Praying for Government: Peasant Disengagement from the Bolivian State*


  • *

     Joint Winner of the Harold Blakemore Prize, 2005.


This article explores peasants' experiences of the state in the Toracari valley, Northern Potosí, suggesting that such an analysis may shed light on the absence of political unrest among substantial segments of Bolivia's indigenous population. So long as Toracari peasants imagine the fetish of a benevolent (national) Government that one cannot fight, they associate local public offices with the small-scale mestizo landlords who hold these positions, rather than with Government. Recognition of this distinction should caution scholars against employing the concept of ‘State’ as a system that includes all levels of government and state officials. Use of that concept may obstruct serious research into the power of local elites such as the landlords.