307.2 Nuclear economics: Evaluatory epistemologies and the shaping of Chile's energy market

Thursday, August 2, 2012: 12:50 PM
Faculty of Economics, TBA
Manuel TIRONI , Department of Sociology, Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile, Chile
The Chilean energy market has been widely recognized as one of the most extreme cases of neoliberal deregulation. As such, it complies with what an abundant literature on the macro-impacts of neoliberalism in Latin American politics and economics has signaled. However, how neoliberalism – as a set of specific techniques and forms of knowledge – has reshaped the organization of the Chilean energy market – and economic markets in the region at large – is still an understudied subject.

In this article I examine the failure of the Chilean nuclear program in the mid 70s as a way of understanding the reorganization of Chile’s energy market under a new neoliberal rationale. To this end, I focus on one key dimension of this reorganization: the practical instauration in this market of a new evaluatory epistemology, i.e. a new set of epistemic references to authoritatively evaluate (economic) things. Specifically, the case of the Chilean nuclear program – and its dismissal by the newly arrived regulators – point at the emergence of a new form of expertise in this market (the economist as the ascendant scientific expert) mobilizing a new bundle of evaluative criteria (efficiency and comparative cost analyses).

Finally, the paper suggest that the failure Chilean nuclear program operated as an early experiment to test – and perform – the benefits of the adopted neoliberal framework. Thus the nuclear program became itself a key entity in the enactment of neoliberalism at large in Chile.