The current study seeks not only to place into focus the general patterns of social and economic organization prevalent in Colombia in the late nineteenth century and the early twentieth (such political and economic organization has been ably illustrated by several authors), but also strives to elucidate the systems of thought or 'ideologies' to which such socio-economic and political structures gave rise. It is concerned with the thought-systems that influenced the development of the Colombian labor movement, those of actors external to organized labor and indigenous systems of thought of labor activists themselves.
The hypothesis is that class and party-based interests channelled the early development of organized labor toward a path that would further, or failing that, not conflict with dominant elite interests. Artisans, proudly independent, exerted inordinate influence over the movement, hindering the development of working class consciousness. As the result of dominance by élites external to the labor movement itself, workers were never able to forge an independent voice that would allow them to define their own interests in society.