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The Struggle for Hegemony and the Articulation of Plurinationality: Contrasting Visions of Social Change and State Transformation in Bolivia’s Proceso de Cambio


Evo Morales and the MAS came to power in 2006 promising fundamental social, cultural, economic and political change, what they called el proceso de cambio (the process of change). While Bolivia has witnessed a number of important social, political, and economic changes, while also experiencing the most prolonged period of political stability in its history, significant disputes over land, territory, resources, identity, democracy, and the state remain. These differences have provoked conflicts over the vision, future direction, and transformational potential of Bolivia’s process of change. In this dissertation I argue that the central axis along which many of these conflicts rest can be theorized as an antagonism between two differing visions of social change and state transformation, conceptualized on the one hand as a struggle for hegemony, and on the other hand as a demand for plurinationality. Based on 16 months of ethnographic fieldwork, I argue that Morales and the MAS have pursued a vision of state-centered hegemonic change. In contrast, many of the actors that brought Morales to power have challenged the very legitimacy of the nation-state form and its culturally homogenizing practices. As an alternative, they offer a vision of plurinationality that seeks to “refound” Bolivia and recognize the cultures, economies, systems of social and political organization, and overall world visions that co-exist and interact within the geographic boundaries of the country.

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