Young Bolivians’ Perspectives on Globalism and How It Impacts Opinions on the New Nationalistic Bolivian Constitution


This study examines perceptions of globalism among young Bolivians, aged 18-27, who are living in their home country. It also gauges public opinion on the recently promulgated eighteenth Bolivian Constitution, which contains both nationalist and cosmopolitan aspects. Their globalist and nationalist views are quantified and placed on a simple scale. The same is done for opinions on the current government and the new Constitution. Qualitative data analysis is also incorporated into this study to better understand the youths’ opinions. Overall, 90% of respondents are said to be dissatisfied with the new Constitution, mostly because of the Constitution’s inefficiency and it being either too globalistic or nationalistic.

Table of Contents: 


    Bolivia’s Constitutional assembly drafted a new Constitution in 2008 at the request of President Evo Morales and the controlling Movimiento al Socialismo/Movement to Socialism (MAS) political party. The New Constitution of the State was created in 2008, put up for a national referendum vote in January 2009, and officially promulgated on February 7. Much of the Constitution deals with indigenous rights and economic issues. For the purpose of this research, the focus will be on the nationalistic changes imparted by the new Constitution. These changes have been said to strongly promote national Bolivian cultural, social, and political values. This research hopes to find a correlation between nationalist and globalist ideas in young Bolivans and their satisfaction with the new Bolivian Constitution.

    Nationalism refers to a sociopolitical and economic belief that focuses on one’s nation. It emerged in Europe and spread across the world in the late eighteenth century. Extreme nationalism emphasizes that the country comes before any other nation-state or people (Smith, 1998). In this case, nationalism refers to the ideal of national superiority and collectivist cohesion among all citizens of Bolivia. Globalism is an alternate position and world view. In this study, cosmopolitan theory is used to inform the globalist perspective and gauge how nationalistic or globalist young Bolivians tend to be. Cosmopolitan theory essentially presents people as “citizens of the world” having a sense of responsibility to other world citizens (Appiah, 2006).

    My interest in young Bolivians’ opinions stems from their new Constitution and their country’s very young population. These young citizens will be the ones making governmental decisions in the near future. I was intrigued and wondered if they are content with this new governing document (for the time being). If the clear majority of them are strongly opposed to the new Constitution, it is likely that their generation will create its own constitution when they come to power. Refer to Table 1 and Figure 1 for facts about Bolivia’s population.

    Literature Review

    Nationalism can be divided into four areas. The first is sociocultural nationalism which emphasizes national supremacy by way of the citizens’ culture. It is associated with the views and writings of Ernest Gellner (1983). Second is the socioeconomic model of nationalism. Both Michael Hechter (2000) and Tom Nairn (1997) have introduced widely respected and praised models presenting this take on nationalism, which is based on the rationality of the world economy and individual nations’ economic interests. Michael Mann (1986), Anthony Giddens (1994), and John Breuilly (1985) have written on the political aspects and politico-centric versions of nationalist thought. Lastly, there are the views of theorists such as Elie Kedourie (1993) and Mark Juergensmeyer (1994), which present ideological views on nationalism. In this sense, nationalism is viewed as a system of beliefs, a sense of “secular religion.” Anthony Smith explains these components and nationalism’s effect on the world today in his book about nationalism and modernism. Nationalism rose and spread in the late eighteen hundreds, becoming the most prevalent form of political thought until its decline after the two world wars of the twentieth century (Smith, 1998).

    Cosmopolitanism, on the other hand, dates back to Ancient Greece and the Cynics. They were the first to articulate the cosmopolitan theory, often stating that all humans were “citizens of the world” (Appiah, 2006). Kwame Appiah, in his 2006 book, Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers, presents this ancient philosophy, talks about the history of the theory and discusses how it influenced Enlightenment thought, manifesting itself in proposals and works such as Kant’s League of Nations and the Declaration of the Rights of Man. Much of Appiah’s work focuses on cosmopolitanism and the role it plays in contemporary world society.

