Business Elites and Citizen Demands – a Case Study from Chile

Sunday, 10 July 2016: 09:30
Location: Hörsaal 10 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Karin FISCHER, Kepler University Linz, Austria
Pelfini PELFINI, Department of Sociology, Alberto Hurtado University, Santiago de Chile, Chile
Elites are usually ill-disposed towards the redistribution of resources. Attitudes change, however, with respect to poverty reduction and pro-poor policies. Historical accounts of the evolution of welfare states in the global North inform us that elites` support for poverty reduction is driven by the extent to which elites and the poor are interdependent, i.e. that poverty and the poor have a positive or negative impact on their welfare, too.

A possible reason to explain the scarce perception of interdependence between rich and poor in the developing world is the transformation of the boundaries of society and socialization (“Vergesellschaftung”) itself. Elites involved in the creation of welfare policies in Europe and the US (identified by Swaan, 1988) reproduced themselves and obtained their legitimacy mainly within the boundaries of the nation-state.

We argue that the problem is not that contemporary elites lack a perception of interdependence as such. There is, in fact, a change in the social and spatial coordinates of interdependence. As C. Lasch (1994) pointed out, elites nowadays reproduce themselves mainly within transnational networks and are socialized in cross-boundary class connections and institutions.

Taking Lasch`s thesis as the point of departure, we will present a case study on the business elite in Chile. We will focus on the way the Chilean business elite uses recognition and acknowledgement enjoyed abroad as a strategy to block recent citizen demands for greater democracy and access to public goods.