This essay, written in September 2006, considers the first months of the MAS government headed by Evo Morales in the light of the virtually constant political crisis in Bolivia since 2000. The first part asks why the turbulent course of public life in Bolivia has proved so difficult to explain. It seeks to show that the recent period has been depicted in rather narrow interpretations that stress institutional failings, poverty and oppression, or civic heroism, but do not try to find the linkages between these phenomena. The second section proposes an alternative approach, treating the recent experience of conflict as a revolutionary episode in which the idea of ‘Two Bolivias’ needs to be qualified by appreciation of past revolutionary experiences. The final sections suggest that the ardour and complexities of the current conflict might seem more comprehensible if the MAS and its supporters are viewed as essentially plebeian in both condition and ideological disposition. Such a classical and early modern allusion provides a fuller analytical palate for understanding the current conjuncture and the socio-political propositions being made in a ‘semi-modern’ environment.
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