Democratic Chile: The Politics and Policies of a Historic Coalition, 1990–2010

Kirsten Sehnbruch
Peter Siavelis
Lynne Rienner Publishers


Book Description


This book is the first comprehensive analysis of the Concertación period in Chile: It brings together chapters from the best known analysts of Chilean politics and policies from both Anglosaxon and Chilean authors, and thus combines perspective with the in-depth knowledge of those close to the political process. It fairly evaluates the Concertación’s successes and failures, picking apart the clichés that are often associated with the country that is considered Latin America’s poster child.


A particularly unique feature of the book is that it relates its analysis of the politics and institutions that characterized the Concertación period with its policy outcomes. The authors argue that the Concertación was simultaneously a victim of its own success and the author of its own demise — both with respect to its political and economic model.


In political terms the coalition crafted a model for democratic transition and governance that relied on elaborate forms of consensus building between political parties, between the government and opposition, and between political parties and powerful social groups. This model of consensus government is interpreted by most as the key to the success of the coalition in managing the inevitable conflicts and tensions that arise in the course of democratic transitions. At the same time however, the continued reliance on this model of transition politics for the long term resulted in a failure to respond to legitimate citizen demands.


The authors make a parallel argument regarding Chile’s economic and social development: Chile’s successful economic management is widely lauded as a potential blueprint for the rest of Latin America, yet this success has been of little comfort to those at the lower end of Chile’s notoriously unequal socio-economic ladder. While services that can compete with the best in the world cater to the rich, the poor are still largely excluded from Chile’s privatized, two tiered structure of services in the areas of healthcare, education and social security.


In essence, the twenty year Concertación period has been dominated by the tension between achieving social progress within the confines of an economy that still largely adheres to the principles laid out by a neoliberal dictatorship which privatized social services as far as possible, reduced the size of the state and limited its tax base. Thus, while the Concertación has been lauded for maintaining economic stability and growth, it is also continuously criticized for its lack of audacity in engaging in real reforms to the Pinochet model that could make Chile a more just and equitable society. 





  • Foreword—Alan Angell.
  • Political and Economic Life Under the Rainbow—the Editors.
  • From a Necessary to a Permanent Coalition—P.M. Siavelis.
  • The Alianza’s Quest to Win Power Democratically—P. Navia and R. Godoy.
  • Democratizing Chile Through Constitutional Reforms—C.A. Fuentes.
  • The Military and Twenty Years of the Concertación—C. Collins.
  • Political Reform and Gender Equality—L. Haas and M. Blofield.
  • Human Rights Under the Concertación—C. Collins.
  • Economic Policy and the Ideology of Stability—O. Landerretche.
  • Fiscal Policy: Promoting Faustian Growth—R. López.
  • Reducing Poverty: Real or Rhetorical Success?—S. Borzutzky, C. Sanhueza, and K. Sehnbruch.
  • Social Policies: From Social Debt to Welfare State?—D. Contreras and K. Sehnbruch.
  • A Precarious Labor Market—K. Sehnbruch.
  • Education: Freedom of Choice or Enterprise—G. Elacqua and P. González.
  • The Future of the Rainbow Coalition—the Editors.


Information on the Editors:


Kirsten Sehnbruch is a professor at the Department of Economics at the University of Chile and the Director of the Centre for New Development Thinking. Before this, she worked for five years as a Lecturer and Senior Scholar at the University of California, at Berkeley. Her research focuses on Latin American labour markets, development and social policy. She is the author of the book The Chilean Labour Market: A Key to Understanding Latin American Labour Markets (Palgrave Macmillan, 2006, as well as of numerous academic articles and papers. Before becoming an academic, she worked as an auditor for Price Waterhouse in Buenos Aires, as an analyst on the Mexico Desk at the European Commission’s Directorate for External Relations, and as a financial analyst at Goldman Sachs. She holds a PhD in Social and Political Sciences from Cambridge University.


Peter M. Siavelis is Professor of Political Science and Director of the Latin American and Latino Studies Program at Wake Forrest University. He received his PhD from Georgetown University and has been a visiting professor at the Catholic University of Chile and the Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona, Spain and a visiting researcher at the University of Salamanca, Spain.  He has published on Latin American electoral and legislative politics in numerous journal articles and book chapters. He is the author of The President and Congress in Post-authoritarian Chile: Institutional Constraints to Democratic Consolidation (Penn State Press, 2000).  He is also the co-editor of Getting Immigration Right: What Every American Needs to Know (Potomac Books, 2009) with David Coates.  His recent research has focused on political recruitment and candidate selection in Latin America. With Scott Morgenstern he published an edited volume entitled Pathways to Power: Political Recruitment and Candidate Selection in Latin America (Penn State Press, 2008).