The Chilean Paradox : Decline of the Youth Vote and the Rise of the Student Movement in the Presence of Neoliberal Democracy
MetadataShow full item record
Since the end of the military dictatorship under Augusto Pinochet in 1989, Chile has transitioned back to a democratic system. However, this process of redemocratization and reinstitution of political rights has not resulted in equal levels of formal political participation across all sectors of the Chilean population. Over the last 25 years, encompassing the first two decades of the new Chilean democracy, Chile experienced the most dramatic decline in general voter turnout that the world has seen during this period (Corvalan and Cox 2013, 49). This decline in voter turnout has been especially · characteristic of the youth population as Chileans who are 18 to 29 years of age have essentially turned their backs on the institutionalized act of voting. This, however, does not mean that the youth are apathetic regarding their political system. During this period, a student-led education movement emerged with two strong waves and demonstrated that youth are not unaware of their political surroundings, but rather are making their voices heard through other means. This simultaneous low youth voter turnout and strong extraparliamentary demonstrations during the new democratic period has been the paradox that sparked this project. What explains the major decline of Chilean youth voter turnout alongside the emergence and sustainment of a strong, youth-led education movement? Through a variety of investigative strategies discussed below, this study found that the juxtaposition of the decline of youth turnout and the augmentation of extraparliamentary political action in the student movement has been caused by a number of factors. These factors are, (1) generational differences and the subsequent differences in collective memory, (2) societal individualization, (3) education, and (4) disengagement from the institutionalized political system. Through my research I have found that while these factors are varied, each can be traced back to the effects of the rise of neoliberal policy and the consequent neoliberal culture that was instituted heavily during the military dictatorship between 1973 and 1989. By acknowledging the role of neoliberalism in Chilean society and examining its specific manifestations within these four factors listed above, it is possible to understand why Chilean youth have turned their backs on the electoral and representational processes in favor of non-traditional political action.