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Backlash Reconsidered: Neoliberalism and Popular Mobilization in Bolivia

  • Håvard Haarstad (a1) and Vibeke Andersson (a2)

Abstract

This article argues that the common narrative of a Bolivian backlash against neoliberalism should be reconsidered in light of the continuities and mutual constraints between popular mobilization and neoliberal policy reforms. The study draws on literature that conceptualizes neoliberalism as a particular construction of state and social forms; but unlike those works, it includes an analysis of International Monetary Fund policy shifts to understand how popular mobilization constrains policy implementation. Responding to popular mobilization between 1985 and 2006, the IMF came to accept divergence from orthodox policy in order to encourage political stability. The government of Evo Morales and the IMF are mutually constrained by concern for the investment climate. This study further advocates that analysts probe beyond simple binary divisions between “neoliberalism” and “alternatives” and look more seriously for pragmatic strategies for negotiating neoliberal spaces.

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