist activism, scientific at a later time).

Between the 1890s and the eve of World War I, the national and international contexts changed drastically and Ingenieros readily adapted to them. The main difference between the Ingenieros of 1897 and that of 1913 was that by the latter date, he had been able to accumulate a considerable amount of symbolic capital that he could partially (though only partially, as will be shown) reconvert into social and political capital. Moreover, the new local and international conditions allowed him to aspire to a new position, not just as a state expert, but also as a public intellectual who could reach a much broader public and eventually become a member of the selected (although not totally new) category of maestro de la juventud.

The Context

Intellectuals and Power

The immediate circumstances surrounding the writing of El hombre mediocre are well known.28 In 1911 Francisco de Veyga, a prestigious medical doctor and criminologist as well as one of Ingenieros’s intellectual mentors, retired from the chair of legal medicine at the School of Medicine of the University of Buenos Aires, and Ingenieros applied for the position. Everybody acknowledged that his scientific merits were far stronger than those of the other candidates. The authorities of the School of Medicine put Ingenieros in the first place on a short list of candidates submitted to the president of the republic, who, according to the law, had the legal power to change the order of merit of the list. Unexpectedly, the president made use of this faculty for reasons that are not totally clear but that could be related to Ingenieros’s notorious anticlericalism.29 His self-esteem affected by what was obviously an unfair act, Ingenieros, in a spectacular gesture, closed his private consulting office, publicly renounced his teaching and official positions, gave away his personal library, and departed for Europe with the promise of not returning to the country until Sáenz Peña abandoned the presidency of Argentina. Moreover, he sent a letter to Sáenz Peña promising him that he, Ingenieros, would perform a moral autopsy of the president. The “moral autopsy” would be, precisely, El hombre mediocre.

Ingenieros’s letter to Sáenz Peña was never published nor reproduced anywhere, and it could not be located in either Ingenieros’s or Sáenz Peña’s archives, but Ingenieros’s archive at the CeDInCI includes a rough draft. It says a lot about Ingenieros and his ideas on the relationship between intellectuals and power. In the draft version, Ingenieros does not spare insults to the president. He starts by addressing him as a “perfect mediocre” (he had crossed out “a solemn imbecile”), “synthesis of the social imbecility of our ruling classes, illiterate essence of the parvenus and parasites who surround him and who govern us.” Later, he calls the president an “impotent erotomaniac” who, as the result of his “precocious senility,” would receive Ingenieros’s words as an infection.30

It is important to emphasize that, by writing this letter, Ingenieros demonstrated that toward the end of the república posible, he found it thinkable that an intellectual could talk to the president from a position of equality or even of superiority. The república posible had been hospitable to intellectuals, promoted some form of meritocracy, and generated an informal system of mutual benefits between intellectuals and the power of the state. The former benefited from perks, official positions, and recognition; the latter received in exchange a plus of legitimacy. For this system of symbolic and material exchange to work, intellectuals had to be socially recognized as those who could grant (or enhance) the rulers’ legitimacy. Thus, for instance, in 1913 Sáenz Peña himself, surrounded by his cabinet ministers, attended a reading of El payador by Leopoldo Lugones (considered the “prince” of Argentine letters) in a theater in Buenos Aires. As Tulio Halperín Donghi has pointed out, while it is true that Sáenz Peña gave prestige to the event (and to Lugones himself) with his presence, it is also true that his presence in the theater could be explained by the prestige that the “prince of letters” could confer on the president.

In the hyperbolic tone that Ingenieros cultivated every time he felt offended, he told the president that he, Sáenz Peña, would probably feel that “I stepped down from my pedestal, perhaps a modest one, but my own pedestal at last, in order to honor you with these explanatory words, descending for a moment from the level of my study cabinet to your privy of command [retrete de mando].” And a few lines below he added: “It is strange that a man of talent downgrades himself to talk as an equal to an ignorant former soldier [ex soldadote; crossed out: ‘biped’].” The motive of Ingenieros’s letter was that the president “had the imprudent audacity of irritating my soft sleep as a satisfied winner . . . You have dared to interpose the fence of your presidential power in my upward career as an intellectual and laborious man, as if this miserable pebble thrown in my rising path could derail the serene . . . progress of the train that . . . I have loaded with doctrines and observations.”

The superiority of the intellectual over the president proved to be illusory for Ingenieros himself. The fact was that the “miserable pebble” thrown by Sáenz Peña did derail the serene progress of Ingenieros’s train. The intellectual was perfectly aware that the supposed symmetry (or even superiority) of his position vis-à-vis power was only imaginary, since the intellectual was the one who finally resigned his positions and left the country. In this respect, his more moderate but not less arrogant letter of resignation from his teaching position at the School of Philosophy and Literature—also addressed to Sáenz Peña—which was published in the local newspapers, was more realistic. If the resignation had become unavoidable, it was owing to “the circumstance of referring to your person [the president] in a book of imminent publication in terms that, even if they are fair, may seem disrespectful.”

