Stephen B. Crofts Wiley (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, U.S.A.), 'Becoming Modern:
Capitalism and Agency in Neoliberal Chile'
I first argue that current theories of political agency are inadequate because they treat analytical abstractions (e.g. capitalism, neocolonialism, postmodernism) as historically transcendent forms of agency, reducing critical debate to a dispute about their relative importance as explanatory metanarratives. Instead we should reconceptualize agency as an assemblage of flows, as an articulation of "becomings" (to use the terminology of Deleuze and Guattari) that is completely immanent to history and comprehensible only in its contextual specificity. "Capitalism" (for example) is not a transhistorical force, but a constant process of rearticulation, redefinition, and reorganization. To theorize agency, we must therefore begin with a particular articulated context and map the relevant lines of force that organize it, according to specific logics, as a coherent (or conflicted) conjunction of flows. Agency is the material assemblage of forces and effects that organizes that context.
Second, I suggest that the space of "the nation-state" be reconceptualized as one such articulated context. It is a material and discursive site over which various assemblages of agency struggle. More specifically, the nation state is a spatio- temporal organization of society as an expressive totality and as a regime of accumulation within the transnational networks of capitalism. It is a temporalized space, a specific terrain of activity that is circumscribed politically and culturally as a coherent space and then subjected to the temporal rhythms of modernity. The discourse of national modernization, the neoliberal policy orientation that it underwrites, and the military and economic forces that guarantee that discourse and policy orientation all work in concert to articulate a more or less coherent national space of subjectivity, subjection, production, and reproduction.
Third, I use this perspective to examine the economic, political, and cultural transformation of "Chile" during the 16-year rule (and ongoing influence) of General Pinochet. I analyze Chile not as a predefined national territory or society or polity, but as a transnational articulation of discourses and practices. "Chile" was, and is, constructed as much in Washington, Chicago, New York, Mexico City, and London as it is in Santiago. It is as much the product of U.S. and European graduate education programs and Ford Foundation networks, private investment bankers and IMF policymakers, the U.S. State Department and the Vatican, Amnesty International and the North American Committee on Latin America, as it is the creation of the Chilean military, the Chilean technocracy, the Chilean business elite, and the Chilean people. Using such an approach, I examine the reorganization of Chilean political culture within these transnational circuits during the 1970s and 80s. I focus, in particular, on the "renovation" of the Chilean Left--the discrediting of the socialist project of Salvador Allende's Popular Unity government and the development of a "modern" (pragmatic, capitalist, technical) social liberalism prior to the plebiscite of 1988. What assemblages of agency brought about this renovation of the Left and reorganization of Chilean political culture, I ask. What are the short- and long-term effects of that reorganization for "Chile" as a political and social space? What are the possibilities and limitations of the new context?
|The full paper.|