Chilean elite: close, but so far – 05/19/2021 – Latinoamérica21

The Chilean constitutive process has aroused interest for several reasons: its gender parity, the seats reserved for indigenous peoples and its electoral system, among other aspects. However, the process did not take into account the relationship between the elite and the rest of society.

The elites, understood as minority groups of people who concentrate important positions within a society, have historically been present in all societies of some magnitude. Between societies, there are distance differences between these elites and the rest of society, however, their positions must be legitimized by the rest of society. Otherwise, societies can experience crises and / or major changes.

The distance between the elite and society has different manifestations. One is mobility, both inside and outside the core group. Another dimension concerns the distance of access to resources, goods and services, which translates into a style and quality of life. And a third dimension is associated with the differences in perceptions and in the way of understanding reality, because it has different experiences and interests.

In the case of Chile, attention is drawn to the great distance between elites and society, which results in low social mobility and strong intergenerational reproduction of the elite. It is very likely that those who are born into the elite will stay there and those who are not born will not achieve such positions. This is because of the importance of contacts, last names and participation in exclusive institutions to access opportunities.

Likewise, there is significant social segregation, in which those with higher incomes have access to certain schools, neighborhoods, health establishments and other services where people with a common homogeneous origin coincide, obtaining a very different quality from the rest. Population. All of this means that the pattern of inequalities in Chile, one of the most unequal countries in the world, is precisely its high concentration of wealth and well-being among a small number of people.

Regarding perceptions, a recent study by researchers Atria and Rovira draws attention to the great difference in perceptions and valuations that exist between the elite, especially the economic elite, and the rest of the population. This difference is so marked that it seems that they lived in different countries.

Since 1998, some studies in Chile, mainly from the UNDP, have identified a social unrest related to the fact that the promises made by the return to democracy had been defrauded, as people realized that their material conditions were improving, but not at the pace of elite. This malaise appears to have exploded in October 2019, warning that the distance between the elite and society had reached a critical point. The progress of the country that the elite had projected for the world was not perceived in the same way by the general population.

At the same time, the idea that if the elite improved their conditions, these advantages, sooner or later, would be passed on to everyone, collapsed. It seems that more and more people believe that what some earn is at the expense of others. Thus, a pause was observed, which seemed to motivate reflections and openings on the part of the elitist sectors, opening the possibility of changes which tend towards a new agreement.

However, in recent weeks, statements by various business leaders in the midst of a pandemic, rejecting the economic aid proposed by the government, which despite its aid character would have a redistributive effect, has sparked controversy. It shows how the elite have little empathy for the rest of the population.

Therefore, it seems that, despite the good intentions of some people, the distance between the elite and the rest of society generates a sounding board in which the speech of the elite is reproduced in people who perceive the reality of similar way and at the same time. . time makes them ignore what many people go through on a daily basis.

The constitutional process that Chile is facing and whose next step is the election of the members of the Constituent Assembly on May 15 and 16, is an opportunity to reconfigure the relations between the elite and the society, by reducing these distances. . Therefore, it is essential that people from different sectors of society participate in the constituent experience, both as members of the Constituent Assembly and / or in other functions. The risk of being a new instance captured by the elite would imply that once again the experience of a significant part of the population would be ignored, which could intensify the social divide.

It is time to build an institutionality where the destinies of the business sector, political authorities, high incomes and the rest of the population are projected from a common horizon. This implies a new agreement. As we said at the beginning, although all societies have elites, the distance that can be seen in Chile is unusual. Societies in which the elites themselves use, maintain and develop the services to which the majority of the population has access and where the opportunities and living conditions are less determined by social origin, tend to show higher degrees cohesion and ability to face common challenges, as this pandemic has shown.

In addition, a changing and renewing elite, including people from different backgrounds, is more likely to interpret the changes and anticipate the actions necessary for the common well-being.

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