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'We Shall Overcome': Radical Populism, Political Morality and Participatory Democracy in a Venezuelan Barrio

Wilde, Matt (2013) 'We Shall Overcome': Radical Populism, Political Morality and Participatory Democracy in a Venezuelan Barrio. PhD thesis, The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

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Abstract

This thesis is an ethnographic exploration of radical populist politics among working class residents of a Venezuelan barrio (shantytown). It draws on fieldwork conducted over 19 months and focuses on the political ideals and practices of pro-government chavista activists in the context of the “Bolivarian Revolution”. Specifically, it analyses the utopian desires that underpin activists’ engagement with a number of political organisations in their communities, uncovering how political activism is embedded in broader projects that seek personal transformation, material betterment and moral redemption. It also examines state-led efforts to establish participatory democracy at the local level, tracing the experiences of grassroots activists as they attempt to build new political institutions in their communities. My approach involves a close attention to the relationship between political discourse, state policy and everyday practice, exploring the complex interactions that unfold between state agencies and community actors. Overall, the aim of this thesis is to understand the appeal of a radical populist project by looking beyond claims that political efficacy rests solely on the redistribution of resources. I suggest that the particular appeal of chavismo lies in the fact that it also asks its adherents to usher in a new moral order by transforming themselves, their communities and their democracy in profound ways. I explore many of the complexities that are inherent to this process, analysing how activists seeking radical change encounter disjunctures between an idealised future and a compromised and contingent present.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © Matt Wilde
Library of Congress subject classification: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
Sets: Departments > Anthropology
Supervisor: Harris, Olivia and Lazar, Sian and Banerjee, Mukulika
URI: http://etheses.lse.ac.uk/id/eprint/713

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