Transnational Elite Forces, Restructuring and Resistance in Bolivia

By Tsolakis, Andreas | Law, Social Justice and Global Development Journal, December 2009 | Go to article overview

Transnational Elite Forces, Restructuring and Resistance in Bolivia


Tsolakis, Andreas, Law, Social Justice and Global Development Journal


1. Introduction

This paper analyses social restructuring in Bolivia between 1985 and 2005 by focusing on the agency of an expanding transnational historic bloc of elite social forces. The restructuring of Bolivia's production relations (including of the state) must be seen as constitutive of the worldwide transformative processes developing since the late 1970s. At the core of these processes is the agency of a transnational elite bloc, incorporating fractions of capital, technocrats, and organic intellectuals, i.e. a loose, competitive and heterogeneous transnationally-integrated bloc of elite forces owning the means of production, managing production relations, and shaping the 'common sense' of global society (Overbeek and Van der Pijl 1993; Van der Pijl 1998; Gill 2003; Robinson 2005).

Bolivia was part and parcel of the global debt crisis of the early 1980s (Pastor 1987a; Pastor 1987b; Kuczinski 1988), which plunged the country into an uncontrollable hyperinflationary and fiscal crisis (Morales and Sachs 1990). Virtually bankrupt, the Paz Estenssoro government elected in August 1985 reversed the long-standing state capitalist model of development by vowing to stimulate privatised accumulation and maintain monetary stability (Malloy and Gamarra 1988; Dunkerley 1990; Morales and Sachs 1990). Its economic team, constituted by leaders of the Bolivian business confederation, the Confederation de la Empresa Privada Boliviana (CEPB) and monetarist economists, elaborated a radical stabilisation plan behind closed doors (Supreme Decree 21060), before resuming cooperative relations with Multilateral Development Institutions (MDIs), thereby re-engaging with private and public creditors, and renewing the Bolivian state's commitment to debt servicing (Conaghan and Malloy 1995; Climenhage 1999). The engagement of MDIs and private banks by competitive and 'denationalised' Bolivian elites in 1985 (Mansilla 1994), and in turn their unconditional integration into an expanding transnational elite bloc drove social restructuring in Bolivia.

Critical researchers conventionally explain restructuring in Bolivia as outside-in imperialism facilitated by global governance institutions (Fernandez 2003; Petras and Veltmeyer 2005; Kohl and Farthing 2005, 2009). They have inappropriately contended that the US government, through the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank (WB), actively promoted a 'globalisation of poverty' (Chossudovsky 1998) since the 1980s; and that Bolivian elites, acting as 'comprador lackeys', were forced to allow, or worse, betrayed the 'sovereignty' of Bolivia by sanctioning the 'plundering' of its resources, causing 'underdevelopment' and mass misery. This is historically inaccurate and induces the kind of flawed structuralist critiques of 'neo-colonialism' underpinning the nationalisations of the 1950s, late 1960s and mid-2000s (Kohl and Farthing 2005, 2009; Fernandez 2003; Petras and Veltmeyer 2005). Allusions to 'global governance' institutions are made to emphasise US and European imperialism in Bolivia and the rest of Latin America (Fernandez 2003), without considering the theoretical implications of transnational production and organisational networks for 'North-South' and inter-state relations (Van der Pijl 1998; Robinson 2005). (1) As pointed out by Cammack (2003: 39): 'It is anachronistic to see the WB and the IMF as acting in principle at the behest of the United States as the world's leading capitalist state, or even on behalf of a larger set of advanced capitalist states'. This paper seeks to achieve a more sophisticated and nuanced understanding of restructuring in Bolivia through a 'biography' of capital in Bolivia, by evading the platitudes that accompany existing analyses, in Critical scholarship, of 'neoliberal restructuring' or 'neoliberal globalisation'. (2)

The holistic methodology of neo-Gramscian perspectives helps to overcome this anachronism, by placing post-1985 social restructuring in Bolivia within the context of the structural contradictions underlying the latest phase of capital globalisation. …

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