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South Atlantic Quarterly

Raquel Gutirrez
The Rhythms of the Pachakuti:
Brief Reflections Regarding How We Have
Come to Know Emancipatory Struggles and the
Significance of the Term Social Emancipation

In Bolivia, mainly in the rustic and wondrous

Altiplano of La Paz, in the city of Cochabamba


and its surrounding valleys, and in the lush and
humid land of the Chapare, a wave of mobilizations and uprisings staged by thousands and
thousands of men and women between 2000
and 2005 disrupted the previously hegemonic
neoliberal path toward the reorganization of life
and production, and established a strong limit to
the continued elaboration of that project.

A powerful wave of social intervention
in public affairs in varied and polyphonic ways
opened up a space-time of Pachakuti.1 That is to
say, it generated upheaval in a social system that,
until then, had been accepted as normal and quotidian. It challenged the prerogative of a few men
and women of a certain social status and ethnic
background to rule and decide the fate and fortune of all others, and it contested their authority,
accepted as legitimate until then, to reap and
manage social wealth in a predatory, selective,
and above all, private manner (i.e., for the benefit of only a fewfor those same individuals who,
over the course of decades, have reveled in their
positions of leadership and their privileged access
to its benefits). Hundreds of collective actions
of deliberation and decision making, commuThe South Atlantic Quarterly 111:1, Winter 2012
DOI 10.1215/00382876-1472585 2012 Duke University Press

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nity organizing, the construction of reciprocal trust, and the struggle and
defense of the commons created situations that rendered visible, with the
clarity that lightning offers in dark nights, the ethnic and social antagonisms that penetrate and fragment Bolivian society. This visibility, along
with the growing collective rejection of the various mechanisms of political
and social domination that guarantee the possibility of foreign exploitation
of Pachamama [mother earth] and her children, enabled the massive participation of thousands of men and womenorganized in their communities,
their unions, their local councils, their confederations and coalitionsto
disrupt and change this set of oppressive and unjust social relations. This
dawn of a season of Pachakuti made the consideration of the possibilities of
social emancipation the order of the day.

The debate on how to think and understand this entire series of
events arose simultaneously with the movement itself. There were clearly
conservative positions whose spokespeople triedand continue to tryto
minimize and ignore the political innovations that emerged during those
years, treating them, almost always, dismissively. In contrast, the rest of us
sought to understand what was happening, and in so doing, we also strove
to explore what could happen. In this manner, we have gradually freed ourselves from the study of a closed present that requires description, explanation, and stabilization, and instead moved toward an understanding of the
present as an open possibility. This possibility is ignited by the same energy
that society in movement, in a state of profound instability, was capable
of imagining, producing, and deploying. The following reflections on the
significance and content of the term emancipation are elaborated from this
position and are part of a much wider investigation.2

Theory, as a privileged position from which to see things, is almost always


constructed from the dominant social position. In this regard, throughout my work and research in Bolivia and Mexico over the course of several
years, I have tried not to develop a theory but instead to outline a theoretical
strategy that would make intelligible the profound acts of insubordination
that occurred in Bolivia between 2000 and 2005, while at the same time
provide elements for a broader reflection on the multiple horizons of desire
that are displayed in such collective actions of antagonism and insubordinationthat is, those horizons which, in a certain tradition, have been designated by the term social emancipation. In that sense, my work is doubly
anchoredbetween the study of recent history and philosophical reflec-

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tionand for this reason, it is not exempt from the conceptual and argumentative difficulties that often color the relationship between history and
philosophy more generally. Beyond its historical character, the theoretical
and philosophical nature of my research arises from a desire to reflect on
those common features within social movements that can help us to connect and understand related political phenomena.

