Alternatives to Representative Democracy and Capitalist Market Organisation: The Wintukua, Guardians of the Earth

Spring 2017

This essay presents the findings from field research conducted among the Wintukua, or Arhuaco, people of Colombia, in 2014. The aim of the analysis is to describe Wintukua politics, as this group practices direct, deliberative democracy. The Wintukua have some 50,000 members and live in a reservation, which they share with other indigenous groups, the Wiwa, Kaggaba (Kogi) and Kankuamo people, in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Colombia. The description of Wintukua politics allows for drawing some lessons of broader relevance. First, the Wintukua demonstrate that direct, deliberative democracy is practicable today. Second, we can gauge the importance of a common interest, which, in this case, is nurtured by shared cultural and religious practices. Finally, it appears that a strong focus on responsibilities, and not on rights, constitutes an important element to make direct, deliberative democracy among the Wintukua work. 

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