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Volume 55 / Social Sciences


MANUEL ANTONIO GARRETON, Professor, Department of Sociology, Universidad de Chile
MALVA ESPINOSA, Researcher, Dirección del Trabajo, Ministerio del Trabajo, Chile

TWO PRINCIPAL TENDENCIES UNDERSCORE recent developments in Chilean sociology. First, there has been a shift away from global and interpretive studies or essays towards monographic and sectoral empirical studies, with a special emphasis on the methodological and technical aspects of data collection and analysis. Second, the studies that examine global processes tend to rely on four distinct approaches. These approaches are not, as in the past, combined in a single model, instead, each is considered to have its own dynamic or to be related to the others in a non-deterministic way. The first approach examines the construction of political democracy; the discussion in these studies now centers on the quality and relevance of democracy, rather than the establishment or consolidation of democratic institutions (item bi 94000233). The second approach studies social democratization, defined in these works as overcoming social inequalities and extreme poverty (item bi 95013782). The third interpretation examines the effects of structural economic adjustments and the transition to a new development model (item bi 94003444). Finally, the fourth approach debates the model of modernity, that is, the relationship between globalization, and national and particular identities (item bi 94000232).

The trends evident in current works are related to the changing role of sociology in Chile; increasingly sociology is regarded as a profession, rather than an intellectual discipline. Various factors have influenced this shift towards professionalization. The independent academic institutions where sociology flourished in the 1980s have weakened during the last decade, while at the same time, universities continue to suffer ill-effects from the attacks that occurred under the military regime. On a more positive note, a significant number of new schools of sociology have opened in private universities, teaching in the public universities has been reformed, and the number of sociology students has increased. Still lacking, however, is a parallel effort to augment resources for research. With competition from other professions increasing, the further professionalization of the discipline appears likely.

The principal studies in the field (items bi 95011888, bi 95012165, and bi 94000213), tend to be compilations, readings, or collected works, rather than monographic works by a single scholar. As a result, very good specialized studies exist providing a solid base of data. These works elaborate or evaluate public policies in several social spheres. Some topics have been studied in the past and are now being reconsidered, such as rural transformations (item bi 94000213). Other relatively neglected areas of study, such as women and gender (items bi 92013625, bi 92013611, and bixx-xxxx), decentralization and local life (items bi 94000238 and bi 92014836), and environmental problems and policies (items bi 94004073) are now receiving greater attention.

Interpretative analysis and debate about the future of society and the social sciences are not part of the mainstream of current Chilean sociology. There are several important critical analyses that examine the social impact of development and modernization. These studies are particularly concerned with social inequalities, discriminations, and repressive behavior patterns. The general cultural climate, however, is one of social and political smugness; the tendency is towards avoiding discussions of the past and ignoring problems of the future. Chilean society and current intellectual thought demonstrate more concern with narrow, short-term issues and pragmatic solutions, than with long-term questions and a search for alternative social models. There is an absence of both social debate and effective social actors. Thus, social analyses tend to study sectoral situations, social categories, and public opinion, not the contradictions and conflicts of classic and new actors, and their alternative social models and projects.

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