Living Ideology in Cuba

Socialism in Principle and Practice
Katherine A. Gordy
A revealing look at the complicated and continual negotiation between the Cuban state and society over the meaning of socialism


In Living Ideology in Cuba, Katherine Gordy demonstrates how the Cuban state and its people engage in an ongoing negotiation that produces a “living ideology.” In contrast to official slogans and fiats, Cuba’s living ideology is a decentralized phenomenon, continually adapting, informing, and responding to daily life, without losing sight of the fundamental national principles of socioeconomic equality, unified leadership, and inclusive nationalism.

Tracing Cuba’s ideological history, Gordy first looks at the ways in which the 19th century wars of independence and the 1959 revolution were used as the basis for both challenging and legitimizing Cuban socialism. Following the embrace of a pure socialist ideology in the 1960s, state policies of the 1970s became more accommodating of market imperatives, while still holding on to the principles articulated by Che Guevara and Karl Marx. In the 1990s, the Cuban people themselves pushed back against further economic reforms, reasserting the value of socioeconomic equality. Gordy also examines ideological debates among intellectuals, from the controversy sparked by Fidel Castro’s “Words to the Intellectuals” speech to the demand in the 1990s for a separation between academia and the state—not to safeguard academia from politics, but to ensure that academics as such could contribute to the political dialogue.

“Gordy’s book is a nuanced and exciting way of exploring the relationship between political theory, political regimes, revolutionary theory, and practice.”
—Keally McBride, University of San Francisco

“In a refreshing analysis of the durability of Cuba’s system, Gordy explores how contestations between the government’s demand for political unity and popular preferences for socioeconomic equality shape how Cubans make sense of their living conditions. A must-read for those who wonder about the direction of Cuban society post- Fidel and Raúl Castro.”
—Raul Fernandez, University of California, Irvine

“Too often, the people of Cuba and elsewhere appear as a wooden caricature, passive recipients of commandments from above rather than active protagonists in building a common future from below. Living Ideology in Cuba is a welcome and necessary corrective, finding agency where many refuse even to look.”
—George Ciccariello-Maher, Drexel University

Cover Photo: “Ambiente Habanero” by Ariel Arias, courtesy of the photographer.

Katherine A. Gordy is Associate Professor of Political Science at San Francisco State University.

Praise / Awards

  • "The novelty of Gordy’s approach lies in taking everyday speech seriously as an expression of ideology...This is not an easy book, but serious students of Cuba and of comparative ideology will find it rewarding...Recommended"
  • "At a time when the so called ‘pink tide’ of Latin America seems to be in crisis, Gordy’s analysis of Cuban socialism provides much needed insight not only into the Cuban Revolution as a political system, but also into the principles and practices of ideology more generally."
    --Marina Gold, Author of People and State in Socialist Cuba, for Anthropological Forum
  • "[Living Ideology in Cuba] challenges traditional negative approaches to study the concept of ideology, offering a more positive interpretation of the concept."
    --- Hib: Revista de Historia Iberoamericana
  • "Katherine Gordy has produced a well-written, highly accessible study of Cuban ideology in which she probes the sometimes painful and contentious discussions in Cuba’s public spaces."
    --Perspectives on Politics
  • "This delightful and much-needed book is long overdue."
    --CLR James Journal
  • "What most accounts [of Cuban Socialism] miss, Gordy shows, are the rich debates, occurring at all levels of Cuban society, that have continuously modified and refined the ideology of Cuban socialism, keeping it alive since the Revolution ... To be sure, it is the mark of an effective work of scholarship that it opens up new and promising veins for future research, and in this sense, Katherine Gordy’s Living Ideology in Cuba succeeds brilliantly."
    -- Inter-American Journal of Philosophy

Look Inside

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 296pp.
  • 17 photos.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 2015
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-07261-3

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  • $89.95 U.S.

  • Paper
  • 2015
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-05261-5

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  • $40.95 U.S.

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