Cakes, crumbs, or punches? Understanding Chilean governments’ responses to social movements (2006-2014)

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Cakes, crumbs, or punches? Understanding Chilean governments’ responses to social movements (2006-2014)

DRAFT CHAPTER FOR BOOK ON CHILEAN SOCIAL MOVEMENTS TO BE EDITED BY EDWARD C. EPSTEIN

ABSTRACT. We explore the responses of recent Chilean governments to the student, environmental, and indigenous movements. Although the Chilean political system provides few incentives for high governmental responsiveness (by which we mean institutional reforms aligned with movement’s demands and low repression), governments were much more responsive to the student movement than to the indigenous mapuche movement. The environmental movement is located in an intermediate position. For understanding variations in governmental responsiveness, we develop a framework based on the incentives faced by governments – with governments being encouraged to be more responsive to movements that are more capable of damaging their public approval, legitimacy, and future electoral prospects. Based on this assumption, the framework suggests that responsiveness varies according to the characteristics of protests and movements. Specifically, responses are more favorable when the collective protest displayed by movements is massive, highly visible, disruptive, and essentially pacific (i. e. non-violent). Conversely, responses are less favorable when protests are tiny, not very visible, violent, and barely disruptive. This framework was inductively based on the three movements studied here but can be extended to other cases and contexts.