Accepted paper:

Constitutionalism in an insurgent state: plurality and the rule of law in Bolivia

Authors:

John-Andrew McNeish (Norwegian University of Life Sciences)

Paper short abstract:

Is Constitutionalism possible in an Insurgent State? In this paper, I aim to questions the significance of recent efforts to create a new constitution in Bolivia for anthropological ideas about legal pluralism.

Paper long abstract:

In this paper, I aim to questions the significance of recent efforts to create a new constitution in Bolivia for anthropological ideas about legal pluralism. The paper focuses specifically on the significance of recent constitutional processes for Bolivia's largely indigent and previously politically marginalised majority indigenous population. As such, the paper considers the manner in which the country's legal plurality has become a part of the national political identity and an integral part of the constitutional process now completed in the country's legal capital. Whilst highlighting the causes and dangers of continued contestation, the paper argues that important lessons about the possibilities for the empowerment of the poor and acceptance of a place for plurality in law can be learned from Bolivia. With its empirical background of insurgency and constitutionalism, but also of indigenous cultures, the case of Bolivia tests the limits of standardised rights based approaches to development and legal empowerment. In this paper attention is drawn to the cultural pliability of ideas about modernity and democracy and the importance of an inter-legal rapprochement between formalized legal norms and alternative legal systems. The paper further highlights the validity of anthropological approaches to the state that highlight the social construction of institutions and structures. Drawing from its empirical base the paper finally aims to critically contribute to recent discussions in "pro-poor" theory, highlighting the problems and possibilities of multi-culturalism and questioning the relevance and applicability of recently proposed ideas of inter-legality.

pdf download Download the full paper
panel W069
Law matters: mapping legal diversity