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Rethinking Venezuelan Politics: Class, Conflict, and the Chavez Phenomenon

Steve Ellner
Rethinking Venezuelan Politics: Class, Conflict, and the Chavez Phenomenon
ISBN: 978-1-58826-560-9
ISBN: 978-1-58826-699-6
2008/257 pages/LC: 2007042196
Also of interest: Venezuelan Politics in the Chavez Era edited by Steve Ellener and Daniel Hellinger and Venezuela's Polarized Politics by Ana L. Mallén and María Pilar García-Guadilla
"A refreshing read on a subject that has involved so much polemic."—George Philip, Bulletin of Latin American Research

"Few scholars ... have the scope and breadth that Ellner exhibits in his rendering of recent Venezuelan political history."—Jeffery R. Webber, Against the Current

"A welcome alternative to the often polemical treatments of Chávez's Venezuela, either for or against."—Jennifer McCoy, Latin American Politics and Society

"Should be regarded as essential reading for all serious students of the Bolivarian process."—Diana Raby, Journal of Latin American Studies

"[Ellner’s book] constitutes perhaps the most important contribution to Venezuelan politics in the last few years."—Kurt Weyland, Political Science Quarterly

"In this eminently readable work, [Ellner] challenges both the standard historiography of the Venezuelan past and offers a more nuanced reading of the import of the socio-economic and political transformations of the Chávez years."—Philip Chrimes, International Affairs

"Well thought-out and presented. This is a major work.... A watershed in academic work on Venezuela and Latin America overall."—Kim Scipes, Mrzine Monthly Review

"A nuanced, essential source for grasping not only the nature of Chavismo, but also the dynamics of Venezuelan political history."—Choice


In this fresh look at Venezuelan politics, Steve Ellner emphasizes the central significance of the country's economic and social cleavages.

Ellner's journey through modern Venezuelan history—observing popular masses and social actors as much as political elites and formal institutions—fundamentally informs his analysis of Hugo Chávez's presidency and the "Bolivarian Revolution" at its core. Perhaps equally important, as he explores the rise of Chavismo, opposition within the country and abroad, internal tensions in the Chavista movement, and the trajectory of the Chávez government domestically and on the international stage, he sheds new light not only on Venezuela, but also on the recent political turmoil elsewhere in Latin America.


Steve Ellner is professor of history at the Universidad de Oriente in Venezuela. His recent publications include Neoliberalismo y Anti-Neoliberalismo en América Latina and Venezuela: Hugo Chávez and the Decline of an "Exceptional Democracy" (coedited with Miguel Tinker Salas).


  • Foreword—Kenneth Roberts.
  • Introduction: Rethinking Venezuelan Politics.
  • From the Colonial Period to 1958: A Brief Overview.
  • Venezuela's "Model" Democracy, 1958-1989.
  • Neoliberal Reforms and Political Crisis, 1989-1999.
  • The Four Stages of the Chávez Presidency.
  • Conflicting Currents in the Chávez Movement.
  • The Chávez Movement's Top-Down and Grassroots Approaches.
  • The Chávez Government in the International Arena.
  • Conclusion.