The Emperor’s new clothes: Labor reform and social democratization in Chile

  • Louise Haagh


This article analyzes the relationship between political and social democratization in recent democratic transitions by illustrating how the two processes were at odds in the case of labor reform in Chile (1990–2001). Labor reform served simultaneously to consolidate political democracy and slow down the momentum of social democratization. It was a tool for signalling policy change to legitimate the democratic regime, but at the same time leaving the liberal economy intact. The Chilean case calls into question the thesis of a natural progression from political to social rights prevalent in democratic theory, and allows us to generalize about the way marketization places limits on democratic deepening. The article first discusses what would be appropriate criteria of social democratization considering contemporary labor issues and labor relations in Chile. It then investigates the political process of labor reform. Ongoing legal debates through the 1990s show the extent of path dependence set in motion by the timid nature of the first social reforms in Chile’s new demoncracy and their muting effect on citizenship.


Collective Bargaining Comparative International Development Unemployment Insurance Democratic Regime Social Democratization 
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  • Louise Haagh

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