In We Are the State!, Cristobal Valencia makes an undeniable and welcome contribution to existing literature on popular organizing in Venezuela's Bolivarian Revolution, providing an ethnographic richness grounded in the barrios of El Valle and Coche in southern Caracas. Valencia's goal is to cast a justifiably skeptical eye on the prevailing assumption that, since Hugo Chávez or before, in Venezuela the state is everything. While his title may suggest a collapsing of civil society into the state, Valencia seeks to do precisely the opposite: to break down the distinction between the state and civil society in a way that foregrounds the latter, “the state as civil society” (p. 6).

The first chapter charts the systematic exclusion of Venezuela's poor from both politics and theory, a ground-clearing exercise that allows Valencia to return barrio residents to center stage. Here there is a...

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