Latin America’s Shifting Politics: The Lessons of Bolivia

Issue Date October 2018
Volume 29
Issue 4
Page Numbers 89-101
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Across the West, political-party systems are disintegrating from the bottom up, as economic and social changes cause them to loose their moorings in the major cleavages that defined politics throughout the twentieth century. The experience of Bolivia, where an underinstitutionalized politics disintegrated earlier and faster, may offer analytical hints about the larger future. In societies where industrial workers as a self-conscious group have dwindled, a left-right axis of political competition based on the opposition between workers and capital is probably doomed. Identity politics anchored in ethnicity, religion, and place will most likely replace it. This is dangerous for democracy, as identity politics revolves around exclusive categories and zero-sum games. The rise of identity clashes is a sad turn for the West that may forever change who we are.