Victims of the Chilean Miracle

Workers and Neoliberalism in the Pinochet Era, 1973–2002

Victims of the Chilean Miracle

Book Pages: 448 Illustrations: 7 tables Published: July 2004

History > Latin American History, Latin American Studies > Southern Cone

Chile was the first major Latin American nation to carry out a complete neoliberal transformation. Its policies—encouraging foreign investment, privatizing public sector companies and services, lowering trade barriers, reducing the size of the state, and embracing the market as a regulator of both the economy and society—produced an economic boom that some have hailed as a “miracle” to be emulated by other Latin American countries. But how have Chile’s millions of workers, whose hard labor and long hours have made the miracle possible, fared under this program? Through empirically grounded historical case studies, this volume examines the human underside of the Chilean economy over the past three decades, delineating the harsh inequities that persist in spite of growth, low inflation, and some decrease in poverty and unemployment.

Implemented in the 1970s at the point of the bayonet and in the shadow of the torture chamber, the neoliberal policies of Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship reversed many of the gains in wages, benefits, and working conditions that Chile’s workers had won during decades of struggle and triggered a severe economic crisis. Later refined and softened, Pinochet’s neoliberal model began, finally, to promote economic growth in the mid-1980s, and it was maintained by the center-left governments that followed the restoration of democracy in 1990. Yet, despite significant increases in worker productivity, real wages stagnated, the expected restoration of labor rights faltered, and gaps in income distribution continued to widen. To shed light on this history and these ongoing problems, the contributors look at industries long part of the Chilean economy—including textiles and copper—and industries that have expanded more recently—including fishing, forestry, and agriculture. They not only show how neoliberalism has affected Chile’s labor force in general but also how it has damaged the environment and imposed special burdens on women. Painting a sobering picture of the two Chiles—one increasingly rich, the other still mired in poverty—these essays suggest that the Chilean miracle may not be as miraculous as it seems.

Paul Drake
Volker Frank
Thomas Klubock
Rachel Schurman
Joel Stillerman
Heidi Tinsman
Peter Winn


“[A] sophisticated collection of essays about working class lives and labor relations in the context of the Chilean and global political economy of the past three decades. The book smoothly integrates disciplinary approaches and pays heed to the varied spatial dimensions of social life, from the local and regional to the national and global. . . . Victims of the Chilean Miracle leaves the reader informed and agitated about the fate of workers in Chile over the past three decades.” — Jody Pavilack, Labor

“[A]n excellent source to study recent Chilean history. . . .” — Vania Barraza Toledo , Arizona Journal of Hispanic Cultural Studies

“If the myth of ‘The Chilean Miracle” is dying a slow death (among academics, at least) then Peter Winn’s edited volume Victims of the Chilean Miracle is akin to an anxious and skillful gravedigger. . . . The collection, quite simply, is strong from cover to cover.” — Patrick Barr-Melej , EIAL

“The book’s most important contribution. . . is to document how poorly working people fared under the center-left governments of the Concertación, which consolidated Chilean neoliberalism and provided a veneer of legitimacy to a process that Pinochet was unable to complete with violence alone.” — Lesley Gill , Hispanic American Historical Review

"[A] most impressive book and one of the best published on Chile in recent years." — Alan Angell , Journal of Latin American Studies

"[A] well-crafted and superbly edited volume. . . . Winn and his colleagues have, without question, produced a valuable contribution to our understanding of the so-called 'Chilean miracle'." — David Scott Palmer, Perspectives on Political Science

"[T]his book eloquently and pointedly challenges the myth of the 'Chilean miracle' by focusing on the impact that neoliberal policies had and have on the Chilean working class and the labor movement. . . . Peter Winn has done an outstanding job of envisioning this project and organizing this book. . . . [P]oignant. . . . All Latin Americanists should read this outstanding collection of essays." — Margaret Power , Latin American Politics and Society

"Peter Winn's Victims of the Chilean Miracle brilliantly documents the pivotal anti-labor focus, particularly in the agricultural, forestry, and the fisheries sectors." — James M Cypher, Dollars and Sense

"What makes Victims of the Chilean Miracle so relevant is that the Chilean case resonates so loudly with so many countries throughout the world today." — Edward Paulino , Labor History

“Showcasing some of the best current U.S. work on recent Chilean labor and economic history, this collection lays to rest any remaining doubts as to the partial and extremely uneven nature of the ‘economic miracle’ and its devastating impact on workers. Especially welcome are discussions of neoliberalism’s contributions to environmental degradation and its contradictory impact on working-class culture and gender relations.” — Florencia Mallon, editor of When a Flower Is Reborn: The Life and Times of a Mapuche Feminist

“The great strength of this volume is that it provides readers with an original, historically based, human-focused analysis of the so-called Chilean miracle.” — Brian Loveman, author of Chile: The Legacy of Hispanic Capitalism


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Peter Winn is Professor of History at Tufts University. His books include Americas: The Changing Face of Latin America and the Caribbean and Weavers of Revolution: The Yarur Workers and Chile’s Road to Socialism.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Index 411

Foreword / Paul W. Drake ix

Acknowledgments xv

Introduction / Peter Winn 1

The Pinochet Era / Peter Winn 14

Politics without Policy: The Failure of Social Concentration in Democratic Chile, 1990-2000 / Volker Frank 71

“No Miracle for Us”: The Textile Industry in the Pinochet Era, 1973–1998 / Peter Winn 125

Disciplined Works and Avid Consumers: Neoliberal Policy and the Transformation of Work and Identity Among Chilean Metalworkers / Joel Stillerman 164

Class, Community, and Neoliberalism in Chile: Copper Workers and the Labor Movement During the Military Dictatorship and the Restoration of Democracy / Thomas Miller Klubock 209

More Than Victims: Women Agricultural Workers and Social Change in Rural Chile / Heidi Tinsman 261

Shuckers, Sorters, Headers, and Gutters: Labor in the Fisheries Sector / Rachel Schurman 298

Labor, Land, and Environmental Change in the Forestry Sector in Chile, 1973–1998 / Thomas Miller Klubock 337

Bibliography 389

Contributors 409
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3321-0 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3309-8
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