This collection of articles by a group of well-known specialists on Chilean politics, society, and economy is an excellent synthesis of the origins, policies, and consequences of the military dictatorship in Chile from 1973 to the early 1980s. Based on papers delivered at a workshop sponsored by the Woodrow Wilson International Center in 1980, the articles deal with the neoconservative economic experiment, liberalization of foreign trade policies, and changes in the economic functions of the Chilean state, in addition to specific consideration of party, labor, and church opposition to the military government. A final chapter discusses Chilean foreign relations after 1973.
The individual articles in this collection are of high quality and summarize an important segment of the literature on military rule in Chile since 1973. Taken together, they offer theoretical and comparative analysis of authoritarian regimes in Latin America, as well as a solid description of events in Chile from 1973 to approximately 1982.
Although emphasizing that the Chilean military regime has been more “the dictatorship of the commander-in-chief of the armed forces than a military dictatorship per se” (p. 7), the editors and most of the contributors make a consistent effort to compare and contrast the Chilean case to other Latin American military dictatorships since 1964. In addition, the editors offer some interesting parallels between the experience of opposition to Franco in Spain in the immediate postwar years and the dilemmas of opponents to Pinochet in Chile during 1973-80.
Over 50 tables, ranging from macroeconomic indicators (covering the years 1970-82) to specialized data on the agrarian reform and counterreform processes, sources of tax revenues, and housing policy, make the volume a valuable reference for the first decade of the Pinochet regime. At the same time, detailed discussion of the ideological orientation and policies of the military and civilian leadership, as well as of the reactions of major opposition groups, provide a clear and critical view of authoritarian rule in Chile.
Due to the unfortunate lag between the original conference and publication of this volume, the contents of several of these articles have been published elsewhere, or in different versions. Nevertheless, the theoretical contributions of Valenzuela and Valenzuela, Garretón, Foxley, and Vergara remain of great value. The editors’ central thesis in the article “Party Oppositions under the Authoritarian Regime” (“[T]he long-dominant Chilean party system will not be obliterated as easily as the military government sympathizers hope or as government detractors fear”—p. 186) remains a key element in understanding the character of regime opposition in Chile to the present. Likewise, the editors’ insistence on the need to understand authoritarian regimes in the context of the “historicity” of parties and interest groups before the advent of the dictatorship is essential for anyone wishing to comprehend the difficulties of forging a coherent, viable alternative to replace the Pinochet government. In this respect, the editors do not attempt to distinguish between opposition to Pinochet, opposition to the authoritarian project, support for restoration of some sort of formal democracy in Chile, and the continuing desire by some for a vía hacia el socialismo, but their general methodological prescription certainly alerts the reader to look for these sorts of problems in analyzing the dilemmas of the opposition to Pinochet.
As the editors recognize in their introduction, this volume is not a comprehensive study of the military dictatorship. It is, however, a volume which should be of great use to all those interested in Chilean politics and society since 1973 and in the more general phenomenon of military rule in Latin America since 1964.