A theoretical strategy to understand recent social movements and
rebellions in their historical scope, in contrast to the classical meaning of
the word theory, does not have the pretense of obscuring, in the name of
some notion of objectivity, the subject that it theorizes. Rather, it seeks to
present events and facts as practical productions and reflections of socially
situated people, who in turn assume certain political intentions (whether
such intentions are explicitly mentioned or implicitly understood). The
theoretical strategy I propose is thus not embedded in a tradition that
favors the production of objective knowledge but rather in that of a practical comprehension of the social event of rupture and resistance, including
the challenges such events pose to the social order by those who produce
it.3 I therefore propose to examine the logic of emancipation in terms of
two distinct orders or levels. The first and most important level focuses
on emancipatory practices themselves. These are inscribed in the concrete
political activity of the various conglomerations of men and women who,
through their actions of uprising and mobilization in Bolivia, opened up
new perspectives for producing and thinking about both the forms of social
conviviality and the other possibilities of their self-regulation, including
the creation of ways to preserve and care for their collective ability to ensure
autonomous and direct intervention in public affairs (which, ultimately,
was a guarantee of their continuation). Hence, my research gives priority
to detailed descriptions of the events of self-unification and struggle. Only
after such detailed description does a second-order logic apply: that of critical reflection on the explicit meanings and potentials of those actions and
events concretely produced by men and women.

In this way, by carefully following the sequence of events that unfolded
in those tumultuous years, while at the same time trying to understand the
often contradictory internal dynamics that emerge between actual collective
acts of struggle (demonstrations, debates, road blockades, uprisings, besieging of cities, etc.) and what had been established as the horizon of struggle
(the common impulse to be identified and realized), I came to understand
social emancipation not as a set of explicit and systematic objectives to achieve
but rather as a difficult, ambivalent, and often contradictory itinerary or path.

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This path involves the efforts of multiple groups, associations, bodies, and
collectives of actual men and women (essentially those who do not live off
the work of others) to confront and evade the political and economic subordination that emanates from the established order amidst the changing nature
of tensions and antagonisms. For these reasons I believe that reflection on
emancipation consists not so much in giving an objective account of what
was achieved and planned (though this account, of course, remains relevant)
but rather in understanding both the pathways opened up and the obstacles
that challenge the potential for social transformationthat is, the collective
capacity to intervene in public affairs at any given moment. In what follows
I present some further reflections on this issue.

According to the Diccionario de la Lengua Espaola, emancipate has two definitions: (1) to free from guardianship, bondage or servitude, and (2) to
free oneself from any kind of subordination or dependency.4 Both meanings of the verb emancipate refer to breaking a relationship of subjection. A
further distinction can be made regarding this verb that concerns whether
such an action is reflexive (x emancipates herself from y) or if one term
acts on the other (x emancipates y). In thinking through the notion of
social emancipation, I emphasize, as did Marx in his analysis of the proletariat, the possibility of the first meaning, namely, The emancipation of
the working class must be conquered by the working classes themselves.5
Likewise, the notion of social emancipation that I am interested in discussing cannot be understood as anything but the action of a transitive (requiring an object) and reflexive (the subject acts on itself ) verb.

From an etymological point of view, emancipation, according to
Antoni Domnech, refers to shaking off the hand of the master or that of
the father or lord: Emancipationliberating oneself from parental controlis making oneself a brother. Once emancipated from the tutelage of
my master, not only can I be the brother of all children who shared everyday life with me under bondage to the same lord, but I can furthermore
be a brother emancipating all of those who were under the bondage and
domination of other patriarchs.6 Insofar as the notion of emancipation
presupposes a relationship of subjection, be it binary or manifold, which
is disrupted by the decisionand capacityof one of the parts (i.e., those
previously subjected), the notion of emancipation has been addressed
mainly in political terms, in relation to certain institutional relations of
power that, in modernity, are the state or capital. The dilemma, then, is

