Bolivia’s "Proceso de Cambio": Adjusting the Ideological Paradigm from Social to Economic
Keywords:Evo Morales, Living Well, Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS), neo-patrimonialism, social policies
Bolivia’s political transition in 2006 represented more than just a transfer of power. It also marked the arrival of a new political, economic and social paradigm. The newly elected leader (Evo Morales Ayma) and his political party, the Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS) brought with them an ambitious agenda for social change. Most of the initial efforts were aimed at responding to electoral promises and the demands from the myriad of social movements that supported Morales’ ticket. As time progressed, the ideological components of the model were refined and transformed from an anti-neoliberal rhetoric to a comprehensive agenda of state reform. Part of the ideological components were rooted in the notion of “Vivir Bien” [Living Well], which in essence is a balanced approach for development considering human wellbeing in harmony with mother nature. The political challenge, however, has been the transformation of this holistic approach into a practical one and the policy implications that this entails ‒a particularly difficult issue in a country with weak institutional settings and limited state capacity. This article argues that although there have been many gains, particularly in reorienting the notion of the welfare state and in key economic and social areas, the model is still highly dependent on a neo-patrimonial state that relies heavily on a few commodities to support a growing social agenda. Moreover, in the past years the political emphasis and efforts have favored economic reforms over social ones, which might jeopardize the whole model in the not so near future.
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