The Coca Boom and Rural Social Change in Bolivia

Harry Sanabria
Examines the socioeconomic ramifications of a Bolivian peasant community's progressive incorporation into the international cocaine market


The Coca Boom and Rural Social Change in Bolivia is an exploration of a Bolivian peasant community's progressive incorporation into the international cocaine market. Harry Sanabria clarifies the contemporary struggle over the control of coca in Bolivia, asks why it surfaced, and illuminates what it means to the peasants themselves to be producing a valuable, "illicit" product for consumption primarily by North Americans.

With the faltering of Bolivia's economy in the 1970s, the elite agrarian class seized control of the cocaine trade. Concurrently, policies intended to keep down the cost of foodstuffs in the urban marketplace made the cultivation of such crops unprofitable. By arguing that these changes in local economic structures were necessary responses to the impact of external programs and policies, Sanabria links the changing social conditions of this rural highland community to regional, national, and international events. The Coca Boom and Rural Social Change in Bolivia demonstrates that despite widespread economic and social disruptiveness of the international cocaine trade on this community, the peasants have no real alternative.

Praise / Awards

  • ". . . the best empirical documentation to date on the appeal of coca production (and subsequent stages in the elaboration of cocaine) for Andean peasants with no other viable source of livelihood."
    —Jim Weil, Marquette University
  • "This is an important study that reinforces the point that the Bolivian peasant is not a villain, but in fact the victim of other people's addictions and the failure of past development strategies."
    British Bulletin of Publications
  • ". . . a reasoned critique of current narcotics and economic development policies in Bolivia, strategies largely devised and implemented by foreign policymakers."
  • ". . . Provides interesting and informative analyses of the larger political, economic, and cultural institutions that led many peasant farmers to participate in the global drug economy."
    —Michael Steinberg, Culture and Agriculture, Volume 23, No. 2 (2001)
  • ". . . a good and most welcome book. [Sanabria] has a penetrating knowledge of Bolivia and the role of coca. He has given us a solid and balanced study in clear and well-organized prose."
    Journal of Developing Areas
  • ". . . presents a remarkable collection of bibliographical and fieldwork data. . . ."
    Latin American Research Review

Look Inside


1. Introduction     1
2. The Regional and Local Landscape     21
3. Coca and the Politics of Development     37
4. Mobility, Inequality, and Wealth     63
5. Mobility and Access to Land     93
6. Production and Land Use     117
7. The Deployment of Agricultural Labor     145
8. Epilogue: 1985-92     167
9. Local Actions and Global Paradigms     193


Appendix 1: Fieldwork Methods     211
Appendix 2: Annual Precipitation in Colomi, 1977-81 (in millimeters)     219
Appendix 3: Monthly Temperatures in Colomi, 1981-83 (in centigrade)     221

Notes     223
Glossary     241
Bibliography     245
Index     273

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 296pp.
  • tables, maps.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 1993
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-10313-3

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  • $94.95 U.S.