8965 - 'The government of the social movements': re-defining State-civil society relations under Morales' 'Plurinational State'


Between 2000-2005 Bolivia was the scenario of intense social upheaval. A series of protests against governmental plans, lead by social movements, resulted in the resignation of two presidents. The 2005 presidential elections produced a landslide victory for indigenous Evo Morales, whose key to success was a confederation of distinct social movements forming his political party MAS. The new regime, ‘the government of social movements’, has implemented a series of state reforms intended to provide social movements with a real say in the political arena and to integrate marginal sectors of society. The penetration in the state structures shows a disparate shift of these actors towards the State and away from the social movement’s more traditional arena within civil society. Despite the apparent unquestioned support given to the new regime (particularly in its initial period) and Morales’ majority re-election in December 2009, not all of his policies have gone uncontested by the social organizations. The unity among the social movements that installed Morales in power, has shown fractures and conflict in recent years.

This paper focuses on the changing State-civil society relations under the Morales’ government. Based on a four month field research conducted at the end of 2010, and from a political network perspective, it argues for a disaggregated view of State and civil society that allows for the visualization of shifting constellations of political and societal actors. This demonstrates that the relation is changing and multiple, at times in agreement and at times in conflict, but not necessarily politically incoherent or deficient. Beyond questions of autonomy or co-optation, the dynamics between both actors in Bolivia may involve the redefinition of the roles of both the State and civil society within the project of a ‘ Plurinational State ’, and as such may be considered to have interesting effects on the processes of democratization.

Palabras claves: State-civil society relations, social movements, democratization.

Autores: Valdivia Rivera, Soledad (Leiden University, Netherlands / Niederlande)


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