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Development Alternative Or Alternative To Development? Exploring Socio-Political Transformation In The Bolivarian Revolution
This thesis explores the contemporary mass social and political process in Venezuela referred to as the Bolivarian Revolution. Through a historical sociological approach that stresses the inseparability of history and sociology in understanding social reality, I attempt to discover the transformative nature of this socialist transition. Thus I take the 1989 Caracazo as the starting point of the Bolivarian Revolution that triumphantly took state power just one decade later, while accounting for the multiple historical influences that shaped and allowed the transformative processes to take place. An examination of the socio-historical context of Venezuela from the colonial period to 1935 reveals a unique case of a weak working-class, fragmented landowning elite, and passive peasantry. When this particular social configuration is combined with the overwhelming dominance of the oil industry, the relative social stability that makes Venezuela such a special case in Latin America becomes clear. The overview of the socio-political trajectory of Venezuela from 1935 to 1989 demonstrates how a liberal bourgeois governing system was able to exist for nearly four decades, before the demise of the neo-liberal model made possible the development of the mass popular Bolivarian movement. The implementation of IMF-approved economic policies, discrediting of the two traditional Venezuelan political parties, increased misery of the poor and working-class, and growing social consciousness and mobilization all paved the way for the political opening that allowed the diverse and mass popular Chavista movement to take power in 1999 via the electoral road. Coming to terms with Venezuela's particular social configuration and historical socio-political dynamics and the legacy of Latin American attempts at social transformation enables us to accurately analyze the current construction of the new form of socialism known as Socialismo del Siglo XXI, or "21st century socialism", which forms part of the new cycle of anti-capitalist struggles in Latin America. An analysis of the combination of social, economic, and political reforms of this new form of socialism shows that comprehensive strategies have been put into place to tackle the overconcentration of capital, class division and antagonisms, ecological degradation, racism, exploitation, and overall agony faced by the working-class and poor majority all of which are inherent to the capitalist ideology and practice (and its neo-liberal form). Among the social transformations that have been initiated are the creation of new communal forms of property relations, a dismantling of the old elite's structures of power, and increased democratization and participation in the ownership of the means of production and in local and national authority. Venezuela's "21st century socialism", therefore, is in fact creating the possibilities for alternative anti-capitalist forms of social organization and politicaleconomic models. Despite incorporating a series of transformative reforms, however, the Bolivarian Revolution represents a "development alternative" since it continues to operate under the global capitalist framework based on the accumulation of capital and economic growth. At the same time, however, certain transformative elements of this process combined together as a package (specifically the establishment of communal property, self-governed communal councils and self-managed enterprises) do constitute an "alternative to development" since they reject the concept of economic growth altogether and replace the logic of capital with a functioning rationality based on the satisfaction of human needs and the full development of human potentialities (Fagen et al. 1986). Significant progress has thus been made in terms of replacing the painfully alienated and solitary human being with new revolutionary and socialist women and men selflessly dedicated to the collective will and betterment of society, as described by Che Guevara in his 1965 book Man and Socialism in Cuba.
dissertation or thesis