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Article
Publication date: 23 September 2014

Oliver Levingston

The purpose of this paper is to present reflections on the contradictions between structure and agency in theories of the Bolivian Revolution, 2000-2005. Most studies into the…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to present reflections on the contradictions between structure and agency in theories of the Bolivian Revolution, 2000-2005. Most studies into the trajectory and outcomes of the revolutionary period in Bolivia between 2000 and 2005 tend to emphasise on the primary role of structural factors or social movements in shifting the terrain of political debate. This paper argues this represents a false dichotomy and discounts the value of this debate. In doing so, it seeks to highlight the need for research that focuses on the role of institutional variables that mediate between structure and agency.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper uses theories of the Bolivian Revolution, which occurred between 2000 and 2005, to highlight the way theory shapes – and is shaped by – the political organisations that espouse it. This constructivist thesis is applied to conceptions of neoliberalism and Katarismo, an ideology of indigenous liberation, based in Andean-Aymara history. The intellectual and political projects of each approach are demarcated. Theories that privilege either the intellectual project or political project in their narrative of the Bolivian Revolution are then queried.

Findings

As a consequence of this analysis, the paper concludes by emphasizing the need for political organisation and theory to be considered dialectically along the lines of Gogol (2012). It argues that further research into institutions is required to appreciate why some post-neoliberal projects flourish while others fragment.

Originality/value

The paper proposes a modified understanding of the interplay between structure and agency in conceptions of the Bolivian Revolution (2000-2005) and suggests an original approach to resolving the underlying questions that motivate these debates.

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