Armies and Politics in Latin America

By Abraham F. Lowenthal; J. Samuel Fitch | Go to book overview

band argues that the state is primarily the "guardian and protector of the economic interests of the capitalist class," as evidenced by the social bonds between state officials and ruling-class elites. 45 Whereas in other systems, influence must be measured indirectly or presumed, in this situation the visibility of ties between capitalists and public officials should be proof in and of itself. Had the state in fact become an instrument of a ruling class?

Our analysis concludes this was not the case. On the contrary, state managers exhibited both independence and flexibility. They could and did align with capital when it was in their interests to do so; they could just as easily renounce their ties when they wanted to. Fully capable of shifting support groups, the regime found sustenance through its association with the liberal economic community.

Rolf Luders, former minister of economy and finance, entered public office with intentions of satisfying the clans' desires for a state-led economic recovery. Instead, he found himself drawn back into the monetarist formulas of austerity and limited state participation. University of Chicago graduate Alvaro Bardon, for example, had served as Central Bank president and economics under-secretary, but also had interests at stake as chief executive for a large private bank. When the clans asked the state to boost demand and production, he stood in the way. And when the interests of the state and those of the dominant class collided and the regime seized the assets of the nation's largest banks, Bardon was supportive, despite the fact that one of those banks was formerly his own. Bardon's loyalties to the private sector were eclipsed by his allegiances to the monetarist school. Moreover, the chief economic advisor to the junta and principal architect of the liberal plan, Sergio de Castro, had no major business interests to speak of. His ideas were shaped through his academic experiences at the University of Chicago and the Catholic University of Chile.

The Chilean regime found sustenance through its association with the monetarist school. State officials who had personal commitments to the private sector overcame these by reinforcing their ties with the intellectual peers. Their zealous dedication to the "cause" dulled their sensitivities toward their former class allies, while heightening their respect for the norms and values of this economic community. Thus, despite significant setbacks to important fractions of the capitalist class, policymakers found justification for their views within the monetarist school rather than abandon them to placate domestic opponents. Only by recognizing the insertion of elites into this community can one explain the military regime's defiance of the dominant class in the post-coup era.


Notes
1.
For references to the links between military governments and free-market policies, see David Collier, ed., The New Authoritarianism in Latin America

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