Bolivia: With Subway in the Sky, Valley Meets Plateau


William Neumann, New York Times

LA PAZ and EL ALTO, Bolivia — In these two cities, geography and rank stand in inverse relation. La Paz — the seat of government, old money and a lighter-skinned elite — sits in a valley. Above it on a high plateau is the frenetic city of El Alto: poorer, younger and generally darker-skinned. La Paz has always looked down on its upstart younger sibling above.
Now, that relationship is being challenged, and this urban Möbius strip, where down is up and up is down, is getting a new twist. A mass-transit aerial cable-car system, a cross between a ski gondola and an elevated train, is being installed to better connect them, chipping away at the physical barriers and possibly some of the psychological ones.
The first line in the system, stretching from an area near the center of La Paz to just beyond the lip of the plateau into El Alto, began carrying riders on May 31. Another line is expected to go into operation in September, and a third the next month — just in time for an election on Oct. 12, in which President Evo Morales is running for a third term.
Mr. Morales, who ordered the construction of the cable-car system, recently announced that he would build five more lines. It is part of a master plan that Cesar Dockweiler, the general coordinator of the project, said could eventually include up to 18 lines: stretching deep down the valley into La Paz’s Zona Sur, or Southern Zone, where the wealthiest live, and far across the plateau, home to some of El Alto’s poorest.
Bolivia, South America’s poorest country, recently launched its first communications satellite to much fanfare about the country’s progress. But many Bolivians have embraced the cable cars, closer to the ground, with more sustained enthusiasm as a modern and technological wonder.
The first line, known as the red line, carried two million passengers in its first 51 days of operation, which Mr. Dockweiler said was beyond the most optimistic projections. Some riders are commuters, but many have flocked to the line out of curiosity. It has become a sightseeing attraction for its novelty and for its sweeping views of La Paz and the surrounding mountains. The heaviest ridership is on Thursdays and Sundays, when a sprawling open-air market fills the streets of El Alto.
“It’s a wonder,” said Carlos Flores, 60, a printer, standing in a long line to board a cable car on a recent Sunday at La Paz’s Central Station (Estación Central in Spanish, or Taypi Uta in Aymara, the predominant indigenous language in El Alto). Referring to one of his country’s natural marvels, Mr. Flores said, “We say that Lake Titicaca is a wonder, and now we have another one.”
Much as the subway system changed New York in the early 20th century, the cable-car system has the potential to transform La Paz and El Alto, connecting distant neighborhoods to the city center, raising real estate values, slashing commute times and altering social relations.
“People in El Alto are more guarded and more timid,” said Leonidas Sánchez, 45, a school administrator from El Alto, riding down into La Paz one recent morning. “We are timid because we have a different skin color, and we live in different types of houses, and we do different kinds of work compared to the people of the Zona Sur. There has always been a relation of respect and even fear with those people.”
Mr. Sánchez said that if he sat next to lighter-skinned people from the La Paz elite in a cable car, he would feel obligated to give them more space. While the election of Mr. Morales, an indigenous former coca farmer from a poor background, in 2005 has gone a long way toward changing such attitudes, Mr. Sánchez said the cable cars could help break them down further.
“I think that relationship of superiority will change, because we will express ourselves, and they will get to know us, and we will get to know them,” he said.
In broad terms, La Paz is more Western and El Alto more indigenous. La Paz is more urban; El Alto is full of migrants from the countryside who retain their small-town ways. Spanish is spoken in La Paz; in El Alto, Aymara is heard at least as often. La Paz has its banks and a few fancy restaurants, while the center of El Alto’s economic life is the twice-a-week street market where the smell of fried pork hangs thickly in the air. La Paz’s rich live discreetly behind high walls; El Alto’s rich live in ostentatious, brightly colored homesbuilt over family stores.
“La Paz and El Alto have a different logic of life,” said Luis Cayujra, 40, a lawyer from La Paz, who was waiting in line, camera in hand, to board a cable car for a ride up the slope to El Alto.
“I have friends that have either never been to El Alto or are afraid to go,” Mr. Cayujra said. Now, he said, “Lots of young people will be able to explore the complex world of El Alto: the culture, the economy, the social forms, the architecture.”
Traveling from El Alto on a frigid winter morning, the cable cars move over rooftops beneath a brilliant blue sky, the massive snow peak of Illimani ahead.
At night, the orange and white lights of La Paz spread out beneath riders like stars filling the valley, undulating with its contours.
Benjamin Limachi, 28, a jewelry maker who lives in El Alto, said he liked to take his girlfriend for rides at night, when they could sit alone in a car and take in the romantic view.
“It’s very different to look from above and see how pretty La Paz is,” Mr. Limachi said. “It’s like flying in an airplane at low altitude.”
Other cities, like Medellín, Colombia, and Caracas, Venezuela, have put in cable cars to reach some isolated hilltop neighborhoods. But nowhere else have cable cars been envisioned as the backbone of a mass-transit system, as in La Paz, said Torsten Bäuerlen, a manager at Doppelmayr, the Austrian company that is building the first three lines.
La Paz, the world’s highest capital at about 12,000 feet above sea level, is different from most other cities. It spills down the slopes of a steep valley, making a subway or other train system impractical, and buses are subject to the heavy traffic that often gridlocks both cities.
“For us, the solution has been to build, quite literally, a subway in the air,” said Mr. Dockweiler, the project coordinator.
A ride costs about 44 cents, as much as double the cost of the packed minibuses that clog the streets. But at least some commuters are willing to pay more to save time, and for the added comfort. The minibuses are reviled for being dirty and overcrowded, with drivers who often are rude, charge above the established fare and refuse to pick up older riders or people with children.
The $234 million price tag for the first three lines was paid virtually in cash, from the vast trove of hard currency that the country’s Central Bank has amassed during several years of impressive economic growth fueled largely by the sale of natural gas to neighboring Brazil and Argentina. That in itself is a sign of the changes going on here.
“Before, to invest and carry out this type of project, the Bolivian government had to turn to outside financing,” Mr. Dockweiler said. “When we opened the red line, people felt proud. And now Bolivians believe in themselves, believe in their ability to develop, in the country’s chances to become greater.”
The government sees the cable-car system as a way to draw La Paz and El Alto closer together, advertising it with slogans like “Uniting our lives” and “A meeting place.”

