Building and Contesting Neoliberalism at the Local Level: Reflections on the Symposium and on Recent Experience in Bolivia


This final article first reflects on the previous articles in the symposium, positioning the diverse trajectories of local governance which they exhibit in relation to two contrasting ideal types — the one neoliberal, the other contesting neoliberalism from a progressive, left perspective. Differences between these ideal types, and among the actually existing patterns of local governance discussed in the symposium (in relation to their economic and social objectives and governance institutions and practices) are highlighted. The second part of the article offers a consideration of local governance in Bolivia, a country which encapsulates some of the key issues at stake in the ongoing struggles to either build, or contest, neoliberalism at the local level. Here a distinction is advanced between ‘expansive’ and ‘consolidatory’ moments of neoliberal local governance, which may take the form of consecutive phases, but may have different, overlapping temporalities. In conclusion, it is suggested the challenges which the impact of the financial crisis and global recession pose both to neoliberal forms of local governance and to contestatory forces should be a primary concern for future research.