1st Edition

Vivir Bien as an Alternative to Neoliberal Globalization
Can Indigenous Terminologies Decolonize the State?

ISBN 9781138746619
Published March 14, 2018 by Routledge
190 Pages 2 B/W Illustrations

USD $165.00

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Book Description

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.

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


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


"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.