UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Post-neoliberal nature? community water governance in peri-urban Cochabamba, Bolivia Marston, Andrea Janet


Since the turn of the century, Bolivia has been undergoing a leftward political shift that many scholars have described as “post-neoliberal.” This shift is inflected with communitarian and ecological sensibilities, and politicians frequently depict “community” and “nature” as two axes around which a new, post-neoliberal world order can be imagined. The overarching purpose of this thesis is to explore the friction between the country’s putatively post-neoliberal politics and existing community water governance in Cochabamba, Bolivia. This is pursued through two sub-themes: a comparison of the government’s post-neoliberal rhetoric to its resource management policies; and a comparison of celebratory conceptualizations of community governance to the governance strategies of community-run water systems in La Maica, a region of peri-urban Cochabamba. The thesis argues that, while the Morales government rhetorically celebrates “community” and “nature” as essential pillars of post-neoliberal governance paradigm, reality differs from rhetoric in two ways. First, the Bolivian government’s natural resource agenda has involved a shift towards centralized, state-led management, rather than community governance. Second, actually existing examples of community resource governance are intertwined with non-community institutions and multiple scales of governance, implying that communities are contextually embedded and hybridized structures. The progressive (post-neoliberal) potential of community resource governance therefore depends on both its context-specific manifestation and the support that it receives from the state. Primary data for this thesis was gathered during four months of fieldwork in Cochabamba (June to October 2011), and the four methods employed were expert interviews, interviews with community leaders in La Maica, water user surveys in La Maica, and document analysis.

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