Vivir Bien as an Alternative to Neoliberal Globalization: Can Indigenous Terminologies Decolonize the State?, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Vivir Bien as an Alternative to Neoliberal Globalization

Can Indigenous Terminologies Decolonize the State?, 1st Edition

By Eija Ranta


190 pages | 2 B/W Illus.

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Presenting an ethnographic account of the emergence and application of critical political alternatives in the Global South, this book analyses the opportunities and challenges of decolonizing and transforming a modern, hierarchical and globally-immersed nation-state on the basis of indigenous terminologies.

Alternative development paradigms that represent values including justice, pluralism, democracy and a sustainable relationship to nature tend to emerge in response to – and often opposed to – the neoliberal globalization. Through a focus on the empirical case of the notion of Vivir Bien (‘Living Well’) as a critical cultural and ecological paradigm, Ranta demonstrates how indigeneity – indigenous peoples’ discourses, cultural ideas and worldviews – has become such a denominator in the construction of local political and policy alternatives. More widely, the author seeks to map conditions for, and the challenges of, radical political projects that aim to counteract neoliberal globalization and Western hegemony in defining development.

This book will appeal to critical academic scholars, development practitioners and social activists aiming to come to grips with the complexity of processes of progressive social change in our contemporary global world.


"A comprehensive and timely contribution to indigenous governmentality, development, and decolonization scholarship. Ranta makes excellent job in examining diverse approaches to Vivir Bien in Bolivian policy transformations." - Pirjo Kristiina Virtanen, Assistant Professor, Indigenous Studies, University of Helsinki, Finland.

"In this historical moment of crisis and disillusionment, this book offers us an introduction to a novel and powerful concept. Ranta writes with precision and passion, rooted in the Andes but contributing to cosmopolitan discussions." - Eduardo Gudynas, Director, Latin American Center of Social Ecology (CLAES), Uruguay.

"Can indigenous ideas not just challenge but transform the postcolonial nation state? Ranta’s book interrogates our understanding of indigeneity and of the modern, globalised nation state as well. It demonstrates how indigeneity is not simply a discourse of marginality but how it challenges the very notion of how citizens – of all backgrounds – relate to the state. Based on a deeply rich ethnography of bureaucracy, Ranta’s book explores what happens when indigeneity enters into the heart of the nation state." - Andrew Canessa, University of Essex, UK.

Table of Contents



1. Introduction: Vivir Bien as a post-neoliberal alternative in the global world

Bolivia’s indigenous alternative to universalist development models

Following the notion of Vivir Bien

Synopsis of the book

2. Towards decolonial government

Policy-making, state formation, and power

Government as a field of power

Articulations of rule

Indigenous self-governance, lands and territories

Articulating indigeneity

Coloniality, racism, and the decolonial option

Vivir Bien: Towards more heterodox political economy?

3. Indigenous resistance struggles, coloniality of the state and the capitalist world-system: A historical view

Colonial governance and the making of racial differences

Struggles between liberal and communal practices

The nationalist revolution and the uprising of katarismo

The global flow of indigenous ideas

The neoliberal turn

Multicultural policy reforms in the 1990s

The evolvement of the MAS as a political instrument

4. Contested meanings of Vivir Bien

Suma Qamaña as cultural difference

Promoting indigenous self-determination

Vivir Bien in state development policies

Decolonizing indigenous policy?

Counteracting ‘neoliberal colonialism’

Recent policy formulations

Indigenous elements in the constitution

5. "Colonialism strikes back": Vivir Bien as bureaucratic practice and technical expertise

The making of sectoral plans

The depoliticization of Vivir Bien

Micropractices of power in the practice of government

The critique of technical expertise by aid agencies

Technicalizing indigenous expertise

Young consultants as brokers of policy knowledge

6. Bureaucracy as a disciplinary power

The opposition of public servants

Are public servants neutral?

Racial orders under threat

Co-opting social movements

Disciplining the masses

Centralization of state power

7. In the name of Vivir Bien: Legitimizing extractive conflicts?

Elite co-option of autonomy discourses

Bypassing indigenous self-determination

Towards resource nationalism

Extractive conflicts: The case of TIPNIS

Socialist environmentalism or reconstituted neoliberalism?

8. Concluding remarks

Decolonial government

The state and neoliberalism


About the Author

Eija Ranta is university lecturer in development studies at the University of Helsinki.

About the Series

Rethinking Globalizations

This series is designed to break new ground in the literature on globalisation and its academic and popular understanding. Rather than perpetuating or simply reacting to the economic understanding of globalisation, this series seeks to capture the term and broaden its meaning to encompass a wide range of issues and disciplines and convey a sense of alternative possibilities for the future.

Learn more…

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