Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-55597f9d44-fnprw Total loading time: 2.062 Render date: 2022-08-08T08:33:34.673Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "useRatesEcommerce": false, "useNewApi": true } hasContentIssue true

Market Reforms and Water Wars

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 November 2015

Rights & Permissions[Opens in a new window]


HTML view is not available for this content. However, as you have access to this content, a full PDF is available via the ‘Save PDF’ action button.

Responses to the imposition of market-oriented economic policies have varied. This article asks two questions: (1) How can we better understand when marketization will or will not prompt resistance? And (2) when people do mobilize, why are some movements broad-based while others draw on particular segments of society? The author argues that these questions can best be answered by focusing not only on the political contexts and resources available to potential social movements, but also on what is perceived to be at stake during marketization. These perceptions influence mobilization processes and the kinds of groups available for mobilization. When people understand markets as threatening to material wellbeing, as well as to widely shared community relationships, understandings, and commitments, heightened feelings of group belonging can contribute to broad-based mobilization. The author develops this argument through analysis of the broad-based, widespread movement that emerged to protest water privatization in Cochabamba, Bolivia, in 1999 and 2000. In the context of a history of agriculture, irrigation, drought, and conflict, water helped to produce and reproduce imagined communities of nation, region, and ethnic group, as well as quotidian communities revolving around the routine production and consumption of water. These meanings help to explain the dynamics of the resistance that emerged.

