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Reinventing the Left(s) in El Salvador and Nicaragua: Revolutionary Legacies, Movement-State Negotiations, and Competing Projects of Governance

Burridge, Daniel (2023) Reinventing the Left(s) in El Salvador and Nicaragua: Revolutionary Legacies, Movement-State Negotiations, and Competing Projects of Governance. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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As examples of leftist “pink tide” governments in Latin America, the administrations of the FMLN in El Salvador (2009-2019) and the FSLN (Sandinistas) in Nicaragua (2006-present) have seldom been studied, despite constituting the contemporary political manifestations of two of the most frequently studied cases of revolution. The revolutionary leaders of the 1980s attained state power through democratic elections during the 2000s, while their popular bases formed a diversity of social movements in democratic contexts. But after roughly a decade of leftist rule in the two countries—punctuated by electoral defeats in 2018-19 that jettisoned the FMLN from political power, and the Sandinista government’s use of brutal repression to quell peaceful popular rebellion in 2018, ending all semblances of democracy—it was clear that the left was in crisis. In consonance with regional trends, I argue that this “crisis” of the left also marked its reinvention. In both organizational and ideological terms, social movements grounded in revolutionary traditions but nourished by “new” discourses of collective liberation (including feminism, environmentalism, peace building, and autonomy) are reinventing not only “leftist” politics, but democratic politics more generally, and forging innovative practices that illuminate new horizons for social change. My extensive ethnographic fieldwork demonstrates how and why these practices and horizons look quite different in the two countries, but also how movement-led projects of governance are now at the forefront of leftist politics. In El Salvador, the FMLN’s relative openness enabled movement-state negotiations leading to “critical collaboration” and “co-governance” on certain issues, cross-party cooperation at local levels on others, and a downward displacement of political power toward social movement actors on still others. In Nicaragua by contrast, the Ortega regime’s authoritarianism closed all spaces for negotiation and demonized autonomous movements, leading to movements’ efforts for “self-managed” projects of governance in certain sectors. While myriad obstacles and contradictions—including “NGO-ization”, state authoritarianism, various sources of violence, and internal movement hierarchies—continue to threaten popular agendas, post-revolutionary leftist politics in Central America are increasingly feminist, environmentalist, and movement-led, as well as more flexible and autonomous vis a vis traditional political structures, and more internally egalitarian.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Burridge, Danieldpb36@pitt.edudpb36
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairMarkoff, Johnjm2@pitt.edujm2
Committee MemberSmith, Jackiejgsmith@pitt.edujgsmith
Committee MemberBamyeh, Mohammedmab205@pitt.edumab205
Committee MemberGobat, MichelMGOBAT@pitt.eduMGOBAT
Date: 12 May 2023
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 6 April 2023
Approval Date: 12 May 2023
Submission Date: 11 April 2023
Access Restriction: 1 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 1 year.
Number of Pages: 263
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Sociology
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Social Movements, Leftist Governments, Latin America, El Salvador, Nicaragua,
Date Deposited: 12 May 2023 19:28
Last Modified: 12 May 2023 19:28


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