by Verónica Silva
The year 2007 marked an important event in Ecuador’s history. The country became another member of the “pink tide” experiment in Latin America led by new progressive governments that subscribe to the concept of twenty-first-century socialism (a term that originated with Heinz Dietrich, a German scholar of Marxism). Twenty-first-century socialism is a comprehensive post-neoliberal program for socioeconomic development. The project of Ecuador’s Citizens’ Revolution version of the new socialism, along with its cousins the “Bolivarian” Revolution in Venezuela and Bolivia’s “democratic and cultural” revolution, draws its inspiration from a bold vision that seeks to place Ecuadorean society immediately on a path of stable, equitable, inclusive, and more democratic but also ecologically sustainable development. Although there are important differences in the details of governance structure and policies reflecting different historical paths of economic and political architectures in these three countries, they are united in the passionate rejection of the neoliberal model of development that has resulted in inequality, increased poverty, and political instability.
However, the reference to socialism is somewhat misleading, as the proponents of twenty-first-century-socialism are as critical of the twentieth-century or Soviet version of socialism as of neoliberalism. The new economic policy model has very little in common with socialism as a system of state ownership of the means of production. The three countries are united in firmly adhering to some variation of the center-left pragmatic model seeking to maximize state-captured profits to finance state infrastructure and ambitious social programs. Characterizing Bolivia’s economic policy, Vice President Álvaro García Linera has argued that it is more “Andean capitalism” than socialism in that its goal is to transfer “part of the surplus of the nationalized hydrocarbons (oil and gas) in order to encourage the setting up of forms of self-organization, self-management, and commercial development that is really Andean and Amazonian” (Blaser, …
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Latin American Perspectives
January 2016 vol. 43 no. 1 4-17