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Keywords:

  • cultural relations;
  • international history;
  • Foucault;
  • city planning;
  • Latin America;
  • Brazil;
  • Argentina;
  • Rio de Janeiro;
  • Buenos Aires;
  • São Paulo

This paper looks at the genesis of a discourse on urbanismo (city planning) in Brazil and Argentina between 1894 and 1945 using the ideas of Michel Foucault on discipline and his concept of bio–power. The demographic pattern of the major cities in both countries from 1890 onwards and the renewals of the centres of these cities are also discussed. Other sections are dedicated to the plans proposed for the same cities in the 1920s and to urban representations, such as ideas about social reform, the role of hygiene as a point of departure for planning, and the relationship of ideas on Taylorism (scientific management) and the city. The paper also discusses the planners opposition to elections, when they claimed that they were the only ones qualified to deal with urban problems and therefore they should be employed in the state apparatus.

Other concerns of the paper are the use of planning as an element of nation building and ideas defining eugenics (race ‘betterment’) as an important aspect of city planning. I conclude by arguing that, if implemented, city planning was a way of creating an industrial culture, disciplining society through the city, although the industrial proletariat has never made up the majority of the population in Brazil or Argentina. Even if many aspects of the plans proposed for both countries were not implemented, the discourse of planners can be seen as a will to discipline society through the city. This discipline would affect the freedom of movement of human bodies, and is therefore approached through Foucault's concepts of bio–power and discipline