“The thread of the cable car will permit a dialogue between the two cultures, a connection,” said René Pereira, director of the school of social science at San Andrés University in La Paz. “And that is going to break down borders, and we will probably start to seriously reconsider the reality that is Bolivia.”

Bolivia: The MAS, the state, and the social movements



Mike Geddes[1]

My previous post ‘The MAS hegemonic project and its tensions’ highlighted some of the fault lines in the MAS project.  This post explores further the tensions between the conception of the MAS government as a government of the social movements, and the development of a strong state, with centralized state power as the driver of counter-hegemonic strategy.

‘Refounding the state’ is central to the MAS hegemonic project.  The phraseology of ‘refounding’ expresses the conviction that the colonial, neoliberal state needs to be totally reshaped, not merely ‘modernised’.  The MAS is committed to the exercise of state power, but in a way which reflects its self-description as the ‘political instrument’ of the social movements, thus accepting the electoral and representative components of democracy but subordinating these to grassroots participative and deliberative democratic processes. For the MAS, the new constitution, generated through a broad constituent assembly and validated by referendum, is the essential foundation for a refounded state in which political power lies in the hands of the indigenous and popular majority. 

For critics, however, the management of the constituent assembly by the MAS was an initial important signal of the limits to change.  For them, the demand by the social movements was for a revolutionary Constituent Assembly which would transform economy, state and society, through the ‘organic participation of the main social movement organisations in the formation and execution of the assembly....(whereas) ....’the assembly actually introduced by the MAS government  has precluded all such revolutionary and participative elements’ and appeased the eastern bourgeoisie, allowing the right wing opposition to regroup’.[2]  In the event though, the hold of the right in the eastern provinces has become less secure, both as a result of in-migration of campesinos supporting the MAS from the Andean highlands, and also because the government has had some success in detaching the economic elite in the east from the separatist political elite.[3]  But while the threat from the right to MAS hegemony has thus been neutralised, the elimination of this threat, by removing a key reason for unity within the hegemonic bloc, has created a climate in which sectional interests have been freer to assert themselves.