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first to establish a vantage point. If we situate ourselves from the place of our
own subjection, which in many ways we share with a large number of men
and women whose primary distinction is to belong to the simple, working people,7 and if we are determined to start from here, we encounter
two closely related yet distinct problems. The first concerns the abilities
and material conditions of individual and collective possibility to unravel,
unblock, or avoid those dense and varied relations of subjection that appear
as overwhelming obstacles to the very development of life itselfthat is,
the abilities to set out on the roads toward emancipation. Secondly, the
deployment of these abilities almost certainly puts us in a position of confronting the established ordera confrontation in which we seek to demarcate limits to what capital and the state can impose regarding what will be
done to and with us. The dynamic between these two aspects of emancipatory action, in the words of John Holloway, requires us to think how the
movement of contemporary insubordination moves against as well as beyond
capital and the state.8

There is a great deal of material written on this topic and other closely
related topics such as revolution and communism that addresses this
same issue albeit from a very different perspective. It is not my intention,
for the moment, to present a review of that literature. Rather, my objective
is to lay out some elements of the content of the term emancipation if we
are to understand it as an open and negative notion around which we can
draw a conceptual constellation. According to Theodor Adorno, cognition
of the object in its constellation is cognition of the process stored within the
object or, put differently, becoming aware of the constellation in which a
thing stands is tantamount to deciphering the constellation which, having
come to be, it bears within it.9 That is, to reflect on emancipation consists
primarily of understanding how, at times, groups of men and women of different stripes come together intermittently, though assertively, to establish
limits on what is to be done with and to them and to conjure other possibilities and new alternatives to what was previously known or envisioned.
Emancipation, then, is about understanding this common capacity to take
action and to decide for and by themselves.

One cannot engage in this reflection, however, without some kind
of conceptual grid. In that sense, in order to understand emancipation we
should begin by analyzing how certain historical experiences of struggle
have been systematized in philosophical formulations. More specifically,
I, along with Holloway, believe that we need to reflect on how to change
the world without taking power.10 A first step requires breaking with the

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notion of social change scripted within the revolutionary strategy of the


twentieth century, which I have discussed in various texts and now summarize below.

Schematically, the revolutionary strategy that undergirded a certain
notion of change beginning with the idea of the struggle to take power
consisted of building organizations that were highly internally cohesive,
hierarchical, and disciplined to the point that they could organize around
and of course, directthe set of social struggles in a particular country. To
this end, the partisan activity of the revolutionary was to isolate, interpret,
and subordinate the actions, perspectives, and intentions of local struggles
and the diverse clusters of men and women involved within their particular struggles. The central idea of this strategy was a radical and centrally
organized confrontation with the state aiming to displace the social classes
within its institutions in order to disrupt them in a protracted action that
ran from top to bottom. It is clear that the rationale behind this strategy
was to arrange the existenceand conceptualizationof at least two distinct and opposed entities: the state and the revolutionary party, and further, to account for their collision. Accordingly, the notion of revolutionary change falls somewhere in the middle of this reasoning and thus is
constrained to the rearrangement of those within the state apparatus and
also the destruction of the institutions and relationships of control and the
building of new ones.11

We begin with the opposite premise, that is, from the meaning of
social emancipation as a growing and intermittent trajectory or itinerary that
arises from the persistent state of subjection and powerlessness that we
bear (in the double sense of the term, suffering as well as contributing to
it with our acquiescence) in order to collectively and directly intervene in
the decisions about and implementation of issues that concern each and
every personwhat are usually called public matters (but not only these).
Therefore, the fundamental requirement for understanding the routes to
social emancipation is an analysis of how to change the world of increasing
capital accumulation and state domination/normalization of everyday life.
This analysis, as I will argue below, does not happen, solely or fundamentally, by thinking and discussing what could be done from power (once this
power has been taken or seized) but instead by collectively shedding light
on how we begin to change the world when we leave the place that is externally assigned to us in the framework of subjection to capital and when we
set out to modify the relations of power sedimented in the longue dure of
history. In order to achieve such a shift, we must consider political issues

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in the broadest senseoutside of the modern universal ambition toward


general definitions. Moreover, it is imperative that we abandon the perspective of totality, as well as that of synthetic and systematic stability. I will
try to do this through a few theses, which, taken together as a constellation,
approach the meaning of social emancipation.

