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Globalisation and the reform of the Bolivian state, 1985-2005

By Andreas Tsolakis


The present study theorises and empirically investigates the transformations of the Bolivian state between 1985 and 2005, from a historical materialist perspective. It argues that state transformations have formed part of the latest phase of capital globalisation, and hypothesises that these\ud transformations are captured effectively by concepts of ‘internationalisation’, ‘polyarchy’ and ‘depoliticisation’. Relying on substantive dialectical logic and qualitative methods (documentary analysis and interviewing), the thesis investigates reflexively whether, how and why processes of\ud internationalisation and liberalisation of the Bolivian state, concurrent to the depoliticisation of economic management, have been taking place in the period under focus.\ud I argue that the internationalisation of the Bolivian state was not superimposed upon an ‘endogenous’ process of political and economic liberalisation by external forces; rather, by consolidating a transnationalised elite fraction in Bolivia and the depoliticisation of economic management, the internationalisation of the state sustained polyarchy after the hyperinflationary crisis of 1985. The engagement of Multilateral Development Institutions (MDIs) and transnational private banks by a nucleus of competitive and ‘denationalised’ Bolivian elites in 1985, and in turn their unconditional integration into an expanding transnational historic bloc of elite social forces drove the internationalisation of the Bolivian state. Internationalisation, in turn, consolidated the structural\ud power of the transnational bloc in Bolivia by concurrently locking-in the depoliticisation of central government agencies and polyarchy. Polyarchy was an attempt to legitimise elite domination and the restructuring of society and state through a procedural conception of democracy. Following the more ‘open’ tradition of historical materialist thinking, the research conceptualises the state as a contradictory organisation of subjection, a social relation embedded in broader production relations, which both reflects and constitutes a particular configuration of forces within the social space bound by its institutions. The state is a terrain of intra-elite and class struggle. Aforementioned processes of state transformation have thus been shaped by the confrontation between a transnational elite bloc, domestically-oriented elites and labour forces, in ‘civil society’ but also within the institutions of the Bolivian state itself.\ud The radical program of social and state restructuring engineered by the staffs of MDIs in collaboration with a transnational fraction of Bolivian businessmen and technocrats from 1985 to 2005 was systematically undermined by social resistance. Equally, efforts to depoliticise state agencies – to functionally relate them to capital reproduction – contained their antithesis in recurrent attempts by domestic forces to capture and instrumentalise them

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