Bolivian history in the twentieth century is marked by enduring social and economic inequality, attempts at political inclusion, episodes of ethnic politicisation and changing forms of contestation, reform and revolution. Bolivia is often remembered for its 1952 National Revolution, but is also notable for the absence of large-scale political violence or civil war. Indeed, an important question is why Bolivian society, riven by high levels of inequality and torn by regional, ethnic and class differences, has avoided large-scale political conflict and violence over the past century. This paper addresses this question by taking a critical look at three aspects of ethnicity, inequality and violence: first, by analysing the question of ethnicity and the driving force behind ethnic politicisation over the twentieth century; second, by describing the extent and nature of social and economic inequality in the second half of the twentieth century; and third, by considering the multiple forms of social and political inclusion that often muted large-scale and sustained political violence over the twentieth century.
CRISE Working Paper 15, 38 pp.