Behind disputes about the ‘revolutionary’ epoch of 2002-2005 lie different understandings about the social/class composition of the popular movements which brought down the neoliberal regime, and the nature of the demands of these movements. For left critics of the MAS government, the rebellions of this period were a ‘combined liberation struggle in which mass movements of indigenous proletarians and peasants’ fought ‘an anti-capitalist and indigenous-liberationist liberation struggle’[4]  For others however, the organisations of indigenous people ‘do not think of themselves as left wing, but as indigenous and pro-decolonisation’,[5] a ‘plebeian culture’ rooted in an only partially industrialised society.[6]  A related issue is the nature of popular participation in the activism of the social movements in the 2002-5 period.  There is some evidence that, in El Alto, at the core of activism, popular participation was a mixture of willing involvement and a degree of authoritarian coercion by the leadership of the social movements, questioning any assumption of a fully cohesive and revolutionary ‘base’ betrayed by the MAS party elite.[7] 

Since the ratification of the constitution, questions about the ‘refounded’ state and its role in the MAS project have multiplied.  What is meant by a plurinational state?  What is the relationship between the state and the social movements, between electoral and representative democracy, and between deepening democracy and strengthening the state?  These are key questions in relation to the MAS’s hegemonic project and bloc.

The constitution replaces the previous unitary state by a new plurinational state which institutes not only municipal, departmental and regional autonomies but also indigenous autonomy, so that ‘election of local authorities would be permitted on the basis of customary norms, and a communitarian justice within the “native indigenous peasant” juridical framework would be introduced’[8]  The constitution thus recognises the cultures and traditions of the various indigenous ‘nations’ of Bolivia.  This is a major step towards cementing the position of the indigenous population as the core of the hegemonic bloc. 

However, not only are there questions about how geographical autonomies will mesh in practice with indigenous ones, but also about how ‘plurinational’ the constitution actually is.  For some, neo-colonialism is still entrenched in the state, and the constitution does little more than include an element of indigenism within a more conventional state form.  Genuine plurinationalism, he suggests, would involve a complex unity of different peoples, nations, actors, logics and practices of social and economic life and organisation’.  It would embody multiple versions of seeing the world, ‘a space-time of multiple manners of being, seeing and living in the world’.[9]  Further, what the new constitution actually establishes may actually be a more fully liberal state, with a veneer of multiculturalism, especially in relation to equality of opportunities.[10] The close and enduring links between Bolivian state personnel and transnational capital lend substance to the argument that the Bolivian state remains essentially a capitalist state.[11]

Entwined with the above issues are questions of the relationships between the state, the MAS government and the social movements, and between electoralist and direct or participatory democracy.  It is widely argued by those to the left of the government that since 2005 there has been a ‘decline in the self-organisation and activity of the popular classes/indigenous in the wake of Morales’ victory. The MAS .....originated as a cocalero anti-imperialist, anti-neoliberal indigenous peasant movement, structured on assembly-style rank and file democracy, extra-parliamentary activism (but has) since 2002 however prioritised electoral politics ...(and).....is increasingly influenced by urban mestizo middle class intelligentsia in upper leadership layers, (and) courts the urban middle class vote’.[12]  Similarly, ‘the Bolivian government has effectively ignored or denigrated the logic and form of communitarian-popular politics – the very force that brought Morales to power in the first place – while privileging traditional forms of representation and participation’.[13]  From this perspective, radical social and economic goals have been subordinated to the construction of a national-popular bloc, with indigenous centrality but under party control, in order to carry out reforms from above: the more or less explicit goal is to integrate some of the cadre and leadership of the movements into the party-state nexus.  ‘Morales and the MAS have ruled over movements and have attempted to substitute for them and, when necessary, to confine their mobilisation within the tightest of officially sanctioned channels’.[14]

These arguments are of course contested by the government and its supporters, but such ongoing tensions between the party and social movements highlight the difficult choices for the MAS between widening the hegemonic bloc and responding to its core base. One suggestion is that, rather than the concept of the MAS as the instrument of the social movements, we should think of a pact between them, a pact which is increasingly under strain as different social interests and organisations within the hegemonic bloc assert their own sectional/corporate interests.[15]  What is clear here is the commitment of the MAS government to a strong state.  What is at issue is whether this implies an authoritarian, integral state rather than a state of the social movements. 

