COES
Current Issues on the Political Representation of Middle Classes in Chile
Revista Académica
Journal of Latin American Politics
2016

A grim perspective on political representation characterizes current diag-noses in Chile and other Latin American countries. Its regular forms have failed to counterbalance escalating citizen disaffection with politics, distrust of institutions, declining voting turnout, or the sustained resurgence of street protest. In this environment, new and consolidated middle classes seem to play an important role in shaping demands that challenge traditional forms of representation; this is a far cry from the pattern of the 20th century, when middle-class interests were channeled by centrist parties (Johnson 1971; Lomnitz 1998). This situation has reopened the debate on whether the middle classes fuel a modernizing democratic project or actually have the potential to destabilize the political system (Zeitlin and Petras 1970), especially regarding new groups that have emerged from poverty in the last decades. A sustained decline in poverty levels across Latin America and the Caribbean in recent decades has made apparent new social demands, well beyond the threshold for inclusion. However, it still remains to be seen whether a causal order exists between these and the challenges to political representation.

(Disponible solo en inglés:) In this article, we analyze the impact that the evolution of the middle classes has had on political representation in Chile. Based on a description of the transformations of Chilean social structure in recent decades, we review the conceptual frameworks available on the subject, from modernization theories and the rise of new masses – particularly the one that “emerged” from poverty – to the forming of new critical citizens. We state that the heterogeneity of Chilean middle classes has challenged the discredited representation system. We observe more efficient representation channels developing for medium-high-income, educated, and consolidated sectors in contrast to new social policy demands from emerging and vulnerable sectors, focusing more on consolidating their economic status than on improving representation channels.

Como citar: Barozet, E. & Espinoza, V. ( 2016 ). Current Issues on the Political Representation of Middle Classes in Chile. Journal of Politics In Latin America, 8(3), 95-123. Disponible en https://journals.sub.uni-hamburg.de/giga/jpla/article/view/1005/1012