Degree Type

Honors Capstone Project

Date of Submission

Spring 5-1-2014

Capstone Advisor

Dr. Azra Hromadzic

Honors Reader

Dr. John S. Burdick

Capstone Major

International Relations

Capstone College

Citizenship and Public Affairs

Audio/Visual Component


Capstone Prize Winner


Won Capstone Funding


Honors Categories

Social Sciences

Subject Categories

International and Area Studies | Latin American Studies | Other International and Area Studies


In the past several decades, Chile has been regarded an “economic miracle” and praised for its transition from a brutal dictatorship that lasted nearly two decades to the current democracy. While the state has made much progress, it remains highly unequal in terms of opportunities and services available to the middle and lower classes. This structural inequality is most visible within education. Dictatorship-era policies and long-standing economic and political structures have commoditized education and established an educational system that essentially excludes large sections of the population from receiving quality education.

It is thus not surprising that a potent, influential student movement has emerged in Chile, and that among its primary demands are: free, quality education for all and political and economic reforms to the existing system that has allowed inequality to thrive. This study examines that student movement, placing it within the context of Chilean history, politics, economics, and society. It explores the factors that have led to the uprising: political and economic remnants from Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship and structural inequality in Chilean society. The study also explores the reasons that the movement arose when it did: an uprising in 2006, a recent shift to conservative government, and generational differences that compel these students to mobilize.

In addition this work navigates the sociology and characteristics of the movement: its makeup, the tools used to gather support, the methods utilized for demonstration, etc. These are explored based on their ties to Chile’s unique past, as the memory of the dictatorship informs the actions of the student movement today. Along with secondary research, this study utilizes profiles of two student participants of the movement constructed through interviews in order to achieve a more nuanced, personal study of the social movement. In addition, the use of theoretical research of youth movements leads to the conclusion that while this student movement has characteristics that make it uniquely Chilean, it is part of a larger trend that has emerged recently. This trend involves youth-led political movements that have erupted globally and have demanded structural changes in neoliberal politics and society. Often led by student-citizens, they call for social rights and equality and are driven by a greater international awareness and access to technological tools that aid with mobilization. They deal with issues specific to different places – as with the Chilean student movement – but reflect a general dissatisfaction with states’ focus on economics in place of social rights. These young people’s expectations of their states has increased and they share a generational tendency to actively seek reforms.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.



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