The Rhetoric of Legal Crisis: How lawyers and legal scholars attempt to reframe the legal system to transform the state (Chile 1964-1994)


In the middle of the 1960’s Chile, an emerging consensus within the legal profession asserted that law (e.g. rules on property, legal education, or courts) was passing through a period of crisis and was out of touch with contemporary social reality (e.g. urbanization, new industrial relations, incorporation of new groups to the democratic system). Accordingly, many lawyers and legal scholars engaged in different projects of radical transformation of law and state during the Cold War, such as the democratic way to socialism (1970-1973) or the construction of a neoliberal regime during the military rule (1973-1990). My project of research explores how different groups of them used the rhetoric of legal crisis as a narrative of mobilization to participate in political conflict and state reform. At this time, I have been preparing the research design of my dissertation project. During my trip to Chile, between mid May and late July of 2013, I conducted archival research and semi-structured interviews to map historical sources and to assess the feasibility of my research question. Preliminary evidence points to the viability of the project. In addition, materials reveal important factors of analysis, such as the networks of the legal profession in bureaucracy and politics, and the correlation between the degree of dissatisfaction of the legal system and the character of the projects of legal reform. Collected materials have been used to refine my research design and to plan a further extended period of study in 2014.

Cristián Villalonga Torrijo
Publication date: 
September 26, 2013
Publication type: 
Student Research