The tensions are not only between the government and the social movements, but also between and within social movements and the indigenous population and its organisations.  The rhetoric of vivir bien brings a danger of idealising a communal, egalitarian traditional indigenous society living in harmony with nature in contrast to modern, Western individualism and consumerism.[16]  This is particularly problematic in the context of the rapidly changing class composition of Bolivia, and the contradiction between rapid urbanisation processes and the formation of an Aymara bourgeoisie on the one hand, and the dominant position of rural/campesino interests and values in the government.[17]  Growing conflicts, exacerbated by the TIPNIS dispute, are apparent between campesinos from the highlands in the eastern lowlands, and the ‘original indigenous’ lowland tribes.  These tensions also exhibit themselves over land reform, where many of the former are pressing for individual titles while the latter want communal ownership. 

Such conflicts undermine the cohesiveness of the hegemonic bloc and indicate the real danger of passive revolution: the fragmentation of the hegemonic bloc, the disintegration of a radical hegemonic project, and confirmation of the views of those on both right and left that the MAS government provides a more sustainable context for capital than the foregoing neoliberal regimes, albeit an ‘Andean capitalism’ with a new indigenous bourgeoisie and middle class.

In this conjuncture, the question of the state is becoming central.   Critiques of the growing ‘statism’ of the MAS call to mind Gramsci’s conception of an ‘integral state’ in which an increasingly coercive state dominates civil society.  Such a statisation of civil society stands in opposition to the radical vision of the MAS as the ‘political instrument’ of the social movements, and its occupation of the state on behalf of the social movements – ‘integral civil society’ perhaps.  The realisation of this vision will depend on an active dialectic between state and social movements.  The period in which the social movements led the process of change has given way to one in which the leadership has passed to the MAS government.  We must surely hope for a continuing alternation between these two ‘moments’. 

Mike Geddes is an Associate in the School of Comparative American Studies, University of Warwick, Coventry, UK

Notes

[1] This blog is derived from a longer article: Mike Geddes (2014): The old is dying but the new is struggling to be born:hegemonic contestation in Bolivia, Critical Policy Studies, DOI: 10.1080/19460171.2014.904645.
[2] Webber J R (2008) Rebellion to reform in Bolivia.  Part I: Domestic class structure, Latin American trends, and capitalist imperialism.  Historical Materialism 16, 23-58, pp26-27.
[3] Crabtree J and Chaplin A (2013) Bolivia: Processes of Change.  London: Zed Press, Ch 10.
[4] Webber J R (2008) Rebellion to reform in Bolivia.  Part II: Revolutionary epoch, Combined liberation and the December 2005 Elections.  Historical Materialism 16, 3, 55-76, p68.
[5] Tapia L (2008) Bolivia: The left and the social movements.  In Barrett PS Chavez D and Garavito CAR (Eds) (2008) The New Latin American Left: Utopia Reborn.  London: Pluto Press, p230.
[6] Dunkerley J (2007) Evo Morales, the ‘two Bolivias’ and the third Bolivian revolution.  Journal of Latin American Studies 39, 133-166, pp161-162.
[7] Lazar, S (2006) El Alto: Ciudad Rebelde: Organisational bases for revolt.  Bulletin of Latin American Research, 25, 2, 183-199.
[8] Fontana L B (2013) The “Processo de Cambio” and the seventh year crisis: Towards a reconfiguration of the relationship between state and social movements in Bolivia.  Bolivian Studies Journal 19, 190-212, p197.
[9] Ramirez P M (2012) Estado Plurinacional: entre el nuevo proyecto y la factualidad neocolonial.  Revista de Estudios Bolivianos, 19, 132-158, p138.

[10] Tapia L (2010) Consideraciones sobre el Estado Plurinacional, in Fundación Boliviana para la Democracia Multipartidaria , Descolonización en Bolivia: cuatro ejes para comprender el cambio. La Paz: Vicepresidencia del Estado Plurinacional de Bolivia, 135168, p166.

