Pragmatism Against Morality: Ethnicity in the Aztec Empire

R. D. Grillo

in Pluralism and the Politics of Difference

Published in print July 1998 | ISBN: 9780198294269
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191599378 | DOI:
 Pragmatism Against Morality: Ethnicity in the Aztec Empire

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In Mesoamerica, conquest, predatory or segmentary expansion, and migration frequently brought together heterogeneous social, cultural, and linguistic populations under a single ruler. In the Aztec (Mexica) empire, ethnic distinctions were made, but little was made of them. Far from being a proselytizing, normatively mobilizing, moralistic polity, the Aztecs, like other patrimonial societies in Mesoamerica and elsewhere, were principally interested in extraction: ‘little more than a band of pirates’, Eric Wolf called them. Though Aztec rulers were interested in the formation of an identifiably Mexica ruling class, there was no policy of cultural homogenization affecting subject populations: there was no reason for one, nor could it have been easily implemented. Ethnicity was not a significant factor in the organization of inter‐city Mesoamerican politics and political relations.

Keywords: Aztec empire; cultural homogenization; ethnicity; extraction; Mesoamerica; Mexica; patrimonial societies; politics; ruling class

Chapter.  9415 words. 

Subjects: Political Theory

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