For the purposes of this reflection I modify Holloways theory as follows: taking power is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition to change
the world. If emancipation seeks to change the world and if emancipation
is above all the political and practical collective activity of transforming
the world (the web of relations of power and the sclerotic exploitation that
constitutes it) by confronting or avoiding relationships of subjection, then
emancipation is, above all, a praxis of upheaval and escape. Emancipation,
then, is the recurrent upheaval and escape from what is imposed on us as
actuality and as destiny. Therefore, to emancipate oneself is essentially to
perform collective acts of resistance and struggle in order to change social,
economic, and political relations that then facilitate autonomous collective
decision making and the regulation of social life based on these modes of
decision making. If we accept this proposition, a critique of what is meant
by political activity or, more specifically, what is considered as emancipatory politics follows.12 From this perspective, the politics of emancipation
or, more accurately, emancipatory political action is no longer primarily, or
solely, a discussion or competition regarding different ways of regulating
and managing society conceived as a totality. Rather, it is a matter of the
creation, care, expansion, and consolidation of a common ability to intervenethrough deliberation and executionin the issues that are incumbent on us all. Emancipation, then, is an issue both of understanding and
reinforcing the sources of these abilities and of reflecting and acting on
them, while simultaneously consolidating and extending them.

Currently, emancipatory struggles occur in the midst of neoliberal
capitalist relations and under a political order embodied by increasingly
transnationalized nation-states. Moreover, these struggles are thought from
a position that slowly, contradictorily, and with difficulty distances itself
from the revolutionary political paradigm of the twentieth century. Given
this situation, the meaning and results of recent emancipatory struggles
are ambivalent, disconcerting, and even confusing.13 In the last decade, various social movements have been able to topple governments and to impose
limits on the acts of neoliberal looting and domination. It is in this regard
that the recent struggles of social movements in Latin America have been
struggles for emancipation; they have opened avenues for society to inter-

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vene directly in political affairs, issuing vetoes on the various plans of neoliberal governments. Nevertheless, many of these plans are still ongoing,
and the social order of exploitation and economic and political exclusion
remains. Worse still, it appears that this order has caught a second wind in
the guise of the various progressive governments in Latin America.

Yet, the social struggles and the indigenous uprisings in the last
decade have revealed the deep chasms, inequalities, and antagonisms
that divide societies throughout our continent. Such fracturesexplicitly
exposed by the indigenous and popular mobilizations and uprisings in
Boliviaachieved the sudden political and institutional collapse of the
ruling class, which has nevertheless managed to regain momentum toward
its reconstitution (a process that is ongoing).

Thus, the Bolivian experience has demonstrated the true power of
the inertia of state domination and the order of capital to complicate, trap,
or inhibit the range of open possibilities to change the world through acts of
insubordination and insurgency. My reflections are thus precisely aimed at
thinking about the difficulty of changing the worldthe difficulty of transforming social relations and political legaciesso that the ordinary men
and women of society itself [sociedad llana] may manage to achieve the construction of self-government (but not only this) that arises from their own
natural organizations. To build self-government is a way of naming a set
of challenges faced by some social forces, whether they be in the Altiplano
of the Aymara or in the valley of Cochabamba. It also refers, at least to some
extent, to what has been built by the Zapatista rebels in Chiapas, Mexico,
and to the operation of their caracoles [regional centers of resistance]. This
important aspect of emancipatory struggle deserves special reflection in its
own right. Nevertheless, I wish to note that emancipation is not only about
building self-government, because the bottom line for political emancipation lies in the persistence of the capacity to subvert the dominant order. It
lies in the construction of ideas, associative forms, and material entities
that enable the continued, although intermittent, deployment of the collective capacity to disrupt, entrap, or inhibit the impositions of capital accumulation. Put differently, the basic issue (but not the only one) has more
to do with situating the politics of emancipation in terms of the increasing
instability of the order of capital and its accumulation and less to do with a
question of stabilizing a possible political order or even a distinct, alternative social order.

