The seven papers that comprise this collection are the product of a workshop at the University of Liverpool on the occasion of the tenth year of military rule in Chile. As the editor states at the outset, the focus of the book is on developments during the decade rather than on any specific theme. This temporal rather than thematic approach becomes apparent as readers begin to miss discussions that could be expected from a book purporting to provide “elements for the analysis of military rule,” as the subtitle suggests.
True, most papers in this collection concentrate on economic developments. This is a significant subject that any book attempting to understand Chile after 1973 must address. This volume, in particular, features important contributions by Laurence Whitehead and Luis Kaffman that allow readers to place Chile in the larger context of international economic developments. Whitehead’s piece, in addition, puts forth a challenging model for understanding Chile—and Argentina—in terms of a link between repressive politics and monetarist policies. Two other articles (by Lucy Blackburn and David Hojman) that focus on economic issues concentrate on specific areas of economic performance or measurement.
The reader is left with only three papers in which to understand other areas of Chilean life under military rule. Two of these, by Hernán Rosenkranz and Cristóbal Kay, discuss important issues concerning the Catholic Church in Chilean politics, and agrarian change since the overthrow of Allende. They are largely based on secondary sources, and have an ideological character that is apparent in their treatment of the Christian Democratic party, as well as emphasis on the repressive nature of the Pinochet regime. The third paper, by Catherine Boyle, focuses on the political and ideological underpinnings of the Chilean song since 1973. This is a perceptive, but narrow piece, that fails to provide a wider context for understanding Chilean cultural life since the military coup.
It would be unfair to fault the authors, or the editor, for neglecting other themes pertaining to military rule in Chile. But readers ought to know that some important subjects are not treated in this volume. There is no paper on the opposition to military rule other than by the church. Labor, student, party, and coalition opposition have been far from invisible under military rule, but receive no attention in this collection. Also, the book would have benefited from an essay dealing with areas of Chilean cultural life other than the Chilean song—such as literature, theater, and education. The military itself, perhaps the most important key for understanding Pinochet’s regime and its endurance, receives no attention whatsoever. At least for me, a collection that attempts to understand military rule without paying substantial attention to the military is, despite the merits of the individual contributions, essentially weak.