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Socialism of the 21st Century and Its Implications on Participatory Democracy

Gomez Antolinez, Enmanuel Rolando
Socialism of the 21st century accords life to participatory democracy that differs from representative democracy by encouraging citizens not just to vote, but also to be a part of the political decision-making process during elections. Limited research has been evidenced to focus on participatory democracy and most of it pertains to only exploring the meaning of it as a theory (Funch and Zittel 2002, Pellizoni 2003, Paterman 2012). In fact, existing research fails to account for the impact of this model on the practice of participatory democracy in South America or its comparison with the neoliberal policies. The purpose of this research is to study the hallmark of 21st century socialism: Participatory democracy. In particular, the paper examines delegative democracy, which entails citizens functioning actively in the political process and elected representatives, necessarily following the will of the people. This study aims to measure the levels of participatory democracy in Bolivia and Venezuela. In order to achieve this objective, the study conducts a comparative assessment of Bolivia and Venezuela (two countries with progressive economic policies) with Colombia and Peru (two countries with neoliberal economic policies), for the period 2004-2014. The specified time period covers much of Hugo Chavez's time in office in Venezuela, as well as the first years of Bolivia's left-wing president, Evo Morales. Bolivia, Venezuela, Colombia, and Peru, in fact, share many similarities (e.g., population, demography, and political system) but differ in one key respect: Political system. Comparing these countries, as such, allows optimally to examine whether socialism for the 21st century results in higher levels of political participation for Bolivia and Venezuela.