Ingenieros’s draft letter to the president shows the extremes of what Marc Angenot has called “social discourse,” that is to say, the universe of what is speakable and thinkable at a given moment.31 In other words, by the end of the república posible, the existence of a certain symmetry in the relationship between intellectuals and power was at least thinkable. Additionally, the existence of a dialectical circuit of conversion of intellectual capital into social and political capital was also thinkable. The scope of the possibility for this conversion of different forms of symbolic capital becomes more significant when we consider that the person who addressed the president as Ingenieros did was a Sicilian immigrant of a working-class background, who had not yet completed the change of his last name from the original Ingegnieros to the more socially acceptable Ingenieros. If someone like Ingenieros considered himself authorized to talk to the president in such terms, it was because he felt legitimized to do so through the possession of solid intellectual capital partially transformed into social capital. As Halperín Donghi has pointed out, in confronting the system of hierarchies of the society in which he lived, Ingenieros proposed an alternative, phantasmagoric, one on whose summit he placed himself as an intellectual.32

From Europe, Ingenieros also sent (in addition to the letter written to Sáenz Peña) a further letter of resignation from his teaching post at the School of Philosophy and Literature, this one addressed to the dean, Dr. Rodolfo Rivarola. When he left Buenos Aires, Ingenieros had asked for a leave of absence, which was about to expire. Rivarola wrote Ingenieros asking him to clarify whether he planned on returning. Ingenieros’s response was dated from Heidelberg on August 28, 1913, and was widely reproduced. In it, Ingenieros repeated in a more moderate tone what he had said to the president (without the insults this time); he referred to the “act of governmental immorality and disrespect to my academic dignity.”33 He offered himself as a moral example, since he wrote in the name of all intellectuals: “It should be established that an obloquy inflicted upon a scholar is an offence against all intellectual culture.” And a few lines below, he continued: “The moral crisis of Argentine intellectuality [consisting in that most intellectuals wanted to be supported by state perks] can only be combated with examples of dignity and renunciation.” Ingenieros saw his act of renunciation as an imperative that was at the same time moral and intellectual. His resignation from the university would allow him to complete a twenty-year-long life plan, which consisted of nothing less than changing modern philosophy. From that moment on, Ingenieros—formerly an aspirant to become a prominent member of the state technical structure—would never be tired of emphasizing his independence and autonomy from the state.34

Halperín Donghi has also argued that the possibility of a symmetry in the relationship between intellectuals and power (whether real or imaginary) that existed during the república posible would become more complicated after the establishment of the república verdadera, when governments rested on more solid bases of legitimacy (the universal male suffrage) than did their predecessors.35 Therefore, the democratic governments established after 1916 no longer needed the prestige conferred by intellectuals. The example of Ingenieros forces us to nuance this claim. During the república verdadera, Ingenieros acquired the status of a public intellectual, which he had not been able to reach during the república posible. It would be no one less than President Hipólito Yrigoyen himself who requested in 1919 the aid of José Ingenieros (this time as a prestigious intellectual, not as a mere state expert) to control a social situation that threatened his own government. The meeting between the president and the intellectual—requested by the president—did not actually take place because Ingenieros failed to accept the conditions Yrigoyen proposed.

Ingenieros seemed convinced that the possibilities for reconverting intellectual capital into political and even economic capital were certain. In a letter of March 1913 to his father, written from Lausanne, he made clear his point of view. His brother Paolo was going through a tough economic situation and had asked his father to intercede with José for some help. Ingenieros answered that he was not in a position to lend money to Paolo. Nonetheless, he could confer a considerable amount of symbolic capital: “Make Paolino understand that the future of his children is already assured by the simple fact that they are my nephews. The little notoriety that I have will be an enormous capital for them, if they know how to exploit it.”36 The capital that Ingenieros (still childless at the time) would be able to convey to his nephews was particularly valuable because it was accumulated by a self-made man. He had not been able to benefit from influential family ties, and therefore could only imagine “the advantages that I would have had if I had been the nephew of a man who represented what I represent in Argentine culture.”

Ingenieros’s Social Insecurities

The discussion so far has shown someone who exhibited an enormous self-confidence. This was a man who, from the summit of his “pedestal” of intellectual and scientist, dared to show contempt for the president. He claimed at the same time that his intellectual capital, converted into social capital, was not only transferable but could also become a valuable heritage for his nephews, provided they knew how to transform it into economic capital. This possibility, in Ingenieros’s eyes, was open.

The analysis of other epistolary exchanges he had with his family (written in Italian, his native tongue) shows a different picture. These letters unveil Ingenieros’s obsession with money (or rather the lack of it) and with the impossibility of living according to his own expectations. He revealed himself as a strategist who calculated every step in building for himself a position he had previously constructed in his mind. Above all, he seemed to be haunted by his precarious social position. This documentation sheds new light on El hombre mediocre, and on Ingenieros’s perception of his own social position and the limits of his possibilities for upward mobility. To understand this, the discussion must move back in time to a few years before the writing of this book.