[11] Tsolakis A (2011) The reform of the Bolivian state: Domestic politics in the context of globalization.  Boulder and London: First Forum Press.
[12] See note 2, p26.

[13] Aguilar R G (2011) Competing political visions and Bolivia’s unfinished revolution.  Dialectical Anthropology 35, 275-277, p277.
[14] Hylton F (2011) Old wine, new bottles: In search of dialectics.  Dialectical Anthropology 35, 243-247, p246.
[15] Zegada M T, Arce C, Canedo G and Quispe A (2011) La democracia desde les márgenes: Transformaciones en el campo político boliviano.  La Paz: Muela del Diablo Editores, pp314-317.


[16] Fontana, L.B., 2013a. On the perils and potentialities of revolution: conflict and collective action in contemporary Bolivia. Latin American Perspectives, 13 February. doi:10.1177/0094582X13476003, p14.

[17] Stefanoni P (2012) Y quien no querria “vivir bien”?  Encrucijadas del proceso de cambio boliviano.  Critica y Emancipacion, 7, 9-25, pp16-18.

Bolivia: The MAS hegemonic project and its tensions


Mike Geddes[1]

The many actions – and inactions – of the MAS government continue to inspire a torrent of debate, both critical and supportive.  In this context, it is worth asking to what extent the MAS came into government in 2005 with a clearly defined (counter) hegemonic project, and if so how has this programme developed since?

Certainly, the Vice-President, Alvaro Garcia Linera, who has spoken and written extensively in Gramscian terms about what the MAS government is trying to achieve and both the successes he would claim and the problems encountered, presents a picture of a clearly defined project. From his position as Vice-President, without departmental responsibilities, Garcia Linera plays a critical role in enunciating strategic perspectives and mediating between different tendencies within the government – indigenist, socialist, populist.  While of course he has his own views, his analysis can perhaps be seen as broadly reflective of the MAS government’s project.

Garcia Linera grounds his analysis in the crisis of the neoliberal Bolivian state in the period from around 2000, and the shift by the MAS to move from localized to general mobilization and build a popular bloc capable of sustaining a new popular consensus to ‘refound’ the state. While the MAS came to power on the back of a mass popular movement, it still faced serious opposition from right wing forces, allied to large scale capitalist agribusiness, in Bolivia’s eastern provinces. Spatial socioeconomic factors have thus been a key element in MAS strategy.

In Garcia Linera’s analysis, the MAS deployed an ‘encircling strategy’ against this opposition, ‘using both the coercive mechanisms of the state and social mobilisation’.[2] The defeat of the ‘regionalised right’ and an alignment with the indigenous-popular axis of social sectors, including middle classes and small and medium sized business interests, were confirmed by a presidential recall referendum in which Morales increased his vote from 54% to 67%. 

Nonetheless, Garcia Linera argues, while the right has – for now at any rate – lost political power nationally, and has no alternative political project for society capable of gaining national support, it retains very significant economic power rooted in the agrarian, commercial and financial sectors and a consequent ability to block change in some areas.[3]

The defeat of the right paved the way for the new constitution, drafted by a broadly based constituent assembly and ratified by a national referendum. This, in principle at any rate, and despite significant concessions, entrenches a range of rights and guarantees, especially but not only for the indigenous majority, and starts to disembed the colonial (neo) liberal state. In Garcia Linera’s view, the Constituent Assembly was essential in order to ‘anchor in enduring state institutions and relations of command the new correlation of forces reached by the indigenous popular movement in the 2000–2005 cycle of mobilisations’.[4]   Without the new constitution, it would not have been possible to reach the ‘point of bifurcation’, or the moment when the crisis of the state would be resolved either through a restoration of the old state power or through the consolidation of the new bloc of popular power, ‘by an act of leadership, of hegemony in the Gramscian meaning of the word’.[5]

Today, he claims, ‘the subjects of politics and the real institutions of power are now found in the indigenous, plebeian arena’:

