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  • The Constituent Assembly: Challenges to Liberalism

    Nancy Postero

    Chapter from the book: Postero, N. 2017. The Indigenous State: Race, Politics, and Performance in Plurinational Bolivia.


    While the Morales administration promised to push for social justice to overcome both colonialism and neoliberalism, it chose to accomplish these goals by using liberal political institutions like elections, constitutional conventions, and direct public referenda. In this chapter, I trace indigenous challenges to liberalism at the 2006 Constituent Assembly, where popularly elected delegates rewrote the Bolivian constitution. Indigenous activists proposed visions of the plurinational state that included indigenous self-determination and decision sharing between local communities and the central state. I show how, ultimately, the Morales government opted to dilute the indigenous alternative, maintaining the sovereignty of the central state. The resulting constitution does provide new resources for peoples dominated and oppressed for centuries. But the history of Bolivia’s Constituent Assembly raises questions about the relation between liberal political institutions and decolonization. Can the liberal state decolonize itself from within, using these mechanisms? That is, can liberal norms such as the rule of law, which emerge from Western notions of democracy, accomplish the transformations required to overcome centuries of racialized domination? Can the form of the liberal nation-state accommodate the forms of self-government that are at the heart of indigenous communities’ demands for decolonization?

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    Postero, N. 2017. The Constituent Assembly: Challenges to Liberalism . In: Postero, N, The Indigenous State. California: University of California Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1525/luminos.31.c

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    Published on May 5, 2017