In 1905, the twenty-eight-year-old Ingenieros was sent to Rome by the Argentine government as Argentina’s representative to the Fifth International Congress of Psychology. There he became acquainted with some of the most prestigious European psychologists, psychiatrists, and intellectuals, including Théodule Ribot, Enrico Ferri, Enrico Morselli, and Max Nordau, among many others.37 After the conference, Ingenieros stayed in Europe for one year and became a kind of informal secretary (he never accepted any kind of payment) to former president Julio Roca, who was in Europe with his family after finishing his second term in office (1898–1904). Ingenieros tried to seduce Roca’s youngest daughter with the purpose of marrying her. The mere fact that Ingenieros, the Sicilian immigrant, could even think that the daughter of Roca was within reach for him—and the fact that it actually looked possible for a time—is in itself revealing and shows the relative openness of the Argentine social and economic elite.

Ingenieros, the parvenu, was primarily interested in Señorita Roca because, as he told his father, if he succeeded, all his and his parents’ economic problems would be solved. In spite of all his efforts, his strategies failed, and in 1907 Ingenieros was back in Buenos Aires, living from his practice of medicine and acknowledging that his failure was due to his “inferior social condition.”38 The problem was that “distinguished people resist the intromission of a gringo, . . ., parvenu [medio pelo], although fortunately, I know who I am, and do not make a bad figure. I try to make myself tolerable.”39 He wrote this while he was trying his fortunes with Sara Escalante, the daughter of Wenceslao Escalante, a former cabinet minister who had presidential aspirations. One year later, in 1908, Ingenieros went back to the topic that obsessed him: “Decent people are delighted to protect me, receiving me in their homes, but beware if I try to feel as their equals, forgetting that I am a humble immigrant parvenu.”40 His condition as a “Sicilian immigrant [who came] in third class” confined him to the only universe in which he could find legitimacy and which, far from being a blessing, was becoming a curse: science. Each time Ingenieros tried to transcend the sphere of science, he wrote to his father in 1909, he was reminded of his condition. Similarly, his presence in other spaces of sociability for the elite, such as the Jockey Club (he was ready to make any sacrifice to be admitted there, and he finally succeeded), was problematic, although, as Leandro Losada points out, the Jockey Club could hardly be considered the exclusive preserve of the most traditional families.41 A banquet in honor of his friend Belisario Roldán held at the club in 1909 reminded him once again, as Ingenieros wrote to his father, that “the parvenu immigrant is not at home here.”42 All this forced him to conclude that “I am a most vulgar soul and my intellectuality is just a simulation.”43

Ingenieros also wrote about his plans for leaving the country, plans that in 1909 well preceded his conflict with the president. Ingenieros wanted to leave Argentina because there he could not build for himself a position in line with his expectations. “This is the first country in the world” he wrote, “but it is not mine.”44 Two months later, in November 1909, he seemed ready to substitute philosophy for medicine: “I hope that next year I will definitely end all scientific relationship with medicine.”45 His rejection of medicine was probably related to his failure (after many attempts) to be admitted into the prestigious National Academy of Medicine. Even so, by that time Ingenieros had developed other intellectual interests, and was starting to feel that medicine was too narrow a field for him. He also announced his intention of leaving the country by the end of 1910, that is to say, only a few months before he actually did so because of his conflict with the president, a conflict that, at the time he wrote this letter, was not even on the horizon. He ended the note by saying: “Unfortunate is he who is born poor and does not resign himself to remaining so!”46

It is clear, then, that by 1909 a cycle in the life of José Ingenieros was coming to an end. He felt that in spite of his social and intellectual success, he had failed in his attempts to be accepted as a member of the social elite and to become a prominent member of the technical structure of the república posible. In fact, his trajectory is rather problematic. Although he was recognized as one of the most prestigious scientists in Latin America (apparently he was the first one to be given the opportunity to speak at the Sorbonne, at less than thirty years of age), he occupied only relatively minor positions in the structure of the Argentine state. His name was raised as a possible president of Public Assistance and later of the newly created National Department of Labor, but he had to content himself with the far less prestigious directorship of the Institute of Criminology of the National Penitentiary. His chances of converting his intellectual capital into social capital seemed to have reached a limit that was impossible to overcome. A move to Europe looked like a possible way out of his dilemmas. Ingenieros perceived his confinement to scientific and professional activities as an intellectual (and social) prison. His failure to obtain the coveted position at the School of Medicine only confirmed what he was already feeling: he had exhausted the limits of his possibilities for improving his social position. By constructing a powerful enemy, the conflict with the president gave him an excellent opportunity to redefine his social weakness, turning it into social strength. From the moment he reached Europe, however, he discovered the obvious: that his possibilities for economic progress there were far more limited than in Argentina. Soon, in letters to his parents and to his fiancée, Eva Rutenberg (a former patient who was in Switzerland, where he married her, for a long rest cure), he expressed his intention of returning to Argentina as soon as conditions (that is, the end of Roque Sáenz Peña’s term or, as it happened, his death) allowed it.

