MANIFESTING THE PEOPLE'S WILL: INSTITUTIONAL CHANGE AND
PROTESTS IN COLOMBIA (1958-2002)
MARCELA VELASCO JARAMILLO
Boston University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, 2006
Major Professor: Christine H. Rossell, Professor of Political Science
The study of contentious politics is an emerging area of research in political science that explores informal politics (i.e. strikes and protests) as opposed to formal politics (i.e. voting or lobbying) in order to understand the complex relationships between states and societies. This dissertation examines why social contention (work stoppages, protests and takeovers led by workers, urban residents, peasants and students) continued unabated after the 1991 constitutional reform aimed at liberalizing politics in Colombia. I use qualitative and quantitative methods to test the following four hypotheses over the time period from 1964 to 2000: 1) as citizen and state capacities decline over time, social contention increases; 2) as time passes, social contention increases; 3) the 1991 Constitution had no effect on contentious politics; and 4) regimes that increase political participation will decrease contention.
State capacity is the level of control exercised by state agents over people, activities, and resources within the government's territorial jurisdiction, and in the international arena. Citizen capacity is defined as the polity members' capacity to access economic and political resources and shape public policy. Factor analysis was used to create these indices. The dissertation uses multi-variate time series regression analysis to test the hypotheses by analyzing the relationship from 1964 to 2000 between social contention and trends in citizen and state capacity, the 1991 Constitution, and the influence of different political regimes. The dissertation also uses historical data to discuss the relationship between state and citizen capacities from 1958 until 2000.
Hypothesis 1 is validated, although the state capacity variables have a stronger relationship with social contention than does citizen capacity. Hypothesis 2 is not validated—there is no significant relationship between the passage of time and social contention, but including time in the equation reveals the strength of the citizen capacity variable in one equation. Hypothesis 3—that there is no relationship between the 1991 Constitution and social contention—is validated by this research. Finally, hypothesis 4 is not validated at all—in fact regimes that increase political participation also increase social contention.