- Bolivia in the Era of Evo Morales
In his magnum opus, Europe and the People without History (1982), Eric R. Wolf drew on Marxian categories to explain how the acceleration of capitalist development in eighteenth-century England amplified pressures against the ruling class and the state that did its bidding, as new laboring classes came into being and struggled for their rights.1 In this context, Wolf asserts: "The specter of disorder and revolution raised the question of how social order could be restored and maintained, indeed, how social [End Page 248] order was possible at all."2 In another classic text of a rather different ideological persuasion, Samuel Huntington fetishized the problem of political order in the modernizing third-world societies of the 1960s, stressing the dangers of excessive political participation in so-called praetorian states. "In a praetorian system," Huntington suggests, "social forces confront each other nakedly; no political institutions, no corps of professional political leaders are recognized or accepted as the legitimate intermediaries to moderate group conflict.… The wealthy bribe; students riot; workers strike; mobs demonstrate; and the military coup."3
It is hardly surprising that in the context of effervescing social movements—or "mass praetorianism," in Huntingtonian language—the central concerns of mainstream sociologists and political scientists writing about Bolivia during the past number of years has been the specter of revolution and the concomitant need to contain the rebels from below and reestablish order from above. A five-year period of left-indigenous revolt began in 2000 with the Cochabamba Water War against privatization in that city. This was followed by the 2003 and 2005 Gas Wars, whose protagonists called for, among other things, nationalization of the hydrocarbons industry. The insurgents successfully overthrew President Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, and later Carlos Mesa, when their demands were not met. These protests set the stage, of course, for the electoral victory of Evo Morales, leader of the Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS; Movement toward Socialism), in the December 2005 general elections.
For those radical scholars who saw neoliberal rule in Bolivia during the 1980s and 1990s as fundamentally premised on racialized class injustice, these rebellions raised different concerns from those of the mainstream, leading these scholars to ask how such discontent might be channeled into a full-fledged transformation of Bolivia's social and political structures to meet the interests of the indigenous, proletarian, and peasant majority.4
The books under consideration here reflect how intellectual debate on the Bolivian scene has polarized in step with political realities on the ground. These texts can usefully be situated on an order-to-insurrection continuum, beginning with what I would term the guardians of order, followed by masista loyalists, and finally the critical left. These are blurry rather than discrete categories, of course, with authors at times bridging the divides. [End Page 249]
The Guardians of Order
The collection of essays edited by John Crabtree and Laurence White-head emerged out of a pair of conferences held in Oxford and La Paz in 2006 and 2007. Unresolved Tensions centers on issues of ethnicity, regionalism, state-society relations, constitutional...