[Home] [Current Tables of Contents]

[ HLAS Online Home Page | Search HLAS Online | Help | FAQ | Comments ]

Volume 51 / Social Sciences


MANUEL ANTONIO GARRETON, Sociologist, Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales, Chile
SERGIO CONTRERAS, Sociologist, Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales, Chile

IN RECENT YEARS WE HAVE WITNESSED a major if problematic rebirth of Chilean sociology, for years a field severely restricted as a career to those wishing to obtain academic degrees and professional titles. The most important sociology departments in the country are still located at the Univ. de Chile and the Univ. Católica, but two new universities which opened in 1989 include sociology as a full-time career discipline: the Univ. Academia de Humanismo Cristiano and the Univ. de La República.

Three Chilean Congresses of Sociology held in 1984, 1986, and 1989 represent milestones in the institutionalization and scientific growth of the discipline. Organized by the Colegio de Sociólogos (established in 1982), these congresses produced nearly 140 papers and were attended on average by some 350 sociologists. A representative sample of the research presented may be found in the proceedings of the first Congress held in Aug. 1984 (item bi 90008100).

The hub of sociological research in Chile has shifted from universities to independent academic centers financed by foreign sponsors and strengthened by the return of many exiled sociologists. Moreover, research and publishing by foreign sociologists also contributed to the growth of the discipline (e.g., items bi 90008108, bi 90008090, bi 90008104, bi 88001333, and bi 89000016). It is therefore not surprising that a leading subject of study has been the evaluation of the discipline of sociology itself as well as its institutionalization and production, assessments exemplified by works such as Barrios and Brunner's La sociología en Chile (item bi 90008077), and Garretón's Las ciencias sociales en Chile (item bi 90008076).

Along with the continued emphasis since the 1980s on Chilean democracy and its collapse and of the overall nature of the system of domination established by the military (see, for example, S. Valenzuela's Democratization via reforma..., item bi 88001333; A. Moulian's La Unidad Popular y el conflicto político en Chile, item bi 90008075; M.A. Garretón's The Chilean political process, item bi 90008067; and Moulian and Vergara's Estado, ideología, y políticas económicas..., item bi 90008102), Chilean sociologists are now beginning to describe and analyze the structural and cultural transformations of Chilean society, the reemergence of certain socio-political actors, the rise of new social movements, the significance and power of public opinion, and the tendencies and prospects of democratization and modernization in Chile.

The most important of the structural analyses noted below is the often ideological debate concerning the types of transformations introduced by the military regime such as modernization and marginalization. Lavin's Chile: the silent revolution (item bi 90008066) and Tironi's Los silencios de la revolución (item bi 90008065) represent two opposing viewpoints, one apologetic of these military processes, the other critical.

The most important study of social class structure in Chile, but unfortunately one which does not cover the 1980s, is to be found in Martínez and Tironi's, Las clases sociales en Chile (item bi 88001295). Class studies or structural analyses of Chilean society today are well complemented by equivalent historical studies of the bourgeoisie and other dominant classes in the past. Such historical works are exemplified by Villalobos' Origen y ascenso de la burguesía chilena (item bi 89002075), Zeitlin and Ratcliff's Landlords and capitalists... (item bi 89000016) and the review article by Drake, The buoyant bourgeoisie of Chile (item bi 90008090). Works on the nation's subordinate classes combine an analysis of the structural determinants of poverty with the study of attitudes and social movements of the poor and of policies designed to eradicate "critical poverty." A compilation of works on these subjects has been edited by Urzúa and Dooner, La opción preferencial por los pobres (item bi 88001311). Dominant topics in recent Chilean sociology have been social movements or actors playing a leading role in the democratization process; many of these "new social actors" emerged during the period of military rule. An analytic vision of Latin American social movements relevant to Chile can be found in Touraine's Las pautas de acción colectiva (item bi 90008108). For a general perspective of diverse social movements in the mid-1980s and of their relationship to the processes of democratization, see the compilation edited by Campero, Los movimientos sociales y la lucha democrática en Chile (item bi 90008099) and G. Bajoit's Mouvements sociaux... (item bi 90008107). Works that examine the political significance of popular movements under the military are Zapata's Crisis económica... (item bi 90008104) and Garretón's Popular mobilization and the military regime... (item bi 90008097). There are also a number of specific works on distinct social movements among which one should note the following studies: of pobladores by Campero (item bi 90008052); of trade unions by Pizarro (item bi 88001339) and by Barrera, Henríquez, and Selamé (item bi 88001331); of the rural population by Cruz and Sáenz (item bi 88001324); of youth by E. Valenzuela (item bi 88001323) and Agurto et al. (item bi 88001312); of business groups by Campero (item bi 90008063); of the military by A. Varas (item bi 90008062); and of non-governmental organizations which played a role in the democratization process by Downs et al. (item bi 89006102).

Three other leading research topics in recent years have been: 1) the study of women, their condition and social movements, exemplified by compilations by Hola (item bi 89002079) and Meza (item bi 88001337); 2) the Catholic Church as a major protagonist under the military dictatorship and as a focus of popular religiosity, aspects which are examined by Spoerer (item bi 90008106) and Kessel (item bi 89002076); and 3) the mass media as social agent and cultural construct wielding its own resources, processes, and techniques, all of which are analyzed in works by ILET and CENECA, (items bi 88001338 and bi 89002074).

The political opening which permitted the Chilean transition from military rule to elected government made way for another leading actor in democratic processes: public opinion. Since the mid-1980s many independent research centers have undertaken public opinion surveys as a direct consequence of two events: the plebiscite of Oct. 1988 when Chileans voted whether or not Gen. Pinochet should remain in power, and the first presidential and parliamentary elections of Dec. 1989 (see item bi 90008060).

Sociologists are now focusing their research on the political transition to democracy and its relationship to modernization and national integration (item bi 90008053), rather than on past crises, authoritarianism, or military domination. Publications on the dynamics, institutions, and other leading actors in Chile's democratization and modernization are of fairly recent vintage because of the nation's late transition to elected government as compared to the other Southern Cone countries. It is to be expected that these topics will continue to dominate Chilean sociology.

Go to the:

Begin a Basic Search | Begin an Expert Search

[ HLAS Online Home Page | Search HLAS Online | Help | FAQ | Comments ]

Library of Congress
Comments: Ask a Librarian (01/06/05)