2 - Trouble in Paradise: The end of Chilean exceptionalism?


Barry Cannon (Dublin City University, Ireland and Instituto de Iberoamerica, University of Salamanca). barry.cannon@dcu.ie

Jewelord Nem Singh (University of Sheffield).  j.nemsingh@sheffield.ac.uk


Chile has long been regarded in the literature as an exception within Latin America. It is seen as having successfully adapted to neoliberalism and globalization, as a model of stability, with solid, resilient institutions and as socially just having achieved huge drops in poverty. In sum, Chile is seen as an “end of history” success story, combining a successful market economy, with social justice and a strong democracy. Yet, not all has been positive; many analysts also have noted the persistent passivity of Chilean civil society, rigidities in its institutional set-up and huge inequalities in its social structure. These observations became particularly noteworthy with the irruption of a sustained campaign by students in favour of free, equitable access to quality state-provided education. Knitted into this campaign was a reasoned critique of socio-economic inequality, a critique which achieved great resonance with the wider Chilean populace. Further, student demonstrations have been seconded or complimented with protests from indigenous populations, environmentalists, and trade unionists, especially miners. Chile’s centre-right administration led by Sebastian Piñera, and the country’s political parties and institutions have floundered it their attempts to find a path out of this morass. Chile, hence, seems to be facing a fork in the road in terms of how it chooses to go forward. Taking a political economy approach, with inequality at its centre, this symposium asks if the Chilean politico-institutional model is capable of responding adequately to the wider challenges set down by the students in terms of the kind of society Chile should become. Further, it asks what role citizens will play in shaping that society and how both these elements may shape the economy.  Overall it seeks to provide a major review of Chile’s undoubted progress since the transition while simultaneously helping define what possible paths it may take in the future. Taking a multi- and inter-disciplinary approach it invites papers on Chilean economy, politics, society and culture, with inequality as their central theme, to help determine if Chile is and will remain an exception in the region.