Taking the above analysis as my point of departure, I would like to
propose the following: one cannot derive a direct form of social emancipa-

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tion from either the classical revolutionary strategy of taking power (this
strategy will hereafter be referred to as STP) or from its lite version, which
consists of occupying the government apparatus through elections with a
view to forming a constituent assembly.14 It cannot be derived directly from
these because, put simply, social emancipation involves something other
than just a group of people (more or less politically or ethnically connected
to the insurgent forces) being assigned the responsibility for managing the
institutional framework of a society in favor of the people. More often
than we would like, the electoral takeover of the governmental apparatus,
and even the seizure of state power by revolutionary means, has hindered
the deepening of the transformative and emancipatory potential of human
acts of insubordination, which are precisely what create the political opportunity for a political party or party faction to enter government or for an
organization to take state control in the first place. Moreover, when the
takeover of the state or government by some revolutionary or popular
party has actually occurred, it has led to a general decline of the collective
capacity to intervene directly in public affairsa key component of contemporary emancipatory struggle.

From here we can understand the role of progressive governments
and their contemporary significance in Latin America. If we think in terms
of class struggles or permanent and systematic disputes and growing
confrontations between globalized transnational power and a society
fragmented into countless piecesthat finds itself increasingly stripped
of any ability to produce and reproduce life, to some extent we can understand how progressive governments function as (but in no way only as)
a kind of counterinsurgent maneuver that strengthens the institutions
that were toppled during the period of uprisings and insurrections and
thus rebuilding the time and space of the state. Therefore, they restore a
contested terrain that is more favorable to the politics of capital than the
general instability that occurs in the extraordinary moments in the life of
nations, which we have discussed here. Beginning with their actions and
beyond their speeches, progressive governments reedit and reinforce certain relationships of power that have nothing to do with the assembly, the
horizontal, the autonomous; especially insofar as they have perplexingly
reinstated the division between governors and governed by reinforcing the
monopoly of political decision making that was earlier placed in check.

This finding, however, does not lead us to conclude that the takeover
of government or the state by some fraction of the mobilized population is
always (i.e., for any historical event) counterproductive and limiting to the

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struggle for emancipation. In this sense and in strictly analytical terms, it


can be argued that these issues are logically independent of each other. In
concrete political-practical terms, however, the above statement should be
qualified. What is clear is that collective emancipatory action and its profound practice of transforming the social, economic, and political must be
conceived as a separate and distinct trajectory from that of the party struggle
for the occupation of government and state, since they each operate in a different space and time. These two sets of social actions are distinct, despite
the fact that they bear some relation to each other, given that it is from their
various operations that the political reality in a particular place and time is
constituted. Therefore, what happens in one of these political space-times
is not irrelevant to what happens in the other and vice versa. At one of the
meetings of the water coalition in Cochabamba [Coordinadora en Defensa
del Agua y de La Vida], on March 11, 2006, this very issue was raised: The
question of how to govern is now the problem of the MAS [Movimiento al
Socialismo; the political party of Evo Morales]; the question that remains
before us is the problem of power, its dissolution, and upheaval.

This way of putting things has several virtues: First, it situates the
problem of the subject of social emancipation in its just location, distinguishing the common, diverse, and varied society that faces the problem
of dissolving and escaping the imposition of power from that peculiar
agglomeration that temporarily occupies the government apparatus. Second, the formulation given in Cochabamba distinguishes between what
are administrative and governmental tasks of the inherited institutions
and those challenges that face those who strive toward social emancipation,
who, at this point, cannot ignore reflecting on power and the political. The
problems of power, of the political, and of the care and expansion of collective capacities that allow a desubjectivization from the frame of domination
(and, if possible, the construction of self-government based on the self-
management of common goods and social wealth) are all issues that have
confronted the social struggles of the last decade. Such questions demand
answers above all (but not exclusively), regarding the ways in which collective life may be regulated outside of liberalism and without delegated
representation or the alienation of ones voice and ones direct capacity to
decide on common issues.

