Recent scholarship on Bolivia has focused primarily on indigenous rights, multiculturalism, political and cultural issues surrounding the growing of coca, and the election of Evo Morales. Mark Goodale's project is different. By taking a "telescopic" view, Goodale steps away from ethnographic detail in a remote district of Bolivia to examine the sweep of "liberal legality" since independence in 1825. Setting the stage, Goodale takes the position that neither neoliberal economic policies of the 1980s nor the election of Morales are breaks with the past. Rather, the "patterns of intention" initiated with the early constitutions of the new republic, the ethos of "liberal legality" or "liberalism expressed through law," have remained the backdrop for Bolivia's entire postcolonial history, including the revolution of 1952, often considered the most radically transformative moment in Bolivian history (p. 48). The book is structured as a series of illustrations, drawn from his fieldwork and documentary research in the province of Alonso de Ibafiez in the northern department of Potosi, as evidence that "social practices at the 'local' level in Bolivia are always, in part, an articulation or dialogue with broader assemblages" (p. 52).

Document Type

Book Review

Publication Date

Spring 2010

Publisher Statement

Copyright © 2010, University of New Mexico. This article first appeared in Journal of Anthropological Research: 66:1 (2010), 137-138.

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