Today, to influence the state budget or to know the government agenda, it does not help at all to rub shoulders with senior officials of the IMF, the Inter-American Development Bank or US and European embassies. Today the state power circuits pass through the debates and decisions of indigenous, worker and neighbourhoods assemblies [6]

The actions of the MAS in government have been rooted in the overriding  prioritization of decolonization: whereas before ‘indigenous people were condemned to be peasants, toilers, informal artisans, porters or waiters, now they are ministers (both men and women), deputies, senators, directors of public companies, constitution writers, supreme court magistrates, governors, and president’.[7]

Economic decolonization – breaking with the outward flow of the surplus – has been advanced, he argues, through nationalization, foreign exchange policies and tax policies governing remittances of earnings and profits. The leading example is the government takes on oil and gas revenues from 27% to between 65% and 77%, providing the material basis for economic sovereignty. The MAS is also seeking to reorient Bolivia’s external economic relations, working for example through the ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of our America) grouping of left-leaning Latin American states, to increase regional economic links: ‘Let’s act as a regional state with respect to utilization and global negotiation of the great strategic wealth we possess (oil, minerals, lithium, water, agriculture, biodiversity, light industry, a young and skilled workforce)’.[8]

In the cultural field, the colonizing paradigm was first broken by the election of an
indigenous president, and is now being pursued through the implementation of the
principle of a plurinational state throughout the state administration. In fields such health care, indigenous traditional practices are being introduced alongside Western medical practices.

Garcia Linera defines the MAS program as a ‘post-neoliberal model’ and a ‘postcapitalist transition’. Currently,

the state is the main wealth generator in the country. That wealth is not valorised as capital: it is redistributed throughout society through bonuses, rents, direct social benefits to the population, the freezing of utility rates and basic fuel prices, and subsidies to agricultural production. We try to prioritise wealth as use value over exchange value. In this regard, the state does not act as a collective capitalist in the state-capitalist sense, but acts as a collective redistributor of wealth among the working classes.[9]

The government is supporting communitarian institutions, and initiating debate around ‘the campesino and communitarian productive logic based on a type of productive rationality that is locally sustainable with nature’ …. ‘as opposed to the processes of depredation peculiar to the civilisation of surplus value’.[10]

Thus today

the organisational forms of the contemporary indigenous movement – communal, agrarian, and union – with their style of assembly deliberation, traditional rotation of posts, and in some cases, common control of means of production, are the centres of political decision making and a good part of the economy in Bolivia.[11]

Garcia Linera recognises though that any transformation away from capitalism will be a long historical process, and sees the emergence of an ‘Andean capitalism’[12], inflected by the Bolivian indigenous context, as an initial step.

The MAS hegemonic project, as presented by Garcia Linera, thus foregrounds decolonization as an umbrella beneath which several elements can be brought together – deepening democracy, redistributing wealth, supporting alternatives to capitalist relations, ecological sustainability – in a way which can appeal to a broad hegemonic bloc within Bolivian society.

What are we to make of Garcia Linera’s formulations? 

In the first place, there have been concerted criticisms, mostly but not exclusively from the left, which question whether the MAS programme has involved the transformation and supersession of economic neoliberalism or in fact represents a fundamental continuity with it.  For some, ‘the liberal capitalist model, albeit one slightly modified in favour of national development, has survived. By Bolivian standards, it could even be said to be thriving’ in a ‘reconstituted neoliberalism’.[13] From this perspective, the Morales government is not implementing a counter-hegemonic project but overseeing a passive revolution. Secondly, many would seriously question whether the MAS government has in fact pursued anything like as coherent a strategy as that which Garcia Linera suggests.[14]

It is important however to recognize the importance of context. This is the global South, a postcolonial and peripheral context, a country with a fragile and externally-dependent economy and weak state. Bolivia is a country with a majority indigenous population but which is socially polarised, especially around issues of race. Decolonization is thus at the core of the MAS hegemonic strategy, and the hegemonic bloc is built around the mobilization and empowerment of the indigenous population, privileging race over class. Moreover, important currents within and around the MAS government question Western concepts of modernity, including left conceptions of social change and struggle, and instead look back to indigenous social, economic and political forms.