Before going back to Argentina, Ingenieros married Eva and started a new life.47 He closed the prestigious Archivos de Psiquiatría—a journal he had been editing since 1902—and started planning a new journal that would come out upon his return to Argentina: Revista de Filosofía. He worked too on bringing to life another of his pet projects, one that also materialized once he was back in the country: the publication of a book collection: La Cultura Argentina, which would become an unprecedented unprecedented success. Ingenieros’s private correspondence reveals that he was going through a deep personal and intellectual crisis in Europe. Thus, he wrote to his friend and collaborator Helvio Fernandez in April 1912: “Every day is like the next one. I am waiting . . . without knowing what [I am waiting for].”48 This distress became evident also in his—otherwise very active—sexual life. He confessed to Fernandez that in his six month of residence in Europe, “I could only tell you about a couple of bonnes fortunes . . ., in Buenos Aires this would be a dishonor.” What worried him was that he was feeling less attracted to women than usual: “Am I in the path of sanctity? It is not old age yet.”

As usual, Ingenieros was more explicit in his letters to his father, the only person before whom he bared his soul. In particular, there is a long, momentous letter dated from Montreux on February 14, 1912, that is completely different from previous ones.49 Instead of the informal and moanful tone that he generally struck when writing to Salvatore, this time he wrote in a pompous style very similar to the one he would soon use in El hombre mediocre. In this letter, Ingenieros linked his personal anguish to general themes that he would address in future writings. One of those themes, which constituted an obsession for him, was aging. He considered that he was living through his middle age: he was not young any longer but not yet old (he was then barely thirty-five years old). “This time marks a total crisis in my thinking and in my moral personality. What I have done and lived have begun to look strange to me.”

The letter also includes a reflection on the idea of nationhood that had been absent from most of his previous writings but would become a central topic of his thinking from that moment on. Some authors have claimed that the introduction of the topic of the nation in Ingenieros’s writings was a turning point in his thinking.50 In the letter to Salvatore, Ingenieros approached the idea of nationhood from a point of view that was closer to Rodó’s Ariel than to the positivistic determinism that had constituted—until then—the backbone of his theorizations. According to Ingenieros, only writers who feel their nation can succeed. This is why Gabriele D’Annunzio had become a great poet when he acquired a feeling for Italianness (italianità). In Ingenieros’s view, Argentine writer Ricardo Rojas would reach higher literary altitudes than Leopoldo Lugones because “Rojas has the feeling for Argentina that Lugones lacks, which his marvelous technique cannot substitute for.” Paradoxically, in 1913 Ingenieros had debated with Rojas about precisely this nature of national identity. While Rojas, in El blasón del Plata, grounded the identity of Argentina in the native population, Ingenieros claimed that Argentina was essentially a country of immigrants and that the roots of its identity were, therefore, in the European portion of the population.


Returning to his own dilemmas, Ingenieros reflected in this letter of February 12, 1912, on his equivocal (and subordinate) position in the “international republic of the letters and sciences.” He emphasized that he wrote in a subaltern language that he did not even feel was his own. Moreover, he felt too old to change it. He considered himself, therefore, “a slave of a language spoken in a country that is not yet a nationality, and in another country that had been a great nation but does not exist anymore. Of the rest [the Italian and the French languages] I am an absolute foreigner, and I do not know how to feel their soul because of lack of tradition and because of the imperfections of my French-Italian culture.”

Ingenieros’s thinking about nationality would occupy a central place in his writings and in his editorial activity—the original goal of Revista de Filosofía was precisely to create a “national philosophy,” while the purpose of his book collection La Cultura Argentina was to disseminate the classics of Argentine thought. This preoccupation seems to have originated from concerns that recognized both intellectual and personal causes. On the one hand, he decided to abandon the confines of individual sciences in favor of a broader, more ambitious philosophical project. As he told his father (and also Rivarola in his letter of resignation), he had a long-term (twenty-year-long) philosophical project that consisted of “renovating all philosophy on naturalist bases and grounding it on the natural sciences.” Ingenieros wanted thus to complete the project left unfinished by his admired predecessor Félix Le Dantec, the French biologist-philosopher. As is evident in El hombre mediocre and in later writings, this naturalist basis for his thinking was eroded by the introduction of moral-ethical categories and, above all, by the introduction of the “ideal.” The ideal, nonetheless, was an amphibious concept that was placed between a moralist idealism and the experience in which it was anchored. This drift in Ingenieros’s thought allowed him to conceptualize the nation in terms that were not linked to race, and to conceptualize race in terms that were not necessarily of an ethnic nature—in contrast to his most positivistic stage, when he expressed frankly racist thoughts.51 There was also a deep personal dimension in these reflections (as there was in most of his work). In spite of the international recognition that Ingenieros had gained very precociously, he never seems to have found his own place in the world. Prisoner of a language that occupied a subaltern position and of a country that he did not totally recognize as his own, unable to achieve a complete integration into the local social and technical elites during the república posible, Ingenieros felt condemned to a marginality that forced him to change his path. Thus, it would not be in his condition as a scientist or as an expert that he would try to become a member of the “great world” of power and prestige, but rather as an independent international public intellectual who responded to the demand (and at the same time created it) of a specific public: the youth. And he would speak to the youth from the position of a “maestro,” and was recognized as such. The context opened by the electoral reform of 1912, the Great War, and the University Reform of 1918 made possible this change in role. If the república posible had shown the limits to his chances of becoming a member of the elite, the república verdadera seemed to open up new, broader horizons, and José Ingenieros was ready to grab the opportunity. El hombre mediocre can thus be read as his first public attempt in this direction.

