Despite recent constitutional reforms, Bolivian democracy struggles to reconcile the inclusive rhetoric of state reform, the expansion of rights, and special attention to previously ignored groups, on the one hand, with continued poverty, inequality, and a history of state abandonment of the majority, on the other. This “disjunctive democracy” produced a series of standoffs, often violent, between the state and popular-indigenous coalitions between 2000 and 2005. Throughout, popular memory was one vehicle for protest in which distinct democratic commitments—one constitutional or representative, the other participatory and direct—collided. The response of one exceptional labor union to the era’s neoliberal democratization, that of the Manaco Shoe Factory in Quillacollo, highlights this disjunctive democracy. The centrality in workers’ accounts of the political struggle of the k’araku (union assembly), with its remembered ideals of reciprocity, trust, accountability, and collective unity, differentiates popular from procedural democracy. The case of Manaco emphasizes that democratic reform in Bolivia will have to take account of the way culture informs the popular political imagination.

Democracy's Labor: Disjunctive Memory in a Bolivian Workers' Union’, RobertAlbroLatin American Perspectives, Issue 168, 36 (5) (2009): 39–57. Copyright © 2009 Latin American Perspectives. Reprinted by permission of SAGE Publications via Copyright Clearance Center's RightsLink service.
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