It is in this sense – rather than primarily in the sense of a rejection of capitalism - that for some commentators this is a period of profound change, the

‘crisis of one historical cycle and the beginning of another signalled fundamentally by a hegemonic transformation, the replacement of political elites, a new configuration of the state and mutation of the relation between state and society’[15]

In this perspective, the MAS government is the culmination of a centuries-long historical struggle against colonialism and neo-colonialism.[16]

The question, of course, is how the priority of decolonization interacts with other elements in the MAS strategy, and how diverse and conflictive social interests – both within and beyond the indigenous population - are reconciled within a hegemonic bloc. In addressing this issue, it has been suggested that the period of MAS government since 2005 has comprised three phases.

The first was defined by political polarization between the Morales government and the right wing ‘media luna’ opposition, and characterized by a war of position conducted in parliament, the constitutional constituent assembly and on the streets. The second phase, the ‘hegemonic moment of MAS’, followed the ratification of the position of Morales as president in the recall referendum of 2008 and was characterized by the defeat of the right. At this point, therefore, the MAS project moves decisively from oppositional to dominant status.

The third and most recent phase however is characterized by splits in the hegemonic bloc since 2010, exposing fault lines in the MAS project: between modernity and tradition, between  universal and particular interests, between visions of development and progress versus those of vivir bien and ecological sustainability, and between the concentration of power versus decentralization.[17]

In particular, this recent phase has seen the rise of tensions between the conception of the MAS government as a government of the social movements driven from the grassroots, and the development of a strong state, with centralized state power as the driver of policy. A following post will explore these tensions.

Mike Geddes is an Associate in the School of Comparative American Studies, University of Warwick, Coventry, UK

Notes

[1] This blog is derived from a longer article: Mike Geddes (2014): The old is dying but the new is struggling to be born: hegemonic contestation in Bolivia, Critical Policy Studies, DOI: 10.1080/19460171.2014.904645.
[2] Garcia Linera, A., 2009. Bolivian Vice President defends MAS Government’s record in office.Interview by M. Svampa, P. Stefanoni, and R. Bajo, translated by R. Fidler, Bolivia Rising,11 September, p2.

[3] See note 2.

[4] See note 2, p2.

[5] Garcia Linera, A., 2008. Catastrophic equilibrium and point of bifurcation. Available from: http://links.org.au/node/484/1313: and see note 2, p2

[6] Garcia Linera, A., 2012. Moving beyond capitalism is a universal task. Interview by L. Hernández Navarro, translated by F. Stuart Cournoyer. Available from: http://links.org.au/node/2753., pp1-2

[7] See note 6, p2

[8] See note 6, p3

[9] See note 6, p2

[10] See note 2.

[11] See note 6, p3

[12] Garcia Linera A 2005.  Interview by Pablo Stefanoni, International Viewpoint, 20 December

[13] Hylton F (2011) Old wine, new bottles: In search of dialectics.  Dialectical Anthropology 35, 243-247.doi:10.1007/s10624-011-9250-x, p244; Webber, J.R., 2010. From rebellion to reform: Bolivia’s reconstituted neoliberalism. International Socialist Review, 73, September–October. Available from: http://isreview.org/issue/73/rebellionreform’.  I discuss these issues more fully in the article referenced in Note 1

[14] Farthing L C and Kohl, B H (2014) Evo’s Bolivia: Continuity and change.  Austin: University of Texas Press

[15] Zegada, M.T., et al., 2011. La democracia desde les márgenes: transformaciones en el campo político Boliviano. La Paz: Muela del Diablo Editores, pp303-304

[16] Camacho, O.V., 2010. Estado Plurinacional: elementos para el debate. In: Fundación Boliviana para la Democracia Multipartidaria, ed. Descolonización en Bolivia: Cuatro ejes para comprender el cambio. La Paz: Vicepresidencia del Estado Plurinacional de Bolivia, 109134; Canqui, R.C., 2010. Proceso de descolonisación. In: Fundación Boliviana para la Democracia Multipartidaria, ed. Descolonización en Bolivia: Cuatro ejes para comprender el cambio. La Paz: Vicepresidencia del Estado Plurinacional de Bolivia, 3762

[17] See Note 15, p305