Discussion of the Literature

Generally speaking, José Ingenieros has been addressed in the literature (including the books by Oscar Terán cited herein)52 from the point of view of intellectual history or the history of ideas. There are a few biographies written by his contemporaries and disciples soon after his death. The best is by far Sergio Bagú’s.53 Also very informative is the one by Aníbal Ponce.54

A multifarious man, Ingenieros was internationally renowned in psychology, criminology, psychiatry, sociology, and philosophy. He is also considered an exponent of Argentine (and, by extension, Latin American) positivism. His list of published works is so large that it is impossible to cover it. His Obras completas and other published collections, such as La Montaña or Revista de Filosofía, both published by the Universidad de Quilmes,55 include only a fraction of his works. Moreover, it is almost impossible to trace the genealogy of his books. Most of them were compilations of revised (sometimes heavily revised) versions of previously published articles. In each new edition, Ingenieros not only enlarged the books (one of them went from a mere forty-eight pages in length to more than five hundred) but also changed the contents to the extent that sometimes it is very difficult to know if a revised work is really the same piece as the original. Furthermore, several editions (sometimes dozens of editions) of each of his books were published in different countries and many times in different languages. In some cases he even changed a book’s title. At present, most of his works are easily available on the Internet.

Because Ingenieros’s personal archive has only recently been opened to the public, so far there is no published work dealing with the dimensions of his life addressed herein.

There are a few good works on the history of Argentine intellectual and social elites, and now it is high time to analyze how and to what extent the case of José Ingenieros will require nuancing and questioning received knowledge about the possibilities of upward social mobility based on talent (as well as its political implications) in turn-of-the-20th-century Argentina.56 There is also a large bibliography on Italian immigration to Argentina, although mostly in Spanish and Italian.57 Similarly, Ingenieros constitutes an excellent case study for the analysis of the relationship between intellectuals and the power of the state, a topic that is still badly understudied.58

Primary Sources

The main repository of Ingenieros’s papers is the Ingenieros Archive in the Centro de Documentación e Investigación de la Cultura de Izquierda en la Argentina (CeDInCI) in Buenos Aires, Argentina. This archive holds over ten thousand pieces, including Ingenieros’s personal and scientific correspondence in Spanish, Italian, and French; drafts of his published and unpublished works; personal documentation; newspaper clippings; and letters from other people that were for some reason collected by Ingenieros. This enormously rich archive constitutes not only the best source for analyzing Ingenieros’s life, but also an excellent gate of entrance to other, more general, topics, such as the mechanisms of transnational circulation of ideas, the evolution of Argentine intellectual and social elites, and the formation and consolidation of Latin American intellectual and political networks during the first decades of the 20th century. The CeDInCI also houses an excellent collection of Argentine (and some foreign) journals on which Ingenieros collaborated.

Further Reading

Almost all works on the topic are in Spanish.

Bagú, Sergio. Vida ejemplar de José Ingenieros. 2d ed. Buenos Aires: El Ateneo, 1953.Find this resource:

    Bermann, Gregorio. José Ingenieros, el civilizador—el filósofo—el moralista—lo que le debe nuestra generación. Buenos Aires: M. Gleizer, 1926.Find this resource:

      Castro, Martín O. El ocaso de la república oligárquica: Poder, política y reforma electoral, 1898–1912. Buenos Aires: Edhasa, 2012.Find this resource:

        Degiovanni, Fernando. Los textos de la patria: Nacionalismo, políticas culturales y canon en Argentina. Rosario, Argentina: Beatriz Viterbo Editora, 2007.Find this resource:

          Devoto, Fernando. Historia de los italianos en Argentina. Buenos Aires: Biblos, 2006.Find this resource:

            Fernández, Cristina Beatriz. Hojas al pasar: Las crónicas europeas de José Ingenieros. Córdoba, Argentina: Buena Vista Editores, 2012.Find this resource:

              Fernández, Cristina Beatriz. José Ingenieros y los saberes modernos. Córdoba, Argentina: Alción Editora, 2012.Find this resource:

                Gomez, Manuela. “Rediscovering the Philosophical Importance of Jose Ingenieros: A Bridge Between Two Worlds; Jose Ingenieros and His Impact.” MA thesis, Texas A&M University, 2006.

