Vivir Bien/ Buen Vivir and post-neoliberal development paths in Latin America: Scope, strategies and the realities of implementation

Issue Editors: Kepa Artaraz; Melania Calestani; Mei L. Trueba
This is a preliminary call. A final version will be posted soon.
Neoliberalism has economic, political, socio-cultural and environmental consequences that are known to cause important unbalances across the globe. The financial crisis that began in 2008 in the economic centres of the global North is quickly spreading to Low and Middle Income Countries (LMICs), including much of Latin America. Political leaders around the world are unable to confront the contradictions of market-led forms of development that deepen socioeconomic inequalities, while unsustainably extracting the natural resources required to maintain consumption-driven forms of economic growth. Economic growth, on the other hand, appears to be the prerequisite for responding to immediate local needs and bringing social groups, and entire countries, out of poverty. Awareness of, and resistance to, the structural inconsistencies of the neoliberal globalisation project has emerged at the margins led by people from countries at the so-called ‘periphery of the world system’. It is a resistance that has, in some cases, emerged from civil society and not led by traditional political and economic elites.

Having survived the lost decade of the 1980s and beyond, Latin America perfectly illustrates the crisis of legitimacy of the neoliberal revolution and the socio-political counter-revolution of civil society-led alternatives. It is in this context that we are witnessing innovative ideas emerge from communities and subjects that have historically been economically, politically and culturally marginalised. Latin America’s upheaval and contestation finds its roots in indigenous epistemologies – epistemologies of the south – and practices. It is an epistemic revolution as much as one of practice. Where indigenous groups have become a newly empowered political subject – such as in Bolivia – the repercussion of these political transitions includes the insertion of indigenous knowledge and practices in the roadmap for alternative, ‘refounded’, versions of these societies. As such, both Bolivia and Ecuador have seen the introduction of indigenous concepts of Vivir Bien or Buen Vivir into their respective constitutions, national development plans and public policies. Versions of the concept have also gained salience in other Latin American countries, from Venezuela to Nicaragua.

Vivir Bien is here understood to as a catch-all concept for multiple specific terms with their intricate meanings and policy ‘translations’. The concept aims to include for example, Suma Qamaña as is used in Bolivia, Buen vivir/Sumac Kawsay as is referred to in Ecuador, Vivir Bonito as is called in its Nicaraguan version, etc. The important point is the way in which concepts of the ‘good life’ that belong to alternative epistemic traditions have become central drivers in policy processes designed to move these societies into uncharted waters away from neoliberalism in order to build well-being. However, the multiple variants of Vivir Bien, or the struggle for hegemonic control of their meaning, may also be the source of conflict between different groups of society. We are therefore keen on capturing these different narratives, and on exploring how the various interpretations of the Vivir Bien concept may lead to challenges of policy implementation.

This special issue invites academics to explore: i. the multifaceted meanings of Vivir Bien ; ii. this concept’s significance and potential as a driver of post-neoliberal development paths; iii. the presence of Vivir Bien in  policy making frameworks across Latin America and the realities of implementation; iv. whether Vivir Bien  may be meaningful beyond indigenous communities, on national  and/or international scales.

The focus is on the core elements of Vivir Bien, including harmony with nature, sustainability, and collective/relational well-being (Thomson 2011; Vanhulst and Beling 2014; Ramos et al. 2014). The issue at stake concerns viability, and the successes or challenges of translating theoretical meanings of Vivir Bien into practice. We are interested in empirical case studies on efforts to implement variants of Vivir Bien accompanied by theoretical discussions. These may address political, economic, cultural, technological, and/or other obstacles to implementation, including domestic and international issues. Studies can focus on a single country or offer comparative analysis between different countries and/or regions.