    Cosmopolitanism is grounded by two principles. First is the idea that humans have responsibilities to other humans beyond those responsibilities based on citizenship or personal relationships. The second grounding point focuses on understanding other cultures; even though one may not personally agree with a belief in another culture, the entire culture should not be dismissed as wrong, but instead an attempt should be made to understand it (Appiah). A point of cultural relativism is present in this, stating that even if a culture is not understood by someone it does not cease to have meaning. Cultural relativism refers to the idea that a person’s beliefs and behaviors should be seen and understood through his or her own culture (Marcus & Fischer, 1986).

    Cultural, linguistic, economic, social and political differences exist between nations, and their relative permanence can sometimes be hard to understand. These differences cannot be ignored, but the world must learn to accept them and overcome them in order to successfully cooperate. Most people have gained their values through conditioning and inherited beliefs, so different cultures will most likely never agree on everything. The world’s cultures, however, should be able to discuss their beliefs (Appiah, 2006).

    Cosmopolitanism balances our obligations to others with the value of particular human lives. A big part of cosmopolitanism, as some see it, is helping those in need around the world. Even Appiah devotes a section in his book to international aid organizations such as UNICEF and how their efforts are futile in the long run, but balances it by stating the importance of immediate action they impart. Economic development in the third world, along with political development, would be the best way to aid our fellow world citizens, which would best be accomplished through the Western capitalism-democracy model (Appiah ,2006).

    Global institutions often develop bad reputations in today’s political climate, especially those of an economic nature. Institutions such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the World Trade Organization, and the Group of Eight have been accused of neocolonialism and even neonationalism. Young people throughout the world have largely been the initiators of rallies and protests against economic globalization and the exploitation of lesser developed nations. These youth social movements pertaining to globalism have proven that young people in South America (and worldwide) have opinions on globalism which are strong enough to inspire activism (Mayo, 2005).

    While observing Latin America, and the Andean region specifically, it is important to consider regionalism, a political ideology which can be said to be in between globalism and nationalism in that it places the interests of a region first. A “region” consists of multiple political entities that are brought together in a single region by a common history, language or ancestry. When observing the region through a more anthropological lens, it becomes clear how the geopolitical divisions of this large cooperative region do not accurately represent the flow of people and culture (Stephen, 2007). This region cannot be properly analyzed using container theory, which presents stricter boundaries between societies, usually associated with political borders or cultural separations (Beck, 2000). Although container theory is clearly not the best way to view and analyze an Andean country, the idea of boundaries cannot be completely dismissed. It is important to still consider the existence of “nations” because of the nationalism present throughout the histories of most South American countries and its still discernible effects (Stephen, 2007).


    The new Bolivian Constitution is a response to over a decade of dissatisfaction with the old constitutional text. President Morales’ Constitutional Committee drafted a new governing document in 2008, and it was promulgated in February of this year. The controversial approval was preceded by a series of protests, which were largely led by young Bolivians in both urban and rural settings, who were dissatisfied with the product of the Constitutional Committee. Many believe it was the premature result of a great compromise, sort of Morales’ attempt to leave his mark on history (Molina, 2009).

    The first big change in the new text is in indigenous rights. Under the new supreme law, aborigines’ governmental systems are recognized, as well as their customary laws. One of the more debatable issues is the decentralization of the government. More power and autonomy will be held instead in the regional, municipal, departmental, and tribal levels. There is an apparent incompleteness of the text in land policy, sustainability and other aspects, but this would be best dealt with using statutory law (Molina, 2009). The president, once limited to one five-year, can now serve multiple terms. This applies to Morales and might be interpreted as an attempt to seize of power (Constitucíon, 2009).

    Bolivians have a history of using reactive policy and patchwork constitutional reforms. These have not resolved the larger issues in historical Bolivia nor in contemporary Bolivia (Molina, 2009). However, the new Constitution is not just “old-style political accommodation;” it is more of a comprehensive reform taking a refreshingly new stance on issues such as indigenous rights, especially for a Latin American country.

