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The economic, political and social situation in Chile shows a country in transition. Some observers anticipate a broad “reboot” of the nation. While Chile is still seen by many as an example of progress in South America and of developmental potential in the global South, it faces a complex political constellation, particularly in the aftermath of the re-election of Michelle Bachelet. Many wonder how social and institutional innovations can be incepted without interrupting the country’s remarkable success over the past decades.

This book provides an interdisciplinary analysis of Chile’s situation and perspectives. In particular, it addresses the questions:

What is Chile’s real socio-political situation behind the curtains, irrespective of simplifications?What are the nation’s main opportunities and problems?What future strategies will be concretely applicable to improve social balance and mitigate ideological divisions?

The result is a provocative examination of a nation in search of identity and its role on the global stage.

Roland Benedikter, Dr. Dr. Dr., is Research Scholar at the Orfalea Center for Global and International Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara, Senior Research Scholar of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs Washington D.C., Trustee of the Toynbee Prize Foundation Boston and Full Member of the Club of Rome.

Katja Siepmann, MA, is Senior Research Fellow of the Counc

il on Hemispheric Affairs Washington D.C., Member of the German Council on Foreign Relations, and Lecturer at the Faculty of Interdisciplinary Cultural Sciences of the European University Frankfurt/Oder.

The volume features a Foreword by Ned Strong, Executive Director of the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, Harvard University, and a Preface by Larry Birns, Director of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, Washington D.C., and Former Senior Public Affairs Officer of the United Nations’ Economic Commission for Latin America (Santiago, Chile).



Chapter 1. Introduction

The economic, cultural, political, and social situation of Chile, a forerunner of development in Latin America for decades, shows a nation in transition. After the re-election of the leader of the center-left coalition, Michelle Bachelet, to new–old president in November–December 2013 at the expense of the conservatives under Evelyn Matthei and former president Sebastián Piñera, some observers expect a broad “reboot” of the country. Others, though, remain sceptical that the government of Michelle Bachelet’s second term 2014–2018 (Bachelet II) will be able to implement the deep-reaching reforms it promised.
Despite insecure prospects, there seems to be wide consensus among the political protagonists of the country—regardless of party affiliation—and among most international analysts that reforms are unavoidable in the medium term if the nation’s success story is to continue, and if Chile wants to keep its place within rapid international development. While the Andean nation is still seen by many as an example of progress in South America and—at least to a certain extent—of the potential for progress of the global South, it simultaneously faces a complex constellation. The question is how institutional, political, and social innovations can be incepted without interrupting what has been rightly seen by the international community as a remarkable success story throughout the recent decades. The answer to this question depends not only on economic and financial issues, but in no small part also on the development of political culture, social psychology, and contextual politics, i.e., of identity questions between the polarizing narratives of “center-left” and “center-right.”
This book provides an interdisciplinary overview over Chile’s current situation and analyzes the nation’s resulting main future trajectories. It points towards the achievements, opportunities, and potentials of the country, but also to its main challenges and tasks ahead—both to a certain extent exemplary for the greater regional context.
The questions addressed are: What is Chile’s situation irrespective of media representations and ideological curtains, and beyond simplifications? What are the nation’s main opportunities and problems? And what strategies and policies will be concretely applicable to improve political and social balance, promote broader participation in decision-making processes, widen access to education, create wealth for a greater number of people, decrease inequality, foster reconciliation between antagonist groups, and mitigate ideological divisions?
Last but not least: Will other nations be confronted with tasks similar to those of today’s Chile? If yes, can they learn something from the Andean country’s case, or is the recent story of Chile unique and incomparable? And subsequently: Can Chile become a role model—and if yes, for whom, in what fields, and to what extent?
Roland Benedikter, Katja Siepmann

Chapter 2. The Economic Dimension: A Nation Grown by Means of Neoliberal Policies

