[P2P-F] Fwd: Vivr Bien: Old Cosmologies and New Paradigms (GTN Discussion)

Michel Bauwens michelsub2004 at gmail.com
Thu Feb 22 05:50:10 CET 2018

interesting assessment of the Bolivian experience, see the passage on state
power especially,


---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Great Transition Network <gtnetwork at greattransition.org>
Date: Thu, Feb 22, 2018 at 12:25 AM
Subject: Vivr Bien: Old Cosmologies and New Paradigms (GTN Discussion)
To: michelsub2004 at gmail.com

>From Pablo Solon <pablosolon at gmail.com>

I want to thank everyone for your valuable comments, reflections, and
contributions. Rather than try to make a synthesis of this rich discussion,
I would like to share some reflections, from my experience, that may help
to answer some of the concerns raised and to deepen the debate.

There is no single vision of Vivir Bien/Buen Vivir. There never was. Not
even in its origins. The construction of the concept of Vivir Bien could
not escape conceptual mediations that used Western terms like “good,”
“alternative to development,” “nature,” and many others. If the
conceptualization of this cosmovision had been done predominantly in Aymara
and Quechua, the result would have been richer, more complex (sometimes
unintelligible for our knowledge patterns), and more diverse, because even
among Aymara communities in different regions, there are different emphases
that have to do with their history and their particular environment.

Buen Vivires that have germinated with different names among different
indigenous peoples of the planet are an important source for the
construction of systemic alternatives. They are not the only ones, nor the
most important, but they are unavoidable and very relevant for the Great
Transitions that we are seeking.

I have highlighted some aspects of these Buen Vivires that, from my point
of view, are central to the construction of systemic alternatives: Pacha,
dynamic equilibrium, coexistence in multipolarity, complementarity, and
decolonization. I have also mentioned some of the weaknesses and gaps of
Vivir Bien in relation to patriarchy, the state, productivism, capitalist
globalization, and other issues relevant to a Great Transition.

The key is to build complementarities between different visions such as
degrowth, commons, ecofeminism, ecosocialism, localism, food sovereignty,
Vivir Bien, and many others. System change requires overcoming capitalism,
productivism, extractivism, patriarchy, xenophobia, plutocracy, and
anthropocentrism. Only the coexistence of different anti-systemic
approaches can enable us to face this challenge.

Every process of change begins at the local level, based on local
experiences in concrete realities. As several of you have mentioned, there
are thousands of local experiences across the world that are concrete,
real, and living alternatives to the current system. These local
experiences sooner or later have to deal with the unmerciful expansion of
capitalism, extractivism, the state, or international conflicts. In their
process of resistance and affirmation, they often flourish and expand,
generating social movements of emancipation that go beyond their
territories of origin. Sometimes these movements become broad and
multisectorial, and become an electoral force able to contest for control
of a country’s government.

This is how the “process of change” began two decades ago in Bolivia. The
attempt to privatize water sparked social movements where peasants and
indigenous people took a leading role. The triumph against the
privatization of water in Cochabamba and the modification of the drinking
water law in 2000 showed the people that it was possible to revert other
processes of privatization (natural gas) and even recover the State, the
political power that for centuries had been in the hands of anti-indigenous
elites linked to foreign capital.

The peasant and indigenous organizations took the lead in this process and
built a political instrument that pretended to be different from the
traditional political parties. In this process, Vivir Bien gained audience
as an alternative to the dominant neoliberalism. Vivir Bien of that time
coexisted with an “industrialist” vision of the nationalization of gas and
natural resources to diversify our economy.

Evo Morales’s victory in the 2005 presidential election with 54% of the
votes was a triumph of the convergence of social movements. Morales’s
accession to the presidency was a moment of euphoria and great hope. The
government of which I was a part (and I do not regret being a part of it)
had several successes and failures of which I am entirely co-responsible
until mid-2011. It was not an easy and peaceful process. Between 2006 and
2008, we were on the verge of a civil war, and at various times, the
national government lost control of different cities that were won by
racist elites that mobilized crowds behind flags such as “departmental
autonomy” (Bolivia has nine departments) or the “full capital” (Bolivia has
its capital in Sucre and its seat of government in La Paz). In the end,
these reactionary forces were defeated through different referendums and

The Constitutional Assembly that included the reference to Vivir Bien was
besieged for more than two years, meeting in different cities. The final
text of the constitution was negotiated with opposition forces protesting
outside the Constitutional Assembly.

The enactment of the new constitution led to new presidential elections in
which Evo Morales won with 64% of the votes and obtained more than
two-thirds of the parliament. But at this moment started a process of
regression that became evident with the police repression to the indigenous
march of the TIPNIS (Territorio Indígena y Parque Nacional Isiboro Secure,
a protected with rich biodiversity and the home to thousands of indigenous
persons). In 2014, Morales ran for reelection again despite the fact that
doing so was prohibited by the Bolivian constitution. The Constitutional
Court recently ruled that the indefinite re-election is a human right and
that Evo Morales cannot be deprived of this human right to run for a
reelection to a fourth term in 2019.