Third, to this day, no government, be it progressive or revolutionary, has been concerned with the question of how to dissolve the structures of powerthat is, allowing self-government, admitting plurality,
and enabling conditions for the self-regulation of society.15 Such is not governments function, but what could still be demanded of it, particularly if

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it presented itself as a progressive or revolutionary government, would be


that it comply with the always difficult commitment to respect (and not
deny or lay claim to) the autonomy and political capabilities achieved by
society itself [sociedad llana]. Unfortunately, this is more a wish or a theoretical possibility in this argument than a fact. In any case, I consider it relevant to insist on the distinction between that tumultuous, insubordinate,
cooperative, and multitudinous subjectivity that in the recent experience
of struggle and upheaval remains linked to the reflection on social emancipation (as well as to the deployment of the collective capacity to act and
decidethat is, to read power upside down) and that pertaining to the various possible forms of government and its growing list of unfinished tasks.
Finally, as implied by this distinction, there remains (from the perspective
of emancipation) the slippery and polymorphous question of the dissolution and upheaval of power and of capital. This question involves untying
and rending the knots that give power and capital strength and changing
the rules of the game so as to inhibit their frenzied accumulation.

Viewed respective to what the societies in motion actually accomplished during the great struggles that inaugurated this century, the aforementioned question of power takes on another meaning: it is a question
of thinking and of concerning oneself with caring for and expanding the
autonomous capacity to intervene in public affairs achieved in these turbulent times. It is a question of refusing to concede the position of its own
enunciation, so arduously constructed, that effectively erodes and escapes
the canonical arguments and concepts of domination, as well as the capitalist and neoliberal exploitation of life, and insists on its own multiple
possibilities for creation and production. That means, as Aymara feminine
wisdom says, that we understand the size and strength of our own ability
and that we should not surrender that ability to anyoneeven if that person is presented as our husband.16 The hidden face of power and capital
is the restraint placed on the capacity to think and act by those who are not
it. The everyday recovery and re-creation of these capabilities for ourselves
is, then, the measure of the weakening and dissolution of powers imposition. At this point, there is a sea of tasks and pending issues.

Moreover, as a final consideration, perseverance in an emancipatory
politics oriented toward the preservation and expansion of social capacities,
both intimate and collective and also obtained for the deployment of life
beyond and against capital and for the autonomous regulation of common
issues, requires thinking from the point of view of the particular and from
the points of instability within the existing order. The worst trap for the
politics of emancipation is to be confused and think that those who speak

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from the government or the state are correct when they demand that society
itself [sociedad llana]or those who struggle from theretake the point of
view of the totality of the social and of the stabilization of an allegedly new
order. As long as society is torn apart by brutal antagonisms, as it presently
is and will be for quite some time, the politics of emancipation will have to
disrupt the imposed order from the location of the particular and the multiples that generate and inhabit it. Emancipation in this sense, then, is a
road and trajectory; it is an effort to elucidate that route and to expand and
desubjectivize the flow of social energy that is, after all, the foundation for
the creation of the new.
Translated by Ramor Ryan
Notes
This article returns to some of the concerns that motivated my doctoral research on the indigenous popular struggle in Bolivia between 2000 and 2005, later published as Los Ritmos del
Pachakuti (The Rhythms of the Pachakuti) (Mexico City: ICSyH-BUAP, 2008). I draw on and
elaborate parts of the introduction to that book. I would like to thank Michael Hardt for his
helpful suggestions on the most relevant parts of the text for a North American readership.
1
Pachakuti is a Quechua-Aymara concept that conjures the idea of a truly epochal change
outside of a linear conception of time. The word is derived from the melding of two
words: pacha, which means space-time, and kuti, which means overturning or turning
back. See also the interview with Ral Zibechi in this issue; Alvaro Reyes and Michael
Hardt, Interview with Ral Zibechi, SAQ 111, no. 1 (2012): 16591.Ed.
2
The issue of emancipation as the horizon of political struggle to transform social relations has always beenand remainsat the heart of my concerns. Among other texts
I have written on the subject, see A desordenar! Por un historia abierta de la lucha social
(Disorganize! For an Open History of Social Struggle) (Mexico City: CEAM-Juan Pablo
Editores, 2006), in which I develop a critique of the revolutionary Left of which these
struggles were a part, and Desandar el laberinto. Introspeccion en la feminidad contemoranea (Retracing the Labyrinth: Introspection in Contemporary Femininity) (Mexico City:
Pez en Arbol, 2010), which applies similar considerations to issues that are much more
personal.
3
The distinction between objective knowledge and practical understanding also
emerges in studying mathematics. With respect to the relationship between the
nature of mathematical propositions and the notion of number in two philosophers
of mathematics (J. S. Mill and Gottlob Frege) and two mathematicians (Georg Cantor and Richard Dedekind), one finds a clear distinction between that which is presented as objective and formal knowledgethe ambition of the philosophy of mathematicsand what is accomplished by mathematics as such and only later formalized.
The mathematician understands that it is necessary to establish general propositions
with utmost clarity and, very often, does not questionor worry about, I dare say
the objective character of his claims. I would insist there are other implications that
arise from this examplenamely, a specific practical activity that also always advances

