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Title: Reconstructing collective action in the neoliberal era : the emergence and political impact of social movements in Chile since 1990
Author: Donoso, Sofia Catalina
ISNI:       0000 0004 5914 5060
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2014
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This dissertation investigates the emergence and impact of social movements in Chile since the reinstatement of democracy in 1990. Seeking to make an important contribution to the understanding of the reconstruction of collective action in post-transition Chile, I focus on two cases which have been particularly successful in questioning the benefits of market-friendly policies introduced by the military regime (1973-1989) and continued to a great extent by the Concertación governments (1990-2010). The first case is the 2006 Pingüino movement, named after the secondary school students’ penguin-like black and white school uniforms, which forced a substantial discussion on the education system’s segregating effects and its neoliberal underpinnings. The second case is the 2007 Contratista movement, composed of subcontracted workers of CODELCO – Chile’s main state-owned copper-extracting company. The Contratistas repoliticised a long-dormant debate on labour issues and revitalised a trade union movement which had been in decline in previous decades. I draw on the Contentious Politics approach, which stresses social movements’ interaction with the institutional terrain, and explain the emergence of the Pingüinos and Contratistas as the result of three distinct but intertwined processes: the opening up of the structure of political opportunities involved in the rise of President Bachelet; the deeply felt discontent with the education and labour reforms introduced by the military regime and kept largely intact by the Concertación governments; and the movements’ adoption of non-hierarchical organisational forms as a way of reconstructing collective action ‘from below’. In terms of political impact, I show that both the students and the contract workers were successful in introducing issues onto the public agenda that were not there before the emergence of the movements. The extent to which this was translated into bills that reflected the concerns of the movements, however, depended on their capacity to continue to exert pressure on the government and to forge political alliances. In this way, I argue that the impact of the movements was indirect and followed a two-stage process through which first the Pingüinos and Contratistas influenced aspects of their external environment, namely, public opinion and political alliances, and then the latter influenced policy. Overall, my research shows the links between processes at the micro-level (the development of organisational resources and grievance interpretation) and their subsequent impact at the macro-level (agenda-setting and policy impact) – a development that has undoubtedly acquired greater relevance and analytical urgency since the wide range of protests that have taken place around the world since 2011.
Supervisor: Sánchez-Ancochea, Diego Sponsor: Programa Bicentenario de Ciencia y Tecnologia, Conicyt, Chile
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Social Sciences ; Civil society ; Democratic government ; Social justice ; Social Inequality ; Sociology ; Chile ; social movements ; democracy ; Concertacion ; neoliberalism ; education policy ; labour policy