The “Inequality of Conditions”, a Social Imaginary: Distinctions, Recognition and Democracy in Contemporary Chile.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016: 11:30
Location: Hörsaal 4C KS (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Oral Presentation
Rachel THEODORE, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, France, Universidad de Chile, Chile
Many research studies on the perception of inequality have shown that the Chilean population does not perceive socio-economic inequalities as they objectively are. Hence, we question, first, how these inequalities become normal standards, and are legitimized, to the point of disappearing from the population's perception and, second, how this key factor influences people’s practice of democracy.

In 2015, in depth interviews were conducted in four Chilean cities to investigate the aforementioned topic of this research study, with the main focus on the question of how one can understand the perceptions of inequality by relying on the theory of the Social Imaginary.

Our main thesis suggests  that Chilean society has developed an imaginary framework by means of images, social representations and discourse, which enable the normalization and legitimation of these inequalities, ultimately leading one to consider them as part of the social landscape.

Our first hypothesis is that these great inequalities are justified by the existence of what we would call an "imaginary of inequality of conditions" - a counter image of the Tocquevillian notion of “equality of conditions"- which underlies the mayor significance accorded by individuals to apparent distinctions — material, social, or personal.

Our second hypothesis is, therefore, that this specific imaginary is incarnated in social relations and is rooted in an absence of consideration or recognition, between individuals, which ultimately justifies socio-economic inequalities: if individuals are not morally equal, therefore, society justifies that some individuals are superior to others, making a strong, vertically structured society "the norm", providing the soil for inequalities to unfold.

Our third hypothesis is that this imaginary, shaped by an asymmetrical view of society, has a strong impact not only on people’s idea of democracy - a political structure that presupposes equality as its core principle- but also on its daily practice and participation process.