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5
6

8
9
10
11

12

13

The Rhythms of the Pachakuti63

under the light of an explicit intention. The rigor of an argument is related more to the
logical consistency of what is disclosed than to its objective character. With respect to
the present argument, I would say the same distinction holds: what we call the political activity of insubordination in motion, while closely related to reflection about it,
isto abuse the suggested analogydifferent from its formalization. I have explored
this issue further in En torno a las naturaleza de las proposiciones de la aritmtica y la
nocin de nmero: Mill, Frege, Cantor y Dedekind (Concerning the Nature of Mathematical Propositions and the Notion of Number: Mill, Frege, Cantor and Dedekind)
(MA thesis, UNAM, Mexico City, 2005).
Diccionario de la lengua Espaola, XXI edicin (Spanish Language Dictionary, 12th ed.),
(Madrid: Real Academia Espaola, 1992), s.v. emancipacin. In the Larousse dictionary, the following are listed as synonyms to emancipate: 1) to liberate, to make independent, to free, to redeem; 2) to detach, to separate. Antonyms of the first entry are to
dominate, to colonize, to subjugate, to enslave; and of the second, to hold down and to
retain. I consider it useful to keep these variants of the meaning of the word throughout the argument. Consultor de Larousse sobre sinnimos y antnimos, tomo 2 (Larousse
Reference on Synonyms and Antonyms, vol. 2) (Barcelona: Ediciones Larousse, 2000).
Karl Marx, General Rules of the International Workingmens Association, Marx and
Engels Collected Works, vol. 20 (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1973), 441.
Antoni Domnech, El eclipse de la fraternidad, Una revisin republicana de la tradicin
socialista (The Eclipse of Fraternity: A Republican Revision of the Socialist Tradition) (Barcelona: Crtica, 2004), 14.
We, the simple, working people was and remains the way in which the Coalition in
Defense of Water and Life [La Coordinadora en Defensa del Agua y de La Vida]a flexible, stable, and noninstitutional political articulation that various unions and social
organizations as well as diverse groups of activists and professionals created during
the water wars in Cochabambadescribed itself and addressed its interlocutors. Thus,
at every moment it makes clear its locus of enunciation: in the first person, from the
groups work, and outside the confines of the state.
John Holloway, Crack Capitalism (New York: Pluto, 2010), 256.
Theodor W. Adorno, Negative Dialectics (New York: Seabury Press, 1973), 163.
John Holloway, Change the World without Taking Power: The Meaning of Revolution Today
(Ann Arbor, MI: Pluto Press, 2005).
A more detailed discussion of this issue can be reviewed in Sergio Tischler and Werner
Bonefeld, eds., What Is To Be Done: Leninism, Anti-Leninist Marxism and the Question
of Revolution Today (London: Ashgate, 2003). For a discussion of this question in the
Bolivian context, see Raquel Gutirrez, ed., El fantasma insomne. Pensando el presente
desde El Manifiesto Comunista (The Insomniac Phantasm: Thinking the Present through
The Communist Manifesto) (La Paz: Muela Del Diablo, 1999).
In the following arguments I present some ideas from my current research on what
I call politics in the feminine to try to distinguish them from the more or less
masculine-dominant set of codes that have been associated with revolutionary political activity for decades.
The clearest formulation of this assessment was expressed by Ecuadorians Miguel
Guatemal (former secretary of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador) and Pablo Dvalos (academic and social activist close to the indigenous move-

