Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

First Advisor

Baumann, Fred E.


Over the last forty years, Chile has seen a massive change in the behavior of its leftist politicians. Before the 1973 coup d'etat, the Chilean left was a highly factionalized coalition whose intransigent, ideologically motivated stances polarized the country. Since the restoration of democracy in 1990, however, the Chilean left has joined forces with the centrist Christian Democratic Party, won four consecutive elections, and ruled Chile with a distinctly non-ideological style. This has resulted in an extremely stable democracy that is characterized by a rather non-confrontational type of politics. Many researchers have written about institutional and international constraints and the ways in which they have affected the character of Chilean democracy. However, as useful as such literature might be, political decisions in Chile were not made by predictable automatons; they were made by human beings. When engaging in politics, human beings behave in accordance with ideologies that determine the interests which they pursue. In fact, ideas and ideologies were very important in shaping the Chilean democratization process. We can begin to explain the ideational dimension of Chilean democratization by examining the concept of political learning. Political learning, according to Jennifer McCoy, is "a process of reflection on experience or new information that affects orientation or behavior." Over the course of this essay, I trace the development of political learning in two key Socialist politicians of the era: Carlos Altamirano and Clodomiro Almeyda. Altamirano, a hardline Marxist-Leninist before 1973, led the "renovation" movement within the Socialist Party, de-emphasizing the role of ideology in politics, advocating moderate policies, and explicitly adhering to democratic rules and norms. I find that Altamirano learned lessons during his exile from Chile that fundamentally altered his perception of politics. Meanwhile, Almeyda's beliefs became radicalized immediately after the coup d'etat in 1973, but he later moderated his Marxist-Leninist beliefs, joining the Concertacion in 1988. I conclude that Almeyda learned strategic lessons during his exile, but did not experience as profound a change as Altamirano. All in all, I posit that the political learning experienced by Altamirano and Almeyda deeply changed the character of re-democratization in Chile, contributing substantially to the type of democracy that we see today in Chile.


Includes bibliographical references: pages 119-124

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