Theory and Society

, Volume 44, Issue 5, pp 445–470 | Cite as

Reiterated problem solving in neoliberal and counter-neoliberal shifts: the case of Bolivia’s hydrocarbon sector



Scholars examining neoliberalization often attribute its resilience to powerful actors’ access to resources and their ability to embed their interests in local, national, and global forms of governance. While scholars have recognized how less powerful actors attempt to resist processes of neoliberalization, observations of emergent alternatives have been more limited. In this article I argue that scholars’ focus upon the resilience of neoliberalization has often caused them to overlook the resilience of older and alternative forms of socioeconomic organization that can underpin the power of less powerful actors and serve as the foundation for counter-neoliberal shifts. I suggest that one way to resolve this oversight is through the use of a reiterated problem solving approach. Such an approach can help scholars to better historicize neoliberal and counter-neoliberal turns and recognize the ability of a greater array of actors to influence socioeconomic change. To demonstrate the utility of such an approach in studies of neoliberalization and counter-neoliberalization, I examine Bolivia’s hydrocarbon sector—or what could be called Bolivia’s enduring hydrocarbon problem—over the past century.


Neoliberalization Post-neoliberalization Reiterated problem solving Bolivia Oil Natural gas 



I gratefully acknowledge Amy A. Quark and the Theory & Society Editors and reviewers for providing pointed critiques of this manuscript. I also thank Adam Slez, Thomas J. Linneman, and Jennifer Bickham Mendez for engaging in useful discussions about historical methods and social movements. Over the years, the Social Science Research Council, the National Science Foundation, and the Fulbright Institute of International Education have generously funded my research on this project.


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyCollege of William & MaryWilliamsburgUSA

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