Pols241 week 3 readings in Textbook Arguing Comparative politics (Chapter 3- State power and the
strength of civil society in the Southern Cone of Latin America)
Society centered views of political and economic transformations have never held the
unchallenged sway in Latin America that they have in North America.
o This is because in the late 1960s the erosion of the intellectual credibility of the society
centered “modernization” model of political and economic development coincided with
the exhaustion of both industrialization based on Import substitution and the associated
populist and parliamentary political regimes that were associated with it.
Bureaucratic authoritarian regimes
o Characterized by impressive episodes of industrialization
o Proved to be effective at fragmenting, atomizing, and inhibiting potential oppositional
o The initial period of the BA was one where the civil society lost its capacity to generate
new political and economic initiatives while the power of the state grew.
Regimes currently having problems of political legitimacy and an inability to deal
with the international economic context of the 1980s.
At the same time however initiatives for change are coming increasingly from
within civil society
Chile, Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil
o All began with periods in which the institutions of civil society, were emasculated while
the state enhanced its ability to pursue its own goals.
Growth of State Power, and the Decline of Civil Society in Chile (1973-1981)
State power grew while the power of civil society declined
o Happened because of the intensity of class conflict during the time before the regime
made it easy for the regime to gain acceptance of its project in the upper and middle
classes, Fear of Marxist oppression also helped maintain the internal cohesion of the
state apparatus, and the nature of the state’s project.
o In a BA regime the capacity to lead the regimes political allies depends on the degree
that the regime has both “defensive” and “offensive” projects that potential allies
consider to be feasible, crucial to the advancement and preservation of their own
interests, and dependent on authoritarian power for their execution.
o The social and institutional groups in control of the state convinced their potential allies
that they had a vital defensive project (continues repression of the Marxist left and the
Christian democratic reforms). Also convinced them they had a offensive project that if
fully implemented would restructure Chilean capitalism and civil society so that a stable
market economy would emerge that would withstand the reintroduction of some
representative features of government. o The persistence of fear within the bourgeoisie was important because it affected the
bourgeoisie willingness to accept individual policies that hurt the upper class (there
were numerous bankruptcies of domestic firms following the drastic tariff reductions
and the decline of consumer purchasing power) but were seen to be the necessary cost
of protecting its overall interests.
An important indication of the upper bourgeoisies willingness to abandon some
of its independent political instruments for advancing their interests was its
closure of the traditional party (the partido national) in 1973.
o The potential for concerted action by opposition groups in civil society
This potential is related to the internal unity of the state apparatus, the degree
of support the state apparatus receives from allies in civil society and the degree
of coercion the state is able and willing to impose on opposition groups. All
these factors made it difficult for the opposition to make any moves against the
Two other factors
1) the degree of ideological class and party tension within the
o During this period tensions were high as the major components
of the party opposition were the Christian democrats, the
socialists, and the communists.
o At the beginning of the plebiscite all the parties joined in an
informal opposition alliance, but the history of past conflict and
the different ideological bases made concerted action very
2) structural changes in the political economy and their effects on the
capacity of the opposition in civil society to work together against the
o The Chilean program of “libertarianism from above” was an
extreme form of liberal economics imposed by a highly coercive
state. Tariffs were reduced thereby robbing the national
industrial bourgeoisie of protection from imported
manufactured goods. This resulted in the reduction of the
industrial working class.
Therefore, the structural base of potential oppositional
activities in this important arena of civil society was
Resulted in a “small state, strong state” situation” due
to the fact that although the states share of the
economy had shrunk they still remained dominant and
controlled and limited possibilities for civil society to
mobilize. o Instead of exchanging the right to rule for the right to make
money in the classic bonapartism transaction, fractions of the
Chilean bourgeoise abdicated the right to rule and severely
jeopardized their right to make money in the short run in the
hope of preserving class privilege in the long run.
The state apparatus remained powerful through the 1982-3 crises because of 3 reasons.
o 1) the de facto unity of Pinochets command over the army, navy, intelligence service
o 2)Important sectors of the Bourgeoisie, even though they no longer believed in the
offensive project of the state, still harbored enough fear of the left to be unavailable to
the democratic opposition and thus gave its support to the defensive project of the
o 3) there remained deep divisions between the active opposition.
Power stagnation and Standoff: Uruguay 1978-1981
o BA regime came about with the closing of congress in 1973
o The state gained power relative to civil society
o The percentage of the population detained for speaking out against the police was
higher than any of the other countries discussed here.
o Before the BA regime
o In Chile The bourgeoisie believed far more strongly that is economic and social survival
were threatened. As such they developed many ways to mobilize and provide
By contrast in Uruguay: the military had destroyed the major radical claimants
to power, the Tupamaros, months before the military closed parliament and
installed new regime.
Therefore the Uruguayan military had a relatively weak Salvationist
relationship to the bourgeoisie when the military closed the classic
instrument of the bourgeoisie, parliament..
o Bourgeoisie defended their interests more forcefully, thus the state planners did not have the
degree of autonomy from the bourgeoisie that their counterparts in Chile did.
o This lack of autonomy was further limited by the collegial decision making formula used by the
BA in Uruguay because all major decisions was made by the Junta de Officiales Generales which
contained all fur-star officers from the army, navy and airforce. Thus, it endangered significant
internal veto power, opened up multiple lobbying points for civil society, and reduced the
capacity of the state planners to implement the policies they proposed on paper.
o Potential for concerted opposition
o The two parties in the opposition (the Blanco, the Colorado) are not very different in
terms of programmatic content, ideological discourse, or class composition. Also between them they have never received less than 80 percent of the votes cast in any
o They have a history of power sharing that includes some consociational practices.
o However examination of the state-civil society relations during this period highlights
some limitations to oppositional power.
1) the upper bourgeoisie, although it did not give active support to the state