Psychoanalysis, Culture & Society

, Volume 16, Issue 3, pp 244–260 | Cite as

A psychosocial interpretation of political violence: Chile 1970–1973

  • Margarita Palacios
Original Article


The military coup of 1973 is the most important event in Chilean history of the 20th century. Thus far it has been explained only in political and economic terms, and, therefore, violence has been understood as strategic. Understanding the cruelty, indiscriminate torture and body mutilations of the coup, however, requires a different analytical perspective. On the basis of a discourse analysis of the Chilean press during the years that preceded the coup, and using the psychoanalytic concept of fantasy, I put forth a psychosocial interpretation in which subjectivity, desire and the limits of the social are central. My research has led me to conclude that anti-Communism and the violence that followed the coup, more than expressing a political and economic conflict, condensed a deeper dynamic of fear and hatred: fear of social disintegration – associated with the feminization of Chilean society – and hatred of the disavowed aspects of Chilean identity. The brutality of the violence aimed not only to repress left-wing political activists, but also to ‘extirpate from the Chilean soul’ a devil that was destroying the nation, to punish a society for having allowed this to happen, and to restore a patriarchal social order.


political violence anti-Communism fantasy Latin America; psychosocial studies 


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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Margarita Palacios
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Psychosocial Studies, Birkbeck, University of LondonLondonUK

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