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Usted está aquí: Inicio Acerca del CLAD Publicaciones Revista del CLAD Reforma y Democracia Artículos por número publicado 002, Julio 1994 Middle class, social networks and the neo-liberal model. The case of Chilean teachers (1973-1988)
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Middle class, social networks and the neo-liberal model. The case of Chilean teachers (1973-1988)

Larissa Adler Lomnits & Ana Melnick

The results of a study on the impact of the neo-liberal model on Chile from 1973-1988, particularly on elementary and high-school teachers, are presented. Middle class is determined by economic, social and symbolic features, and the adverse effects on these features during the above-mentioned period are pointed out.

Social indebtedness in Latin American states, as a result of structural adjustment programs, was paid not only by the poorest sectors, but by the middle class, whose real salary, purchasing power, and ability to preserve and find a job were dramatically undermined.

This study takes a group of Chilean elementary and high-school teachers as a reference to explore the impact of the neo-liberal model on middle-class sectors. The Chilean case is particularly notorious. As of the 1993 coup, the official ideology focussed on removing the welfare state and imposing fast and early neo-liberal policies, with those people affected unable to reject the move.

Defining middle class is a difficult task, given its heterogenous components. Some basic features include symbolic identification and an economic, social and cultural equity or heritage. Social relations are economically important --the exchange of favors are characteristic in this sector, as well as solidarity to preserve the status.

The typical members of Chilean middle class in 1968 were public servants, a particular kind of employees, or professionals whose access to the state apparatus mostly depended on their political, social, and family links. This relationship among people of the same social level --"compaternity"-- arranges institutional favors in a decreasing order according to social proximity --family, close friends, friends, friends of friends.

With the neo-liberal model, the labor conditions of teachers were impaired by the lack of stability, deteriorating salaries, increased work hours, and a reduction in the power of the guild. As for social resources, the military regime shifted the influence of political parties and middle-class groups of interest, with their network of favors exchange being reduced. With respect to symbolic representation, self-esteem was hit by a declining status.

It should be concluded that the neo-liberal model in Chile under political conditions resulting from the military power adversely affected three essential aspects in teachers' life --labor conditions, social resources, and symbolic representation of the role played in society.

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