Skip to content

Seminar series

Revolution from Below

Cleavage Displacement and Political Party-System Collapse in Bolivia and Beyond

Add to calendar 2023-11-21 14:00 2023-11-21 16:00 Europe/Rome Revolution from Below Sala del Capitolo Badia Fiesolana YYYY-MM-DD


21 November 2023

14:00 - 16:00 CET


Sala del Capitolo

Badia Fiesolana

In the framework of the Swiss Chair Seminar Series, this session features a presentation by Jean-Paul Faguet (LSE).
For 50 years, Bolivia’s political party system was a surprisingly robust component of an otherwise fragile democracy, withstanding coups, hyperinflation, guerrilla insurgencies, and economic chaos. Why did it suddenly collapse around 2002? I propose a theoretical lens combining cleavage theory with Schattschneider’s concept of competitive dimensions, and then empirically analyse the structural and ideological characteristics of Bolivia's party system between 1952-2010. Politics shifted from a conventional left-right axis of competition unsuited to Bolivian society, to an ethnic/rural vs. cosmopolitan/urban axis closely aligned with its major social cleavage. This shift fatally undermined elite parties, facilitating the rise of structurally and ideologically distinct organisations, and a new indigenous political class, that transformed the country's politics. Decentralisation and political liberalisation were the triggers that made Bolivia’s latent cleavage political, sparking revolution from below. I suggest a folk theorem of identitarian cleavage, and outline a mechanism linking deep social cleavage to sudden political change.
Go back to top of the page