Mexico, Guanajuato

Dictatorship, regime change and civil society in Chile (1973-1993) (Promotionsprojekt)


ZI Lateinamerika-Institut


My dissertation takes the third wave of global democratization and the
reemergence of the concept of civil society in the 1980s as a chance to
explore some questions referring to authoritarian regimes,
democratization, and civil society by looking at the Chilean dictatorship
and transition to democracy, covering the 1973-1993 period. How are
authoritarian rule and the reemergence of civil society related? How does
civil society impact on democratization? How does regime change affect
civil society and democratization?
A decade into the dictatorship –despite the hard conditions the Pinochet
regime imposed on political and social organizing– Chilean civil society
had developed a wide array of organizations, independent media, and
relations between them, which functioned both at the national and at the
grassroots level. This organizational infrastructure was important for
contesting authoritarian rule, as well as serving as a civic forum for the
elections which ended Pinochet’s rule in 1990. After democracy was
restored, however, there has been a tendency toward the demobilization,
the dissolution, and the fragmentation of civil society organizations.
Empirically based on media analysis, in-depth interviews, and extensive
documental research in national and organizational archives in Chile and
in Europe, and focusing on the interrelations between international donor
agencies, national NGOs, and grassroots organizations, this study explores
how civil society is transformed through dictatorial experience, and the
strained evolution it has in variable socio-political settings, in an
attempt to identify the elements that account for an active civil society
in a long-term and cross-level analysis of its historical evolution.