Arián Laguna Quiroga is a PhD student in Sociology at El Colegio de México. His published books include ‘Our soul enemies’: Landowner elites and racist discourses in Bolivia (Observatorio del Racismo, 2013) and From ‘savages’ to indigenous?: Marriage and ethnic strategies in the Indigenous Territory El Pallar (Observatorio del Racismo, 2016). Since the beginning of his postgraduate studies (2016), he has been working on a long-range project initially titled “The origins of peasant power in Bolivia” which, from a historical sociology perspective, seeks to understand the economic and political development of the Andean peasant regions in the 20th century.
The social consequences of the rural Bolivian Andes formal subsumption to capitalism at the end of the XIX century
This article seeks to illustrate two contradictory processes that emerged from the articulation of Bolivia to world capitalism at the end of the 19th century by analyzing two of its rural Andean regions. I focus on the rural hinterlands of La Paz and Cochabamba in order to contrast the effects of the macro economical process on their local class structures and relations. The first process was one of permanent accumulation that took place through the dependent articulation of rural hinterlands to growing urban and industrial centers, and the concomitant transfer of value through increasing physical exploitation of the indigenous labor force. In the highlands of La Paz, this occurred through hacendal expansion at the expense of the indigenous communities; while in the high valley of Cochabamba, as a consequence of lower productivity in relation to other cereal supplying regions, it caused the progressive dissolution of the colonial hacienda and its conversion into small peasant plots. However, this accumulation process had its counterpart in a democratization process unleashed by the same capitalist-hacendal model. The urban centers grew in an unprecedented magnitude and this caused the rise of new groups contending for political power, and the emergence of a restricted democracy. At the rural provinces level, both in La Paz and Cochabamba, this was expressed in the emergence of local public spaces and political parties, and in the increasing polarization of the local society, which peasants used in their benefit through the establishment of alliances with elites and through rebellions in moments of inter-elite divisions. We propose that this model of coetaneous accumulation and democratization should allow us to have a better understanding of the growing crisis in rural Andean areas and its final outcome in the 1952 Revolution.
Affiliation: El Colegio de México