Buen Vivir under Correa: The Rhetoric of Participatory Democracy, the Reality of Rentier Populism

Paul Posner, Clark University


This article seeks to understand the relationship between populism and participatory democracy through analysis of Rafael Correa's left populist regime in Ecuador (2007-2017). It argues that rather than adhering to its own standard for participatory democracy, what the Correa regime referred to as the Socialism of Buen Vivir, it employed the rhetoric of participatory democracy in the service of populist rule. As a result, the Correa regime failed to promote the participatory form of democracy and citizenship promised in Buen Vivir, its version of twenty-first-century socialism. Accordingly, analysis of the Correa regime demonstrates how the concentration of top-down executive power characteristic of populism in general, and rentier populism in particular, impedes the egalitarian and solidaristic mission of participatory democracy. Thus, inductive analysis of the Correa regime reinforces the conceptual understanding that populism is antagonistic and antithetical to participatory democracy.