Popular Power, Agency and Communes in Venezuela

Anderson Bean

Advisor: John G. Dale, PhD, Department of Sociology and Anthropology

Committee Members: Lester Kurtz, Peter Mandaville, George Ciccarielle-Maher

Research Hall, #302
April 20, 2017, 11:00 AM to 08:00 AM


Since 2006, over 44,000 grassroots neighborhood-based communal councils and 1,400 communes have been constructed in Venezuela.  These councils are permanent governing structures that bring together members of community organizations from poor neighborhoods around issues like access to clean water, electricity, healthcare, and education.  Communes are larger bodies of popular power and collections of communal councils that operate to make more long term decisions and decisions that affect larger geographic areas.  Drawing on qualitative interviews with council and commune organizers and participant observations at communal council and commune activities and assemblies, this dissertation analyzes popular and workers’ power, the ways in which networks of popular power exercise agency in their own development, and the potential these networks have for state and societal transformation that extends beyond Venezuela.  Most importantly, this study explores the far reaching implications that the communal movement in Venezuela has for building a society more responsive to the needs of ordinary people than to those of elites.