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Between Marxplaining and Solidarity: The Moral Logics of Venezuela's Populist Divide



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Subbiah, Parvathi 


This thesis examines the ‘moral logic’ implicit in populist ‘divides’—radical social polarisation— by looking at the case of crisis-ridden Venezuela. I examine Venezuela’s divide from the ‘ground-up’: through the eyes of two confronted groups residing abroad: non-Venezuelan supporters of the Maduro government (‘solidarity activists’), who blame the US for Venezuela’s crisis; and Venezuelan migrants, who have left Venezuela at different points in the last 20 years, and blame the government. The divide coerces understandings of democracy, race relations, ‘the people,’ sovereignty, human rights, even colonialism and imperialism. Both discourses hold these to be values to be protected, or conversely ‘wrongs’ to be shunned; conflict arises from respective discursiveconstructionsthat set differing hierarchies or priorities to those values. Both groups can forgo some of their less prioritised values, in the belief that having their side prevail is ultimately what is ‘good’ for Venezuela in the long-term: either keeping or dismantling Chavismo. Central to the Venezuelan divide, then, are different knowledges and epistemologies of oppression, inflicted suffering, well-being and flourishing. Yet, I will argue that these opposed political positions are strikingly consonant in their logic: overwhelmingly both groups resort to moral arguments to express what they feel about Venezuela’s dire situation, their understanding of the opposing political faction, and the legitimacy of President Maduro’s governance. They express moral emotions responding to their judgements of 'the other' and blame attribution: anger, contempt, disgust (not incidentally, markers of populist discourse). Their positions, although based on a ‘political’ issue, were, as they describe, of deep moral concern—that is, about ‘doing the right thing.’ This meant that one of the most socially problematic consequences of these logics is that approximation with the other side, rapprochement or dialogue, is seen as immoral in itself.





Moreno-Figueroa, Monica


Populism, Venezuela, Morality, Marxism, Migration, Solidarity


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge
Gates Cambridge Trust
Is supplemented by: