Between Pachakuti and Passive Revolution: The Search for Post-colonial Sovereignty in Bolivia

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From the period 2000 to 2005, Bolivia experienced a profound political convulsion as social movements rose-up to contest the neoliberal model of development. This was most markedly inspired by contestation over the control of natural resources, namely water and gas. The period of mobilisation brought down two successive governments and propelled the MAS, led by Evo Morales, to power in 2006. This period also helped to revalorise indigenous culture and held out hope for a reimagining of power, politics and political economy. The transformation that would result from this uprising, effectively re-founded Bolivia as a “pluri-national state,” recognising 36 separate national groups with their own languages and cultures. This was, furthermore, a process based on the convergence of national-popular and indigenous struggles. However, following his disputed election for a fourth successive term in office, Evo Morales and other key leaders of the MAS have gone into exile, while right-wing, revanchist social forces are increasingly prominent. How do we begin to make sense of this turn of events, which include the swirling combinations of reactionary capitalist interests but also left-indigenous critiques of development from marginalised sectors? In this article, I argue that we need to situate Bolivia's indigenous social movements in the struggle between Pachakuti (an Andean term referring to the desire to turn the world upside down and forge a new time and space) and passive revolution (a state-led process of modernisation that seeks to expand capitalist social relations whilst incorporating limited demands from below, ultimately diffusing their radical potential).




Hesketh, C. (2020). Between Pachakuti and Passive Revolution: The Search for Post-colonial Sovereignty in Bolivia. Journal of Historical Sociology, 33(4), 567–586.

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