Date of Award

2016

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Sociology

Abstract

In 2011, thousands of students filled the main streets and occupied most educational establishments of Chile to demand a profound transformation of the educational system – one of the main reforms of Pinochet’s government. Like students in many other countries, the Chilean Student Movement has been struggling against the pervasive effects of neoliberalism on the higher educational system, aiming to recover the public sense of education. Students from all over the country began to organize to struggle against profits in the higher education system. In doing so, students denied the very core of the neoliberal economic system and deeply (re)politicized the Chilean society after an apparently submissive period of Transition to Democracy that followed dictatorship.

Because of the power of this movement, understanding how it emerged is of important scholarly interest. Most analysts of this movement have focused on the neoliberal features of Chilean education to explain it, using secondary sources of evidence. However, few address the question of how the movement’s ideas were historically forged, and the sites and actors involved in this process beyond educational institutions. This latter problem is especially surprising, because many of these scholars highlight the effects of the higher education system crisis on family life in particular. Yet, there is little written about the role of activists' families in the formation of student consciousness.

In this dissertation, I examine this key but still understudied aspect of social movements. I study the process of the formation of critical consciousness in a diverse group of active students' families, that is, the process of transformation of the ideas through which people use to explain their material circumstances to obtain the ability to act as historical agents. To do so, this dissertation first examines the origins of the neoliberalization of higher education in Chile, and then turns to an examination of the role of family life in the formation of students' critical consciousness.

The main discovery is that the process of formation of critical consciousness in a post-dictatorial country entails family-based intergenerational struggles that run through different stages of development, which follow a conflictive course. In turn, these stages involve different types of consciousness, which always involve rational motivations despite the contradictory travails of traumatic memories in the (re)construction of resistance under the particular Chilean historical conditions.

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