This long-awaited book examines Chile in the mid-’6os as a microcosm of modern capitalist society. It challenges the view that capitalist sectors have become so differentiated that no coherent ruling class exists; in particular, it refutes the theory that the rise of the bureaucratic corporation has undermined the bourgeosie’s unity and hegemony by separating ownership and control. Instead, Zeitlin and Ratcliff show that intricate intraclass ties have produced a “coalesced bourgeoisie,” with intimate linkages between managers and owners, rural and urban elites, and national and foreign capitalists. Such subtle, manifold connections flow through intercorporate control mechanisms, banks, and kin networks, thus concentrating economic power in an identifiable dominant class.
These revelations grow out of arduous prosopographical and portfolio research, in which Zeitlin and Ratcliff tracked down the property-owning, corporate, banking, political, and kinship links among Chile’s top corporate executives, bankers, and owners of capital and land. After unraveling the bonds among some six thousand individuals, they discovered that Chile’s economy was dominated by closely knit “kinecon groups,” weaving together extended familial and economic interests. Vital to these were the “finance capitalists,” straddling the corporate and banking worlds. The core of the dominant class, however, remained the landed capitalist families. The epilogue notes their ability to withstand threats from Balmaceda and Allende.
As with Zeitlin’s other work, this book offers profound lessons in theory and methodology as well as information on Chile. It should be read in conjunction with his previous study of the civil wars in Chile, which explores the evolution of the bourgeoisie. Although the dense prose in Landlords and Capitalists will fatigue some readers, the effort will pay high intellectual dividends.