Dilemmas of Modernity

Dilemmas of Modernity provides an innovative approach to the study of contemporary Bolivia, moving telescopically between social, political, legal, and discursive analyses, and drawing from a range of disciplinary traditions. Based on a decade of research, it offers an account of local encounters with law and liberalism. The books presents, through a series of finely grained readings, a window into the lives of people in rural areas of Latin America who are playing a crucial role in the emergence of postcolonial states.

The book contends that the contemporary Bolivian experience is best understood by examining historical patterns of intention as they emerge from everyday practices. It provides a compelling case study of the appropriation and reconstruction of transnational law at the local level, and gives key insights into this important South American country.

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“This book is an important read for scholars who are attempting to unpack the discrepancy between the utopian goals and often horrific effects of liberalism. . . [T]his is a thought-provoking analysis of the paradoxes of liberalism from an anthropologist who has spent more than a decade of research in Bolivia. Goodale’s book is an important contribution to critical legal studies and will be read by scholars seeking to gain an ethnographic purchase on the ways in which ideas—liberalism and legalism—materially affect people’s everyday lives.”

Miriam Shakow, American Ethnologist

“Goodale is certainly correct to avoid characterizing the optimistic testimony of marginalized Bolivians as false consciousness. Their very historical invisibility is what makes human rights discourse such an attractive tool of empowerment. The concept of rights is the main marker of citizenship, inclusion, and visibility, and as such it provides the foundation for envisioning oneself as a modern subject capable of struggling for actual equality. How Bolivians will ultimately transform their nation remains to be seen, but Goodale’s book provides a compelling invitation for considering the possibilities. Goodale tells the tale of the idea of the emancipatory potential of law as a phenomenon of modernity. And through this narrative he invites us all to witness the beginning of a fascinating new chapter in Bolivian history.”

Tanya Hernández, Canadian Journal of Latin American & Caribbean Studies