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HKS Authors

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Abstract

As we consider over two decades of change in Bolivia, it now seems to us that understanding history involves adjusting short-term perspectives to longer-term interpretations and, looking backward, seeing through windows more clearly. This is not easily done, and may or may not provide greater insights into the future. As social scientists, we are accustomed to making reference to the enduring nature of institutions and the characteristics of political and social systems, attempting to assess current events in light of continuities and expectations based on what we know of the past. But the day-to-day view from the street is often that of how much change occurs over the short term—and how abruptly it can occur—and of how contingent those changes are. Certainly Everyman might question the academic view if the recent history of Bolivia is consulted. The 1980s and 1990s had brought many significant changes. But the more fundamental change to come in the 2000s, deeply affecting the country’s political and social institutions and the dynamics of its politics and economic development, could not have been clearly foreseen in those years. There is no question that the Bolivia of 2011 is a very different country from what had existed in those prior decades. Yet the question of how to understand these changes and how to place them in historical context remains elusive.

Citation

Hilderbrand, Mary E.and Merilee S. Grindle. "Through a Glass Darkly: Reflecting on Bolivia." ReVista: Harvard Review of Latin America (Fall 2011): 6-8.