                Lakoff, Andrew. “The Simulation of Madness: Buenos Aires, 1903.” Critical Inquiry 31.4 (2005): 848–873.Find this resource:

                  Levine, Alex ¡Darwinistas! The Construction of Evolutionary Thought in Nineteenth Century Argentina. Leiden, The Netherlands, and Boston: Brill, 2012.Find this resource:

                    Losada, Leandro. La alta sociedad en la Buenos Aires de la Belle Époque. Buenos Aires: Siglo XXI, 2008.Find this resource:

                      Mailhe, Alejandra. “‘El laberinto de la soledad’ del genio, o las paradojas de El hombre mediocre.Varia Historia 29.49 (2013): 197–216.Find this resource:

                        Ponce, Aníbal. José Ingenieros: Su vida y su obra. 2d ed. Buenos Aires: Iglesias y Matera, 1949.Find this resource:

                          Szuchman, Mark. Mobility and Integration in Urban Argentina: Cordoba in the Liberal Era. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1980.Find this resource:

                            Terán, Oscar. José Ingenieros: Antimperialismo y nación. Mexico City: Siglo XXI, 1979.Find this resource:

                              Terán, Oscar. Vida intelectual en el Buenos Aires fin-de-siglo (1880–1910): Derivas de la “cultura científica.” Buenos Aires: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2000.Find this resource:

                                Van Der Karr, Jane. José Ingenieros: The Story of a Scientist Humanist. New York: Vintage, 1977.Find this resource:

                                  Zimmermann, Eduardo. Los liberales reformistas: La cuestión social en la Argentina 1890–1916. Buenos Aires: Editorial Sudamericana, 1995.Find this resource:

                                    Zimmermann, Eduardo A. “Racial Ideas and Social Reform: Argentina, 1890–1916.” Hispanic American Historical Review 72.1 (1992): 23–46.Find this resource:


                                      (1.) Oscar Terán, Vida intelectual en el Buenos Aires fin-de-siglo (1880–1910): Derivas de la “cultura científica” (Buenos Aires: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2000), 290. The concepts of “field” and “symbolic capital” are borrowed from Pierre Bourdieu. See his The Field of Cultural Production (New York: Columbia University Press, 1993). On the possibilities of integration of immigrants and their children into the social and technical elite of turn-of-the-20th-century Argentina, see Eduardo Zimmermann, Los liberales reformistas: La cuestion social en Argentina 1890–1916 (Buenos Aires: Editorial Sudamericana, 1995).

                                      (2.) Salvatore Ingegnieros was an active socialist (with anarchist sympathies) and Mason. He befriended French anarchist and socialist Benoît Malon, with whom he funded Il Povero in Palermo in 1874. In 1880, before his immigration to Argentina, he received letters of recommendation from leaders of the Napoletana Masonic League and from another famous Mason: Giuseppe Garibaldi. In Palermo there exists a street called Giuseppe Ingegnieros, to honor Salvatore´s famous son.

                                      (3.) The bibliography of José Ingenieros is simply enormous. His early biographer Sergio Bagú listed 47 books and pamphlets, 5 journals (political, scientific, and philosophical, the first of which, La Reforma, was published when Ingenieros was a high school student), and 484 articles and monographs published in various languages. Among Ingenieros´s major works, besides El hombre mediocre, an unparalleled bestseller, a few are worth particular mention: Simulación de la locura ante la sociología criminal y la clínica psiquiátrica, precedida por un estudio sobre la simulación en la lucha por la vida en el orden biológico y social (Buenos Aires, 1903), which was translated into Italian, Russian, and French and went through over ten editions; Los accidentes histéricos y las sugestiones terapéuticas (Buenos Aires, 1904), translated into French in 1911; Le langage musical et ses troubles hystériques (Paris, 1907), which was awarded a prize by the French Medical Academy; Psicología genética (Buenos Aires, 1911), which was translated into French and German; and La evolución de las ideas argentinas (Buenos Aires, 1918–1920).

                                      (4.) The terms república posible and república verdadera were introduced by Juan Bautista Alberdi in the 19th century and have been widely used since. Alberdi, a prestigious publicist, considered in the 1850s that Argentina was not yet prepared for a true liberal democracy. He proposed then the creation of a república posible (possible republic), which was essentially a kind of monarchy in the disguise of a republic. In an unspecified future, when social and economic conditions allowed for it, this possible republic would be replaced by a república verdadera (true republic.) As the terms are used here, the former refers to the “oligarchic republic” established after the reunification of the country in 1862, in particular to the period starting with the first presidency of General Julio A. Roca (1880–1886); the latter refers to the period that began after 1916 when the first popularly elected president, Hipólito Yrigoyen, took power as a result of the electoral law of 1912. The república verdadera lasted until the first coup d´état (in 1930), which inaugurated a long period of political instability.

                                      (5.) For a thorough discussion of this period, see Martín O. Castro, El ocaso de la república oligárquica: Poder, política y reforma electoral 1898–1912 (Buenos Aires: Edhasa, 2012).

                                      (6.) “In order to characterize the archetype of mediocracy [the author] has found a perfect specimen in the actual president of his ‘country.’” José Ingenieros, El hombre mediocre: Ensayo de psicología y moral (Madrid: Renacimiento, 1913), 265. All citations are from this edition. All translations from foreign languages are mine.