Research Article
Copyright © Trustees of Princeton University 2015 


Agüero, Felipe, and Stark, Jeffrey, eds. 1998. Fault Lines of Democracy in Post-Transition Latin America. Coral Gables, Fla.: North-South Center Press/University of Miami. Distributed by Lynne Rienner Publishers.Google Scholar
Albro, Robert. 2005. “The Water is Ours, Carajo! Deep Citizenship in Bolivia's Water War.” In June Nash, ed., Social Movements: An Anthropological Reader. Malden, Mass.: Blackwell Publishing.Google Scholar
Aminzade, Ronald. 2001. Silence and Voice in the Study of Contentious Politics. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Anderson, Benedict R. O'G. 1991. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, rev. and extended ed. London, UK: Verso.Google Scholar
Arce, Moises, and Bellinger, Paul T. Jr. 2007. “Low Intensity Democracy Revisited: The Effects of Economic Liberalization on Political Activity in Latin America.” World Politics 60, no. 1 (October): 97121.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Assies, Willem. 2003. “David versus Goliath in Cochabamba: Water Rights, Neoliberalism and the Revival of Social Protest in Bolivia.” Latin American Perspectives 30, no. 3 (May): 1436.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Auyero, Javier. 2007. Routine Politics and Violence in Argentina: The Gray Zone of State Power. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bakker, Karen J. 2003. An Uncooperative Commodity: Privatizing Water in England and Wales. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Benford, Robert, and Snow, David. 2000. “Framing Processes and Social Movements: An Overview and Assessment.” Annual Review of Sociology 26, August: 611–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bourdieu, Pierre, and Thompson, John B.. 1991. Language and Symbolic Power. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
Brubaker, Rogers. 2004. Ethnicity without Groups. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bustamante, Rocío, Peredo, Elizabeth, and Udaeta, María Esther. 2005. “Women in the ‘Water Wars’ in the Cochabamba Valleys.” In Bennett, Vivienne, Dávila-Poblete, Sonia, and Rico, María Nieves, eds., Opposing Currents: The Politics of Water and Gender in Latin America. Pittsburgh, Pa.: University of Pittsburgh Press.Google Scholar
Butler, Judith. 1997. Excitable Speech: A Politics of the Performative. New York, N.Y.: Routledge.Google Scholar
Calhoun, Craig. 1991. “The Problem of Identity in Collective Action.” In Huber, Joan, ed., Macro–Micro Linkages in Sociology. Newbury Park, Calif: Sage.Google Scholar
Comaroff, Jean, and Comaroff, John L.. 1990. Ethnicity, Inc. Chicago, Ill.: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
Cramer Walsh, Katherine. 2012. “Putting Inequality in Its Place: Rural Consciousness and the Power of Perspective.” American Political Science Review 106, no. 3: 517–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Crespo Flores, Carlos. 2003. Water Privatisation Policies and Conflicts in Bolivia: The Water War in Cochabamba (1999–2000). Oxford, UK: Oxford Brookes University.Google Scholar
Cusicanqui, Silvia Rivera. 1990. “Liberal Democracy and Ayllu Democracy in Bolivia: The Case of the Northern Potosí.” Journal of Development Studies 26, no. 4: 97121.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dunkerley, James. 1984. Rebellion in the Veins: Political Struggle in Bolivia, 1952–82. London, UK: Verso.Google Scholar
Eckstein, Susan, and Wickham-Crowley, Timothy P.. 2003. Struggles for Social Rights in Latin America. New York, N.Y.: Routledge.Google Scholar
Edelman, Murray J. 1971. Politics as Symbolic Action: Mass Arousal and Quiescence. Chicago, Ill.: Academic Press.Google Scholar
Fraser, Nancy. 2013. “A Triple Movement? Parsing the Political Crisis after Polanyi.” New Left Review 81 (May-June): 119–32.Google Scholar
Friedman, Jonathan. 1990. “Being in the World: Globalization and Localization.” Theory, Culture, and Society 7, no. 2: 311–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gamson, William A. 1992. Talking Politics. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
García, Alberto, García, Fernando, and Quintón, Luz. 2003. La “Guerra del Agua”: Abril de 2000, la crisis de la política en Bolivia [The “water war:” April 2000, the crisis of politics in Bolivia]. La Paz, Bolivia: Fundación Programa de Investigación Estratégica en Bolivia.Google Scholar
George, Alexander L., and Bennett, Andrew. 2005. Case Studies and Theory Development in the Social Sciences. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.Google Scholar
Gerring, John. 2007. Case Study Research: Principles and Practices. New York, N.Y: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Gill, Lesley. 2000. Teetering on the Rim: Global Restructuring, Daily Life, and the Armed Retreat of the Bolivian State. NewYork,N.Y: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
Goffman, Erving. 1974. Frame Analysis: An Essay on the Organization of Experience. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
Goodwin, Jeff, and Jasper, James M.. 2004. Rethinking Social Movements: Structure, Meaning, and Emotion. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.Google Scholar
Gould, Deborah B. 2009. Moving Politics: Emotion and ACT UP's Fight against AIDS. Chicago, Ill.: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gould, Roger V. 1995. Insurgent Identities: Class, Community, and Protest in Paris from 1848 to the Commune. Chicago, Ill.: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
Gudeman, Stephen. 2001. The Anthropology of Economy: Community, Market, and Culture. Maiden, Mass.: Blackwell.Google Scholar
Instituto Naciónal de Estadísticas. 2006. “Cochabamba: Estadisticas e Indica-dores de Pobreza Según Sección Municipal, 2001.” [Cochabamba: Statistics and Indicators of Poverty According to Municipal Section, 2001] Available at, accessed February 20, 2007.Google Scholar
Kosek, Jake. 2006. Understories: The Political Life of Forests in Northern New Mexico. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kurtz, Marcus J. 2004. “The Dilemmas of Democracy in the Open Economy: Lessons from Latin America.” World Politics 56, no. 2 (January): 262–302.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Larson, Brooke. 1998. Cochabamba, 1550–1900: Colonialism and Agrarian Transformation in Bolivia, exp. ed. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press.Google Scholar
Laurie, Nina, and Marvin, Simon. 1999. “Globalisation, Neoliberalism, and Negotiated Development in the Andes: Water Projects and Regional Identity in Cochabamba, Bolivia.” Environment and Planning A 31, no. 8 (August): 1401–15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lofland, John. 1996. Social Movement Organizations: Guide to Research on Insurgent Realities. New York, N.Y.: Aldine de Gruyter.Google Scholar
