Middle Class and Political Participation in Contemporary Chile
The Project objective is to analyze and understand the different forms of political participation of the Middle-Class in the contemporary Chile, considering the main transformations which this group suffered during the dictatorship period (1973-1989). These transformations include a heavy shift from the public to the private economy, and the losing of benefits in terms of stability and social protection. Disaggregated in the private sector under different forms of employment, the Middle-Class’ unionization grew more difficult, and multiple settings of labor conditions, incomes, interests and life-styles emerged. Within the Middle-Class, the variance in the right-left spectrum grew up, while the parties as permanent spaces for political participation declined in relevance. Considering all this, several analyzes of the Chilean Middle-Class have emphasized either the idea of a retraction to the private world, apathy, or citizenry through consumption: often omitting the fact that the Middle-Class shows a dynamic and complex political behavior during and after the transition to democracy. Together with the populist right, the organizations aimed at the Middle-Class are the political sectors that growth faster and stronger in the last decades.
Following E.O. Wright, the Middle-Class has an ambivalent role and high heterogeneity. Therefore, the analysis of the Middle-Class must be tightly embedded in the analysis of the specific relations in a society in a given historical moment: the definition of Middle-Class is contingent to the class analysis of the society as a whole. The present project, thus, considers a first stage of characterization of the Chilean Middle-Class, aiming to uncover its relational and specific features for the given case.
On the other side, Political Participation is defined attending mainly to the contemporary discussion on the Arendt’s concepts of political action and space. The proposal is to understand Political Participation as the result of the contingent articulation of two simultaneous components: identification and political action. These elements are expected to determinate the way an individual participate in politics given a specific historical moment.
With these concepts as starting points, the Project aims to develop an empirical analysis of the ways in which the Middle-Class participates in politics in Chile now.