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State and Power after Neoliberalism in Bolivarian Venezuela

  • Author(s): Kingsbury, Donald V.
  • Advisor(s): Thomas, Megan C
  • et al.
Abstract

ABSTRACT

State and Power after Neoliberalism in Bolivarian Venezuela

Donald V. Kingsbury

State and Power after Neoliberalism in Bolivarian Venezuela examines the limits and possibilities of collective subject formation in the context of social transformation. It argues that the Bolivarian process was made possible by new forms of political community and collective life that emerged in resistance to the neoliberal restructuring of state and society in the 1980s and 1990s. Specifically, the cycle of struggles that began with the caracazo of 1989 opened a terrain for groups from the margins of Venezuelan society to mobilize and shape politics in that country. By the end of the twentieth century, grassroots pressure from below and the state's abandonment of its side of the social contract resulted in a situation of ungovernability in Venezuela. The government of Hugo Chávez has worked to capture the creative energy of these elements, but has yet to definitively break with the norms and institutions of the sovereign nation-state. This dissertation presents the theoretical consequences of this undecided balance of forces as a reconfiguration of the modern dialectic between constituent and constituted power. Focusing on moments where the government has failed to capture the force of what the Marxist-Spinozist tradition has identified as the multitude, I argue Bolivarian Venezuela offers an important site from which to reconsider key elements of modern liberal thought such as the citizen, the nation, and the social contract as well as more recent critical concepts such as the multitude, hegemony, and populism.

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