Loveman, Mara. 1998. “High-Risk Collective Action: Defending Human Rights in Chile, Uruguay, and Argentina.” American Journal of Sociology 104, no. 2 (September): 477525.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
McAdam, Doug. 1999. Political Process and the Development of Black Insurgency, 1930–1970 2nded. Chicago, Ill.: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
McAdam, Doug, McCarthy, John D., and Zald, Mayer N.. 1996. Comparative Perspectives on Social Movements: Political Opportunities, Mobilizing Structures, and Cultural Framings. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
McAdam, Doug, Tarrow, Sidney G., and Tilly, Charles. 2001. Dynamics of Contention. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Noakes, John A., and Johnston, Hank. 2005. “Frames of Protest: A Road Map to a Perspective.” In Johnston, Hank and Noakes, John A., eds., Frames of Protest: Social Movements and the Framing Perspective. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield.Google Scholar
Olivera, Oscar. 2004. Cochabamba! Water War in Bolivia. Cambridge, Mass.: South End Press.Google Scholar
Ostrom, Elinor. 1990. Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action. Cambridge, UK, and New York, N.Y.: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Oxhorn, Philip, and Ducatenzeiler, Graciela. 1998. What Kind of Democracy? What Kind of Market? Latin America in the Age of Neoliberalism. University Park, Pa.: Pennsylvania State University Press.Google Scholar
Parkinson, Sarah. 2013. “Organizing Rebellion: Re-thinking High Risk Mobilization and Social Networks in War.” American Political Science Review 107, no. 3 (August): 418–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Pearlman, Wendy. 2013. “Emotions and the Microfoundations of the Arab Uprisings.” Perspectives on Politics 11, no. 2 (June): 387–409.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Peredo, Carmen, Flores, Carlos Crespo, and Fernández, Omar. 2004. Los regantes de Cochabamba en laguerra del agua: Presión socialy negociacón[The irrigators of Cochabamba in the water war: social pressure and negotiation]. Cochabamba, Bolivia: Centro de Estudios Superiores Universitarios-Universidad Mayor de San Simón.Google Scholar
Perreault, Tom. 2008. “Custom and Contradiction: Rural Water Governance and the Politics of Usos y Costumbres in Bolivia's Irrigators’ Movement.” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 98, no. 4 (September): 834–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Polanyi, Karl. 2001. The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time, 2nd ed. Boston, Mass.: Beacon Press.Google Scholar
Rabinow, Paul, and Sullivan, William M.. 1987. Interpretive Social Science:A Second Look. Berkeley, Calif: University of California Press.Google Scholar
Rioja Vasquez, Oswaldo. 2002. La Guerra del Agua. Documentary. Cochabamba, Bolivia.Google Scholar
Schelling, Thomas C. 1960. The Strategy of Conflict. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
Schwartz-Shea, Peregrine, and Yanow, Dvora. 2012. Interpretive Research Design: Concepts and Processes. New York, N.Y: Routledge.Google Scholar
Scott, James C. 1976. The Moral Economy of the Peasant: Rebellion and Subsistence in Southeast Asia. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
Shultz, Jim. 2003. “Bolivia: The Water War Widens.” NACLA Report on the Americas 36, no. 3 (January-February): 34–37.Google Scholar
Silva, Eduardo. 2009. Challenging Neoliberalism in Latin America. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Simmons, Erica. 2014. “Grievances Do Matter in Mobilization.” Theory and Society 43, no. 5: 513–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Small, Mario. 2009. ‘“How Many Cases Do I Need?’ On Science and the Logic of Case Selection in Field-Based Research.” Ethnography 10, no. 1 (March): 538.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Snow, David A., and Benford, Robert. 1988. “Ideology, Frame Resonance, and Participant Mobilization.” International Social Movement Research 1, no. 1: 197217.Google Scholar
Snow, David A., and Benford, Robert. 1992. “Master Frames and Cycles of Protest.” In Morris, Aldon D. and Mueller, Carol McClurg, eds., Frontiers in Social Movement Theory. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
Snow, David A., Burke Rochford, E., Worden, Steven, and Benford, Robert. 1986. “Frame Alignment Processes, Micromobilization, and Movement Participation.” American Sociological Review 51, no. 4 (August): 464–81.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Snow, David A., and Soule, Sarah A.. 2010. A Primer on Social Movements. New York, N.Y.: W.W.Norton.Google Scholar
Spronk, Susan J. 2007. “Roots of Resistance to Urban Water Privatization in Bolivia: The ‘New Working Class,’ the Crisis of Neoliberalism, and Public Services.” International Labor and Working-Class History 71, no. 1 (Spring): 8–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Tarrow, Sidney G. 1998. Power in Movement: Social Movements and Contentious Politics, 2nd ed. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Thompson, E. P. 1971. “The Moral Economy of the English Crowd in the Eighteenth Century.” Past & Present, no. 50 (February): 76–136.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Tönnies, Ferdinand. 1988. Community & Society. New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Books.Google Scholar
Wedeen, Lisa. 2002. “Conceptualizing Culture: Possibilities for Political Science.” American Political Science Review 96, no. 4 (December): 713–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wedeen, Lisa. 2008. Peripheral Visions: Publics, Power, and Performance in Yemen. Chicago, Ill.: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wedeen, Lisa. 2009. “Ethnography as Interpretive Enterprise.” In Schatz, Edward, ed., Political Ethnography: What Immersion Contributes to the Study of Power. Chicago: University of Chicago Press: 75–93 Google Scholar
Yashar, Deborah J. 2005. Contesting Citizenship in Latin America: The Rise of Indigenous Movements and the Postliberal Challenge. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
You have Access
Cited by

Save article to Kindle

To save this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Market Reforms and Water Wars
Available formats

Save article to Dropbox

To save this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Market Reforms and Water Wars
Available formats

Save article to Google Drive

To save this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Market Reforms and Water Wars
Available formats

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *