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Volume 61 / Social Sciences


DONNA LEE VAN COTT, Assistant Professor of Political Science, Tulane University

IN GENERAL, SCHOLARSHIP ON BOLIVIAN POLITICS has changed little since the last volume of the Handbook was published. Few North American or European scholars work on the country and the abundant Bolivian scholarship is mainly descriptive, interpretive, or normative, as opposed to rigorous social science research designed to construct and test causal theory. Nevertheless, as Eduardo Gamarra predicted in HLAS 57, a new generation of Bolivian scholars trained in the US and Europe (Berthin, Gray Molina, Ayo) has produced some fine, methodologically sophisticated work.

Scholarship by Bolivian political scientists draws more from European normative political theory, than from the US comparative politics literature, and most studies focus entirely on Bolivia, with little comparative analysis. A few noteworthy exceptions include comparisons with neighboring countries with respect to the topics of political parties and institutional reform (items #bi2004001099#, #bi2002006255#, #bi2004001254#, and #bi2001005444#).

Most recent research of high quality falls under the categories of: reform of state institutions generated by the 1994–97 constitutional reform and efforts begun during 2000 to launch a second wave of reforms; descriptive histories of political parties and analyses of changes in the party system; electoral studies, consisting mainly of statistics on election results; and descriptive analyses of indigenous and peasant political movements, with other social movements receiving somewhat less attention.

The works reviewed include two good, concise English-language surveys of the current political conjuncture (items #bi2004001259# and #bi2001004734#). Of interest to specialists is a comprehensive analysis of scholarship on the development of Bolivian democracy, which identifies the key themes of scholarship between 1982–99, the most productive authors, and the methodologies used (item #bi2001005437#). Berthin and Yáñez find most works to be focused on the immediate conjuncture, with a strong prescriptive orientation, and little grounding in theory or social science methodology. They point out a key explanation for these tendencies: much of what is produced on this topic is funded by external governmental or nongovernmental actors, who seek to understand Bolivian politics with a view toward funding development projects. They also note the dearth of strong universities or research institutions in Bolivia, compared with neighboring countries.

Among the studies of institutional reform, an edited English-language volume assessing the Sánchez de Lozada-era constitutional reforms stands out (item #bi2004001098#). As with the majority of the work in this category, most authors participated in the design of the reforms they examine. Also in English is a scholarly book-length analysis of the Bolivian reforms in comparative perspective (item #bi2004001251#). There continues to be significant interest in the implementation and results of the 1994 Law of Popular Participation and in the related themes of local governance and decentralization (items #bi2004001093#, #bi2002006261#, #bi2004001254#, and #bi2004001258#). Most of these works offer suggestions for improving the reforms.

Three new publications examine Bolivia's political parties: two edited volumes (items #bi2004001099# and #bi2004001255#), and the third edition of Rolón Anaya's excellent and exhaustive resource (item #bi2001005448#). These works are complemented by statistical analyses of recent elections, particularly the first-ever municipal elections (items #bi2004001100# and #bi2001005438#), as well as an expanded second edition of Romero Ballivián's statistically rich and detailed analysis of variation in the geographical strength of Bolivian parties (item #bi2001005550#).

Of particular note in this chapter are a number of works on the increasingly important political activities of the peasant and indigenous movements, some of which were overlooked in previous editions of the Handbook. One of these focuses on the emerging emphasis of indigenous movements on formal political participation through elections, particularly at the local level (item #bi2001005438#). Two others examine the development of Aymara social movements and political parties as well as the leadership role played by prominent Aymara intellectuals and political figures (items #bi2001005441# and #bi2003001500#). There are also new studies of Felipe Quispe, an Aymara indigenous leader who returned to political importance in 1999 (items #bi2004001260# and #bi2004001094#), an extensive interview with Quispe (item #bi2002003086#), and a third edition of his 1988 historico-polemical account of the 18th-century rebel leader Tupak Katari (item #bi2004001257#), in addition to a new autobiographical account of his early political years (item #bi2004001256#). Related to these are works devoted to analyzing the causes and implications of the April and September 2000 massive indigenous social mobilizations, which made national political figures of Quispe and coca growers' leader Evo Morales, both of whom were elected to congressional office in 2002 (items #bi2002003086#, #bi2004001094#, and #bi2004001252#).

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