                                      (7.) On April 15, 1913, Ingenieros wrote to his father: “The volume had a great literary success . . . that I would not have had with scientific works, far superior to this. The world is like this . . .” Letter from Ingenieros to “Caro Papá,” Lausane, April 15, 1913, Archive of José Ingenieros, CeDInCI, A.6.2/8.4/9.3

                                      (8.) In 1872 Catholic French journalist Ernest Hello published a book titled L´homme (Paris: Victor Palmé, 1872). One of its chapters is titled “L´homme mediocre.” Although Hello associated superiority with faith, there are many similarities between Hello´s and Ingenieros´s characterizations of the mediocre man.

                                      (9.) Ingenieros, El hombre mediocre, 63.

                                      (10.) Ibid., 9.

                                      (11.) Ibid., 226

                                      (12.) Oscar Terán points out that Aníbal Ponce, one of Ingenieros´s closest disciples, said that the two books that had linked Latin American youth from Mexico to Argentina had been Ariel and El hombre mediocre. On Rodó´s Ariel, see Oscar Terán, “El Ariel de Rodó o cómo entrar en la modernidad sin perder el alma,” in Estrategias del pensar, ed. Liliana Weinberg (Mexico City: UNAM, 2010), 45–64; and Eduardo Devés Valdés, Del Ariel de Rodó a la CEPAL (1900–1950) (Buenos Aires: Biblos, 2000), 29–46; see also Patricia Funes, Salvar la nación: Intelectuales, cultura y política en los años veinte latinoamericanos (Buenos Aires: Prometeo, 2006), 205–219.

                                      (13.) Terán, “El Ariel.”

                                      (14.) In the late 1890s, José Ingenieros had participated in a semisecret, half-ludic, half-literary, modernist society led by Rubén Darío called Syringa.

                                      (15.) Alejandra Mailhe, “El laberinto de la soledad del genio o las paradojas de El hombre mediocre,” Varia Historia (Belo Horizonte) 29.49 (January–April 2013): 197–216.

                                      (16.) Ingenieros, El hombre mediocre, 5–6.

                                      (17.) Ibid., 6.

                                      (18.) Ibid., 11.

                                      (19.) Oscar Terán, José Ingenieros, antimperialismo y nación (Mexico City: Siglo XXI, 1979), 70–83; and Mailhe, “El laberinto.”

                                      (20.) Ingenieros, El hombre mediocre, 233. In later editions Ingenieros softened this kind of remark.

                                      (21.) Ibid., 237.

                                      (22.) Ibid., 257. Ingenieros, like many members of his generation, promoted a functional form of democracy led by an elite of experts. A few years later he saw a model for this in the Soviet Union.

                                      (23.) Tulio Halperin Donghi, Vida y muerte de la república verdadera (1910–1930) (Buenos Aires: Ariel, 1999), 62–63.

                                      (24.) José Ingegnieros, “La paradoja del pan caro: Divagaciones,” La Montaña 1.12 (September 15, 1897).

                                      (26.) Letter to Pascual Guglianone, n.d., Archive of José Ingenieros, CeDInCI, A.6.2 SAA/8.4/9.1 Doc. 7. This letter is the continuation of a polemic that had been ventilated in the pages of the anarchist paper La Protesta Humana and the socialist La Vanguardia.

                                      (27.) Ingenieros, El hombre mediocre, 244.

                                      (28.) The traditional view has been that Ingenieros wrote the book in response to Sáenz Peña´s denying him the position at the university. See, for instance, José Luis Romero, El desarrollo de las ideas en la Argentina del siglo XX (Buenos Aires: Bilblioteca Actual, 1987), 85. His earlier biographers, however, had noticed that Ingenieros had broader purposes when writing the book. See, for instance, Sergio Bagú, Vida ejemplar de José Ingenieros, 2d ed. (Buenos Aires: El Ateneo, 1953), 131. Nonetheless, Ingenieros wrote to his father in 1911: “I am finishing now El hombre mediocre that you have fragmentarily read in Archivos; it is still missing the chapter on ‘mediocracy’ a part of which is titled ‘The archetype of mediocracy’ (Sáenz Peña). It will be by far the most interesting part of my book.” Letter from Ingenieros to “Cari genitori,” November 15, 1911, Archive of José Ingenieros, CeDInCI, A.6.2 SAA/8.4/9.2 Doc. 22.

                                      (29.) Sáenz Peña was close to clerical groups. Sergio Bagú points out (without further details) that “oscuras fuerzas de sacristía movieron su influencia” to deny the position to Ingenieros. Bagú, Vida ejemplar, 120.

                                      (30.) By the time Sáenz Peña became president he was already sick with syphilis. Soon his health deteriorated and he died while still in office.

                                      (31.) Marc Angenot, El discurso social: Los límites históricos de lo pensable y lo decible (Buenos Aires: Siglo XXI, 2012), 38–39.

