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Catalog Archive / Spring 2020

Civil Obedience
Complicity and Complacency in Chile since Pinochet

Critical Human Rights
Steve J. Stern and Scott Straus, Series Editors

How have civilians in Chile rationalized their support of the brutal Pinochet regime and its legacy?

Since the fall of General Augusto Pinochet's dictatorship in 1990, Chilean society has shied away from the subject of civilian complicity, preferring to pursue convictions of military perpetrators. But the torture, murders, deportations, and disappearances of tens of thousands of people in Chile were not carried out by the military alone; they required a vast civilian network. Some citizens actively participated in the regime's massive violations of human rights for personal gain or out of a sense of patriotic duty. Others supported Pinochet's neoliberal economic program while turning a blind eye to the crimes of that era.

Michael J. Lazzara boldly argues that today's Chile is a product of both complicity and complacency. Combining historical analysis with deft literary, political, and cultural critique, he scrutinizes the post-Pinochet rationalizations made by politicians, artists, intellectuals, bystanders, former revolutionaries-turned-neoliberals, and common citizens. He looks beyond victims and perpetrators to unveil the ambiguous, ethically vexed realms of memory and experience that authoritarian regimes inevitably generate.


Michael J. LazzaraMichael J. Lazzara is a professor of Latin American literature and cultural studies at the University of California, Davis. His several books include Chile in Transition: The Poetics and Politics of Memory and Luz Arce and Pinochet's Chile: Testimony in the Aftermath of State Violence.




“Original, engaging, and direly needed. Lazzara, one of the leading scholars writing on human rights, memory, and trauma in Chile and Argentina, looks at the many ethical positions civilians have latched onto to save face in the decades since the Pinochet dictatorship.”
—Greg Dawes, author of Verses Against the Darkness

“Provocative, conceptually powerful, and fluidly expressed, Lazzara's book forces a reckoning with the active, ample ways Chileans violently transformed politics, the economy, and the social fabric to lasting effect and amid ongoing denial. The arguments and implications extend well beyond Chile to our own politics and societies.”
—Katherine Hite, author of Politics and the Art of Commemoration



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Of Related Interest


The Wars inside Chile's Barracks
Remembering Military Service under Pinochet
Leith Passmore


Prisoner of Pinochet
My Year in a Chilean Concentration Camp
Sergio Bitar, Translated by Erin Goodman

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June 2020
LC: 2017046340 F
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