    The Constitution appears to make a series of strictly nationalistic changes when reading it for the first time (Constitucíon, 2009). However, after understanding the way in which MAS thinks about cosmopolitanism and nationalism, it is observable that these changes incorporate a mixed version of modified cosmopolitan, regional, and national beliefs and intentions, which —in their written product — appear to work in perfect harmony (Goodale, 2006).

    Lyons and Tilling’s (2004) research into popular youth attitudes to globalisation in Australia gauges and indexes public opinion towards globalization. Their method consists of asking senior year high school students to identify international organizations—such as the UN, WTO and GATS—and state which influences Australia the most. They then graph the responses to place the respondents on a nationalistic-globalist spectrum. I replicated their methodology in ascribing a position to respondents. However, I also incorporated qualitative data into my analysis of their positionality.

    Research Design

    The research involved polling young Bolivians aged 18 to 27. Interview questions were designed to ascertain their stance on globalism and their opinions and expectations of the new Constitution. The research attempts to link their globalist/nationalist perspective to their opinion of the new Constitution. Originally the working hypothesis supposed that nationalistic Bolivians would have a more positive opinion of the constitution than those with a more global perception. This expectation was due in part to the nationalistic provisions within the new constitutional text. However, after reinvestigating articles in the New Constitution of the State (2009) and conducting further literature research from secondary sources, I understood that the Movement to Socialism (MAS) party also incorporated modified and mixed cosmopolitan ideas. As Goodale (2006) explains in his insightful article, the “cosmopolitanism of MAS illustrates … bringing together both multiple—and competing—cosmopolitanisms and noncosmopolitan regional—and even national—frames of reference” (2006, p. 635).

    Young Bolivians were contacted online using the social networking websites Facebook and hi5. Social networking websites are online communities of people who interact with one another using popular technology among young people. The latter, hi5, is in fairly wide usage throughout Latin America. Bolivians were initially found using the search function on the networking websites and eventually large groups of Bolivians were found. Possible participants were contacted using the private message function on the networking sites, asking them to participate in the study by completing an online survey. The surveys consisted of twenty-five questions; ten of these were demographic. Through the questions, the study attempts to gauge globalism and understand which constitutional changes young people support and which they oppose.


    Overall, most people polled were dissatisfied with the new Constitution. The responses to the question “What do you think about the new Constitution?” were as follows: 50% strongly opposed, 40% opposed, 0% neither in favor nor opposed, 10% in favor, and 0% strongly in favor. On a scale of one to five, with one being completely in favor and five being completely opposed, the mean opinion on the new Constitution was 4.3. Regarding the current government, the responses to the question “What do you think about Bolivia’s current government?” were as follows: 60% strongly opposed, 20% opposed, 10% neither in favor nor opposed, 0% in favor, and 10% strongly in favor. The mean opinion of the current government is 4.2 on the same five-point scale.

    Regarding supranational institutionalism, most responses were on the globalist side on a scale of one to five, one representing completely against and five completely in support. The mean response for global institutions was 4.38. The institutions used for the purpose of gauging this aspect were the United Nations, the World Trade Organization and the International Court of Justice. This number means the average response is very much in support of globalism, assuming that support for international organizations is support for globalism. The qualitative data collected in relation to this question shows that this is in fact the case for most respondents; they stated the importance of international “openness,” “mutual respect,” and “closeness.” The mean response for regional institutions—such as the Organization of American States and regional trade blocks—was 3.5. This lower approval of regional institutions was accounted for by the participants; a few stated that they felt Bolivia gained less from participation in the OAS and the Andean Trade Community than from their membership in the United Nations. One participant specifically blamed the OAS for “looking the other way” in the constitutional referendum, which he claimed to be “election fraud.” In order to measure young Bolivians’ opinions on this matter, they were asked to give their overall opinion on the institutions, as well as on Bolivia’s participation in and the effect on Bolivia. This shows that young Bolivians are more in favor (0.88 points on a five-point scale) of global institutions than of regional institutions.