At a time of fierce global competitions, unbalances and poor environmental consideration, Vivir Bien reminds us of the relevance of the interaction of humans and nature in a way that resembles the theoretical standpoint of Gaia (Lovelock 1983) and builds on existing qualitative measures such as the Human Development Index (HDI). We are also interested in exploring whether Vivir Bien is in competition with other qualitative alternatives in the international effort to redefine the economic good and development (Gudynas, 2011). What is the potential for the emergence of a post-capitalist paradigm? (Farah and Vasapollo, 2011).

 We welcome submissions in multiple areas of Vivir Bien research, including:

  1. Policy implications of the new societies heralded by Vivir Bien: for example, attempts to put the concept into practice in the fields of economics, politics, welfare, health care, education, agriculture, development and environmental sustainability.
  2. What are the practical contradictions and limitations to the construction of post-neoliberal alternatives in Latin America?
  3. Are the new policies based on the Vivir Bien paradigm successful in overcoming the historical socioeconomic and cultural inequalities of the Latin American region?
  4. Are there current projects or future prospects for building a North-South alliance based on Vivir Bien to resist neoliberal globalization?
  5. How is the relationship between the state and citizens affected by the concept of Vivir Bien?
  6. How is Vivir Bien translated into practice and with what impact for people’s wellbeing in everyday life?
  7. Can these alternatives based on Vivir Bien be applied internationally? Are they relevant in countries without large indigenous populations? Is Vivir Bien in competition with other qualitative alternatives in the international effort of redefining the economic good and development?
  8. Vivir Bien and the development of new social policy and welfare mechanisms in Latin America.
  9. Vivir Bien in relation to development policy and practice; in particular, sustainable development concepts and rural development strategies such as agro-ecology. Does it underlay meaningful post-neoliberalism or a reinvented form of neoliberalism in the context of neo-extractivist development policies?
  10. Implications of Vivir Bien for regionalist formations and other forms of people’s solidarities in Latin America.

Submitting Manuscripts

To avoid duplication of content, please contact the issue editor to let him know of your interest in submitting and your proposed topic. We encourage submission as soon as possible but this call will remain open as long as it is posted on the LAP web site.

Manuscripts should be no longer than 8,000 words of paginated, double-spaced 12 point text with 1 inch margins, including notes and references, using the LAP Style Guidelines available at under the “Submit” tab where the review process is also described.   Manuscripts should be consistent with the LAP Mission Statement available on the web site under the “About” tab.

Manucripts may be submitted in English, Spanish, or Portuguese. If you do not write in English with near native fluency, please submit in your first language.  LAP will translate manuscripts accepted in languages other than English. If you are not submitting in English, please indicate if you will have difficulty reading reviews and/or correspondence from the LAP office in English.

Please feel free to contact the issue editor with questions pertaining to the issue but all manuscripts should be submitted directly to the LAP office, not to the issue editor. A manuscript is not considered submitted until it has been received by the LAP office.  You should receive acknowledgment of receipt of your manuscript within a few days.  If you do not receive an acknowledgment from LAP after one week, please send a follow-up inquiry to be sure your submission arrived.

E-mail Submissions: send to lap@ucr with subject line: MS for Vivir Bien issue

  • Please attach your manuscript as a Word Document (doc or docx)
  • Include: Abstract (100 words), 5 Keywords, and a separate cover page with short author affiliations (less than 130 words) and complete contact information (e-mail, postal address, telephone).
  • Postal correspondence may be sent to: Managing Editor, Latin American Perspectives¸ P.O. Box 5703, Riverside, California 92517-5703.

For an article with more than one author, provide contact information for all authors but designate one person as the Corresponding Author who will receive correspondence from the LAP office.  If any contact information changes while your manuscript is under consideration, please send the updated information to LAP promptly.

Submission of a manuscript implies commitment to publish in the journal. Authors should not submit a manuscript that has been previously published in English in identical or substantially similar form nor should they simultaneously submit it or a substantially similar manuscript to another journal in English.  LAP will consider manuscripts that have been published in another language, usually with updating.  Prior publication should be noted, along with the publication information.

Issue editor contact information:
Kepa Artaraz –