What happened to the social movements that drove this process of change?
How did they allow the repression of indigenous peoples? Why didn’t they
react to the expansion of GMOs despite the fact that this is a historical
flag of Via Campesina of which the Bolivian peasant organizations are a
part? What went wrong? Or what could we have done differently?

a) We did not realize that we were going to be transformed by the
institutions and the logic of state power, and that the only alternative
was to strengthen the autonomy of social organizations not only to control
us and be a counter-power but also to self-manage different sectors. On the
contrary, we emptied the social organizations of their main leaders to make
them authorities of different offices of the state, believing that this was
the government of the People. We focused on the external enemy and not on
the internal enemy that captured us from the logic of power. Some suggest
that we don’t have to engage with the State. In theory, that sounds very
good, and hopefully, in the future when the Great Transition happens, it
will be possible. But in Bolivia in 2006, renouncing state power was a
suicide, a betrayal of centuries of struggle. The mistake was not in taking
the government but in not strengthening the counter-power of social
organizations so that they were the real
power. Needless to say, the vision of Vivir Bien was extremely weak on this

b) We did not promote at that time a deep debate on the vision of Vivir
Bien and the dominant developmentalist and industrialist vision. We didn’t
translate the vision of Vivir Bien into concrete policies. We were
deferential to the growing dependence on extractivism because it generated
enough resources to develop some social programs that built popular support
to confront the right-wing conspiracy. During the first years, the
situation was very difficult, but after approving the new constitution by
referendum and winning the elections of 2009, it was absolutely possible to
put into practice several guidelines of Vivir Bien. However, instead of
advancing in that direction, pragmatism and political calculation prevailed
to neutralize the right through a series of concessions to banks,
agribusiness, mining, and even transnational corporations. Little by
little, the government began to transform itself into its opposite, and the
Vivir Bien remained mere rhetorical cover.

c) We did not promote an alternative vision of modernity. Instead of
advocating for a moderate, simple, and frugal society that has its roots in
Vivir Bien, the indigenous president called on indigenous people to applaud
and benefit from growth based on extractivism and consumption. This reality
has given rise to a new Aymara and Quechua bourgeoisie, new strongholds of
economic power linked to smuggling, mining cooperatives, and coca
producers. Many leaders of social movements were captured by this dynamic
of easy money, and several are now involved in corruption scandals. The
problem is not only the government, but also these new sectors of economic
and political power and, above all, the demobilization of social movements.

Visions and alternatives are always linked to concrete realities. The
generalization of a vision that is necessary for its interaction with other
approaches should not make us lose its roots, its context, its history.

The scale, the place, and the moment are very important. When we have a
social process on a national scale, the international context becomes
crucial. What happened and happens in Bolivia is part of a Latin American
context in which capitalism has been feeding from chaos.

The situation in Bolivia is more complex now than before. The process of
recovery of indigenous, social, and citizen movements will lead to new
social configurations that will not be the same as before, although they
will retain some of their elements. It is a new process of articulation
full of challenges and dangers. The government knows the social movements
from inside and knows how to weaken them when they rebel. Right-wing forces
regain their breath by questioning the violation of the constitution that
they previously sabotaged. The government's response is very simple: who is
not with us is an ally of the right and imperialism.

After so much rhetoric about “change,” the words resonate less. The keys
are actions and small achievements, until gaining new victories such as
that in the water war of 2000 that galvanized indigenous communities and
social movement allies. Without small, relevant triumphs that translate
systemic alternatives into concrete realities, it will be impossible to
move towards a Great Transition.

Pablo Solón


On 03/01/18 1:26 AM, Great Transition Network wrote:
>From Paul Raskin
Dear GTN,

Our November exchange on “the problem of action” considered the overarching
challenge of animating a systemic movement capable of propelling a Great
Transition.* Although the ultimate shape of such a “global citizens
movement” (GCM) cannot be predetermined, we can broadly envision it as a
multifaceted upsurge aligned by core values, principles, and visions. That
discussion sets the backdrop for forthcoming forums on major oppositional

The January discussion will spotlight one such stream: movements rooted in
traditional and indigenous cultures. Our point of departure is an incisive
and eloquent essay prepared by Pablo Solón, “Vivir Bien: Old Cosmovisions
and New Paradigms.” Pablo introduces Vivir Bien (also known as Buen Vivir),
critiques governments that act in its name, and explains why the fruition
of Vivir Bien needs – and can contribute to – an intertwined global
movement. Please read the essay at www.greattransition.org/

I look forward to your comments. Does Pablo get it right? What would you
add or challenge? What other peoples movements around the world might play
a consequential role in a GT? What needs to be done to foster linkages
among them, and with other anti-systemic forces challenging conventional

The discussion will go through Friday, February 2nd.

Over to you with warm wishes for 2018,

* See my framing note at www.greattransition.org/publication/How-do-we-get-
there and a Roundtable that samples the GTN discussion (with my response)
at www.greattransition.org/publication/roundtable-problem-action.

Hit reply to post a comment on the GT Network

Read all comments (or reply) at

Note: Expect a delay between posting and receiving your comment

Need help? Email jcohn at tellus.org

P2P Foundation: http://p2pfoundation.net  - http://blog.p2pfoundation.net

Connect: http://p2pfoundation.ning.com; Discuss:

Updates: http://del.icio.us/mbauwens; http://friendfeed.com/mbauwens;
http://twitter.com/mbauwens; http://www.facebook.com/mbauwens
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <https://lists.ourproject.org/pipermail/p2p-foundation/attachments/20180222/e50ce366/attachment-0001.html>

More information about the P2P-Foundation mailing list