    Although the above data might suggest that public opinion is spread across the five-point continuum scale, the model of the sample collected is actually more dichotomous. Nine of the respondents could be safely placed into either the nationalist or globalist/cosmopolitan categories, only one falling in the “middle” or “moderate” part of the spectrum. This specific participant happens to stand alone in supporting the new Constitution and current government, and even claims to be “in favor of everything written in the New Political Constitution of the State.” This response, and the reasoning behind it, is clear when considering the mixed cosmopolitan and nationalist aspects present in the constitutional text. An example of this is the sometimes contradictory articles which state the “great importance” of international cooperation along with the “great importance” of a more Bolivia-comes-first ideal (Goodale, 2005). This is interpreted by Bolivians as either nationalistic or globalist and not as the mix or compromise that it is.

    Further individual respondent analysis proves Goodale’s point on mixed aspects and how tightly the MAS party has intertwined them in the new Constitution. Participants who exhibited more nationalistic qualities cited the global aspects within the constitution as the points which were “wrong” or with which they disagreed; additionally, two participants simply responded by saying that the new text “and the current government are anti-national.” Participants who identified more with a cosmopolitan viewpoint pointed out the nationalistic tendencies in the new Constitution and identified them as too national; one respondent stated that the government and Constitution “follow a path of … bad relations with neighboring countries [and] give us a terrible international image.”

    General discontent exists among Bolivia’s youth regarding the new Constitution. Although criticism of it comes from both globalists and nationalists, those on the globalist side of the spectrum are likely to be more opposed to the new Constitution (more often selecting very opposed rather than just opposed) than those on the nationalist side. Overall, however, young Bolivians are likely to disagree with the new constitutional text because of the mixed, not clearly separated, and sometimes competing values inserted into the text.

    Population and Limitations

    The methods used in this research study expectedly filtered the study population. Because the study was conducted entirely in Spanish, those who do not understand the language or have trouble with it (e.g. many indigenous peoples in rural areas, who make up around half of Bolivia’s population) would not have been able to participate. The thinnest respondent filter in the study, however, was created by using internet-based recruiting and polling. The Internet is easily accessed in Bolivia’s urban areas, but access is very limited in rural areas. Furthermore, only those in the city that are computer-literate and can afford home internet service or a visit to an internet café could be reached. This limits the population to metropolitan youth who are most likely middle-class and educated.

    These predictions proved true in analyzing the ten survey responses collected in the course of the study. All of these respondents lived in an urban area (nine in cities of over one million residents and one in a city of 600,000 residents). Of the respondents, 80% were mestizo and 20% were white. As far as education, 40% had completed high school and 60% had completed a college degree or higher. All of them used Spanish as their primary language. Seven respondents were male and three female. Considering the respondents’ backgrounds, they are not representative of Bolivian youth as a whole. This research, however, does not cease to be valid in its analysis of young middle to upper class, urban, educated Bolivians’ opinions on globalism and the recent constitutional changes.

    Another limitation to this as an anthropological study was the exclusive use of online surveying as a data collection method. As an effect of using this methodology, the data obtained were mostly quantitative. Also, it affected the research by eliminating the possibility of asking follow-up questions in order to more deeply analyze the responses. The survey did, however, include five open response questions, which were helpful in analyzing the respondent data. In redoing the study, I would broaden the data collection techniques used in order to obtain a much greater amount of qualitative data for analysis.


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    Table 1: Bolivian Population Facts

    Bolivian Population Facts
    Population: 9,863,000
    Growth rate: 1.5% 
    Life expectancy: 65 years
      Females: 68 years 
      Males: 63
    Median age: 21.8 years
      Females: 22.5 years
      Males: 21.2 years

    Note: Data are from the CIA World Factbook

    Figure 1: Bolivian Age Pyramid

    Lule-Hurtado Figure 1