Often branded the “Switzerland of the global South”, Chile in many ways corresponds to its excellent economic and financial reputation when observed from the outside—but steers through rough waters to maintain enthusiasm with its own citizens. One family’s tale embodies the history of the country between imported neoliberalism and domestic socio-economic emancipation that led to today’s situation: the story of the Matte siblings. To know this story and thus to understand the economic basis of current Chile and its inbuilt ideological battles that reach back to the 1970s and 1980s is the indispensible prerequisite to getting an insight into the constellation and perspectives of the nation as it stands today, including its political, financial, social, and cultural dimensions.
Roland Benedikter, Katja Siepmann

Chapter 3. The Cultural Dimension: A Nation in Search of Identity Between the Competing Narratives of the “Center-Right” and the “Center-Left”

This chapter, the cultural dimension, focuses on the era of President Sebastián Piñera (2010–2014), the first center-right government since the postdictatorial transition to democracy in 1988–1989. It explores the trends and changes in social psychology and collective mentalities since the start of Piñera’s tenure, as well as the competition between different public narratives over the past couple of years about what a “good society” in Chile could and should look like. Since Piñera was the first Chilean president to fully grasp the rising importance of social psychology and collective narratives as “contextual political factors,” questions of identity have become crucial elements of public discourse in today’s Chile.
Roland Benedikter, Katja Siepmann, Fabian Kupper

Chapter 4. The Political Dimension: Chile After the Presidential and General Elections of 2013—What Future?

This chapter, the political dimension, concentrates on the beginning of Michelle Bachelet’s second term in government (Bachelet II, 2014–2018). It explains the background, implications, and perspectives of the presidential and general elections of November and December 2013, the shift between the governments Piñera and Bachelet II, the legal and institutional mechanisms in play, the remnants of the Pinochet dictatorship in the electoral system, and the entry of former student protest leaders in traditional political structures. The chapter concentrates on the program of Bachelet II and on future scenarios presented by the various parties and alliances represented in the political institutions. It also analyzes the impact of the student protest movement on the current and foreseeable sociopolitical scenarios.
Roland Benedikter, Katja Siepmann, Miguel Zlosilo

Chapter 5. The Social Dimension: Inequality and Redistributive Policies. Ideas for Reform

This chapter, the social dimension, provides an analysis of Chile’s social situation at the beginning of the office of Bachelet II, including inequality, redistributive policies, social and class struggles, and ideas for reform. Chile features the highest level of inequality of all 34 OECD member states and thus faces the question of how to mitigate social rifts to avoid the widening of the gap between those sections of the population who have access to tools and public life and are able to participate, and those who aren’t.
Roland Benedikter, Katja Siepmann

Chapter 6. The Fiscal Dimension: Greater Fairness at the Price of a Slowing Economy? The Ideological Debate Behind Bachelet’s Envisaged Tax Reform

This chapter, the fiscal dimension, considers the opportunities and problems of Bachelet II’s envisaged tax reform, i.e., the centerpiece of her reform program for the country, and the complex intertwinement of the fiscal and economic systems as motors of growth and factors of political and social power.
Roland Benedikter, Katja Siepmann, Miguel Zlosilo

Chapter 7. The Educational Dimension: Michelle Bachelet II’s “Master Plan” for Chile’s Future—The Reform of Education

This chapter, the educational dimension, reflects the state of affairs and the perspectives of Chile’s envisaged grand educational reform. It also presents some observations on the transformational force of Chile’s sociopolitical protest movement stemming from and rooted in the universities and high schools. Can and will student protest continue to trigger changes in the existing societal arrangement? And, in turn, how will educational reforms impact the student protest movement?
Roland Benedikter, Katja Siepmann, Miguel Zlosilo

Chapter 8. Conclusion and Outlook: Chile, Quo Vadis? Chile’s Additional Five Future Issues to Address. A Chance for Progress

This chapter, five additional critical issues for the future, offers an outlook on Chile’s future and discusses five issues that will critically impact the country’s transition as well as—in particular—the governability of its change: (1) Democracy and new media, including the politics on (and of) the Internet; (2) Foreign policy, new strategic alliances, and participation in global governance; (3) Sustainable approaches to resources and energy; (4) Global climate change and care of the environment; (5) Resilience, security, and peace politics.
Roland Benedikter, Katja Siepmann
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