Free Education! A “Live” Report on the Chilean Student Movement 2011-2014 – reform or revolution? [A Political Sociology for Action]

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Magical Realism #lookingforallende @mikeneary

Written by Elisabeth Simbuerger and Mike Neary


This paper provides a report on the Chilean student movement, 2011 – 2014, from the perspective of the students themselves, based on the research question: are the student protesters for reform or revolution? The research was done just before the November 2013 Chilean Presidential and Parliamentary elections using  ‘live methods’ (Back and Puwar 2012).  The live methods used here include an  ethnographic report from a student protest march in downtown Santiago, Chile, illustrated with a Twitter hashtag (#lookingforallende) and shaped by an analytical framework through which the student protest can be interpreted. The analytical framework is made up of paradigms that seek to explicate radical political social transformations: charisma, social movement theory, an historical-materialist political economy, and a critique of political economy, based on an interpretation of Marx’s labour theory of value in a postcolonial context.  Each of these paradigms are elaborated with reference to an exemplary publication that deals with the Chilean situation in particular and Latin America more generally. The paper refers to this version of live methods as ‘political sociology for action’. The paper maintains that the students have developed a sophisticated consciousness in relation to the problems and possibilities of charismatic leadership, an awareness of the power and complexity of their own position as a social movement, together with a strong understanding of the need to contextualise their resistance within a particular version of political economy: neoliberalism. The paper suggests that a paradigm based on a critique of political economy can provide a foundational analysis for further understanding the circumstances of Chilean political society. Taken together: reporting ‘live methods’  within this analytical framework, the paper argues that political sociology for action provides a realistic estimate of the powers required not only to interpret history, but to transform it.

Keywords – reform, revolution, student movement, Allende, labour theory of value, charisma, political economy, Chile, social movements, historical materialism, postcolonialism

Published in  Journal for Critical Education Policy Studies Volume 13 No. 2


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