Democratization: Theory and Experience

By Laurence Whitehead | Go to book overview
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9 An Exemplary Case: Chile

The outcome (of redemocratization) is often an incomplete democracy, a regime basically democratic, but riddled with inherited authoritarian enclaves; non-democratic institutions, unresolved human rights problems, and social actors not fully willing to play by democratic rules.

(Manuel Antonio Garretón)


An Exemplary Case

This chapter 1 is a case study of the democratization of Chile, viewed as an exemplary case, that is, one which is not only of importance in itself but is also instructive for comparativists with no special commitment to this particular instance. The big issues contested in Chile—popular front; revolution in liberty; peaceful road to socialism; free-market authoritarianism; pacted transition; international legal liability for human rights violations—tend to be exemplary issues. Whichever side prevails, the outcome is meaningful and salient at the international level. Of course, Chileans usually battle over local stakes and parochial issues. They mostly choose their sides, adopt their strategies, and interpret their results in accordance with highly specific, mostly domestic, realities that are far removed from the great abstract principles of global controversy. But these routines of normal politics acquire greater coherence and deeper significance when they can be structured according to more universal principles. Experience suggests that, perhaps for reasons of geography or political culture, politically aware Chileans have learnt through repeated episodes of intense engagement that this overarching and exemplary dimension of their debates makes a difference to the outcome. It mobilizes additional resources from

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