                                      (32.) Tulio Halperin Donghi, “Intelectuales, sociedad y vida pública en Hispanoamérica a través de la literatura autobiográfica,” in El espejo de la historia: Problemas argentinos y perspectivas latinoamericanas, ed. Tulio Halperin Donghi (Buenos Aires: Sudamericana, 1987), 41–64.

                                      (33.) Letter from José Ingenieros to Rodolfo Rivarola, Heidelberg, August 28, 1913, reproduced in Bagú, Vida ejemplar, 124–126.

                                      (34.) The best analysis of the formation of the state technical structure toward the end of the república posible is Zimmermann´s Los liberales. Also useful is Carlos Altamirano, “Entre el naturalismo y la psicología: El comienzo de la ´ciencia social´ en la Argentina,” in Intelectuales y expertos: La constitución del conocimiento social en la Argentina, ed. Federico Neiburg and Mariano Plotkin (Buenos Aires: Paidós, 2004), 31–66.

                                      (35.) Halperin Donghi, Vida y muerte, 58.

                                      (36.) Letter from José Ingenieros to “Caro papá,” Lausanne, March 2, 1913, Archive of José Ingenieros, CeDInCI, A.6.2 SAA/8.4/9.3 Doc. 14. Emphasis in the original.

                                      (37.) Ingenieros befriended some of them and kept corresponding with them for years.

                                      (38.) Letter from José Ingenieros to “Caro papá,” Buenos Aires, December 6, 1907, Archive of José Ingenieros, CeDInCI, A.6.2 SAA/8.4/9.1 Doc. 112.

                                      (40.) Letter from José Ingenieros to “Caro papá,” Buenos Aires, July 21, 1909, Archive of José Ingenieros, CeDInCI, A.6.2 SAA/8.4/9.1 Doc. 127.

                                      (41.) Leandro Losada, La alta sociedad en la Buenos Aires de la Belle Époque (Buenos Aires: Siglo XXI, 2008), 317.

                                      (42.) Letter from José Ingenieros to “Caro papá,” Buenos Aires, July 21, 1909, Archive of José Ingenieros CeDInCI, A.6.2 SAA/8.4/9.1 Doc. 127.

                                      (44.) Ibid. It is worth noting that he resented being reminded by newspaper notes or other people of his Italian background.

                                      (45.) Letter from José Ingenieros to “Carissimi Genitori,” Buenos Aires, November 18, 1909, Archive of José Ingenieros, CeDInCI, A.6.2 SAA/8.4/9.1 Doc. 129.

                                      (47.) There is not much information about Eva Rutenberg. She belonged to a well-off family of German background. Ingenieros had treated her in Buenos Aires for nervous disorders, and they became engaged. Later she moved to Switzerland for a long rest cure with her mother and sister. The later correspondence between José and Eva suggests that the Rutenberg family was providing some form of economic support to the Ingenieros family.

                                      (48.) Letter from José Ingenieros to “Mi querido Helvio,” Montreaux, April 15, 1912, Archive of José Ingenieros, CeDInCI, A.6.2 SAA/ Doc. 35.

                                      (49.) Letter from José Ingenieros to “Caro papá,” Montreux, February 4, 1912, Archive of José Ingenieros, CeDInCI, A.6.2 SAA/8.9/9.2.

                                      (50.) Fernando Degiovanni, Los textos de la patria: Nacionalismo, políticas culturales y canon en la Argentina (Buenos Aires: Beatriz Viterbo editora, 2007), 232.

                                      (51.) See, for instance, José Ingenieros, “Las razas inferiores,” in Crónicas de viaje, ed. José Ingenieros, vol. VIII of Obras Completas, 8 vols. (Buenos Aires: Mar Océano, 1962), 166–173.

                                      (52.) See also his Vida intelectual en el Buenos Aires fin-de-siglo (1880–1910) (Buenos Aires: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2000).

                                      (53.) Bagú, Vida ejemplar.

                                      (54.) Aníbal Ponce, José Ingeniero: Su vida y su obra (Buenos Aires: Talleres gráficos de Iglesias y Matera, 1948).

                                      (55.) La Montaña: Periódico socialista revolucionario—1897—dirigido por José Ingenieros y Leopoldo Lugones (Buenos Aires: Universidad Nacional de Quilmes, 1996); and Revista de Filosofía: Cultura—Ciencias—Educación; José Ingenieros y Aníbal Ponce, directores, ed. Luis Alejandro Rossi (Bernal, Argentina: Universidad Nacional de Quilmes, 1999).

                                      (56.) See, in particular, Zimmermann, Los liberales; and Losada, La alta sociedad.

                                      (57.) See Fernando Devoto, Historia de los italianos en Argentina (Buenos Aires: Biblos, 2006); and Fernando Devoto and Gianfausto Rosoli, La inmigración italiana en Argentina (Buenos Aires: Biblos, 1985).

                                      (58.) For the period covered here, one of the most informative works on intellectuals and the state is Zimmermann, Los liberales.