Contesting Legitimacy in Chile

Familial Ideals, Citizenship, and Political Struggle, 19701990

By (author) Gwynn Thomas

Paperback - £28.95

Publication date:

15 May 2013

Length of book:

288 pages


Penn State University Press

ISBN-13: 9780271048499

When supporters and critics of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet squared off against each other in the streets and elsewhere following his death in December 2006, most observers saw this conflict as another stage in the continuing struggle between authoritarian and antiauthoritarian forces in Latin America. Gwynn Thomas, however, looks below the surface of these events to reveal a set of cultural beliefs—shared, surprisingly, by both sides—about the role of the family in Chilean life. In Contesting Legitimacy in Chile, Thomas examines how common attitudes toward the family played out in the contentious politics of the 1970s and 1980s. Her analysis investigates the uses of the family in Chilean election propaganda, political speeches, press releases, public service campaigns, magazines, newspaper articles, and televised political advertisements. It considers the language, symbols, metaphors, and images of the political conflicts that surrounded the election and overthrow of Allende’s social democracy (1970–73), the installation and maintenance of Pinochet’s military dictatorship (1973–90), and finally the transition back to democratic rule (1988–90).

“Politicians and activists are constantly making reference to family. They use family as a metaphor for political community. They tell us how they will help families. They justify their political actions by referring to their own familial roles. Using Chile as a case study, Gwynn Thomas explains how and why family rhetoric enters politics. Thomas's book spans the left and right of the political spectrum over a twenty-year period, providing a comprehensive and accessible account of gender and Chilean politics.”

—Karin Rosemblatt, University of Maryland