The Bolivian constitution of 2009 has been classified as one of the most progressive in the world regarding indigenous rights. The indigenous principles of Suma Qamaña/Vivir Bien/Good Living on the harmonious relationship between humans and nature are established in the constitution. Nonetheless, these rights clash with the constitutionally recognised rights of the nation state to extract and commercialise natural resources (mainly hydrocarbons and mining) under the banner of redistributive justice, welfare reforms and the common good, in this study labelled the dilemma of extractive development. The article is based on ethnographic fieldwork and combines a political economy perspective on the extractive dilemma, while similarly examining the tensions between ethnically defined rights in relation to broader human rights in terms of values and norms related to welfare and conditions of living. The ethnic identity is multifaceted in Bolivia. Large segments of the indigenous population prefer to identify in class terms. The class-ethnicity tensions have altered throughout history, according to changing socio-economic, cultural and political settings. A central argument is that, during Evo Morales' presidency, class-based human rights in practice tend to be superior to the ethnically defined rights, as a reflection of the dilemma of extractive development.


Bolivia, constitutionalism, ethnic rights, extractivism, identity, politics, indigeneity, indigenous peoples, resource governance, social rights

Link to the publication