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ments). During the first Andean-Mesoamerican symposium, The Indigenous Movement: Resistance and Alternative Project, in La Paz, in March 2006, they noted that
in Ecuador the repeated indigenous uprisings and mobilizations have achieved triumphs that are masking losses. Both conveyed the collective experience of having
lived through the collective euphoria of victory that subsequently acquires the taste
of failure, tinged with an unpleasant experience of frustration. More specifically, they
refer to the indigenous mobilizations against the dollarization of the economy, which
laid siege to Quito in 2000. At that time, the force of the uprising simultaneously
brought down then president Jamil Mahuad and effectively neutralized the partisan
institutions that otherwise provide forms for political mediation. They bitterly pointed
out, however, that after the overthrow of Mahuad, dollarization remained. Something
very similar is conveyed to us by the most important participants of the Argentine
social movements of 2000 and 2001, and in some ways, it is directly analogous to what
we are living through today in Bolivia. In this sense, philosophical reflection on the
deeper meaning of social actions in order to understand triumphs that are masking
losses is a relevant issue that is still pending in the recent struggles in South America.
It is in this way that the powerful wave of uprisings and demonstrations that opened
the twenty-first century were stabilized in Bolivia. From the perspective of STP, statements about the success of the Bolivian strategy that managed to combine social
mobilization with electoral participation are valid. Nevertheless, from a perspective
of the politics of emancipation, these events should be considered special moments
within a much larger trajectory that continues.
In recent years, the progressive governments of Latin America have taken steps to
rebuild the institutional framework weakened by previous mobilizations, giving them
a form much as it was before, with hierarchies, procedures, and of course, a clear
delimitation between those who rule and those who obey. In general, in order to heal
social wounds they are trying to build a just and new country, they have become
entrenched in the deep social fractures present in each society. For example, in Argentina they appeal to the wound left by the dirty wars of the 1970s and 1980s, and in
Bolivia they emphasize the indigenous question. See Pablo Dvalos, Ganamos pero
perdimos: Balance de lo logrado y problemasa pendientes (We Won but We Lost:
Summary of What Was Achieved and Pending Problems), in Movimento indgena en
America Latina: Resistencia y proyecto alternative, vol. 2 (The Indigenous Movement in
Latin America: Resistance and the Alternative Project), ed. Fabiola Escrzaga and Raquel
Gutirrez Aguilar (Mexico City: Secretaria de Desarrollo Social del Gobierno de Distrito Federal, 2006), 23136; and Miguel Guatemal, La situacin de movimiento indigena en Ecuador (The Situation of the Indigenous Movement in Ecuador), in Movimento indgena en America Latina: Resistencia y proyecto alternative, vol. 2, 197213.
In 2006, just weeks after Evo Morales took office as president of Bolivia, I had the
chance to talk to workers of the fish vendors union in the city of El Alto. In an example
of the impeccable logic of many Aymara women, these women expressed the following: Look, Evo is like the husband who has married all of us in Bolivia on election day.
He has his tasks; we have ours. He should not mess with us, or come and tell us what
to do. We have already learned what we have to do. He should just take care that the
foreigners and the qaras [Bolivians of European descent] dont bother us. Well take
care of everything else. Interviews by author, El Alto, Bolivia, February 2006.

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