On the Insufficiency of Procedure: Assessments of Bolivarian Democracy

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Virginia Tech

The scholarly debate on Venezuela's democratic character has become tremendously polarized since the election of Hugo Chavez in 1998. This starkly divided debate has demonstrable impact on the policy realm, as well as the scholarly literature on democratic theory. This debate has run along ideological lines and has focused on differing conceptualizations of normative democracy, namely representative and participatory avenues of democratic engagement. Beyond providing an impactful analysis of this academic debate, this thesis works to supply an Arendtian defense of participation as a potential lense to assess Venezuela's democratic character. I will effectively argue that scholars should return to traditional conceptualizations of democratic theory, such as Arendt's, in order to provide richer and more substantial empirical assessments of democratic performance in light of the multitude of recent experimentations in democratic praxis that has swept the world. This project is relevant to both the scholarly community, as well as the policy realm.

Democratic Theory, Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, Hannah Arendt