Vital Connections

Politics, Social Security, and Inequality in Chile

Silvia Borzutzky

From the Helen Kellogg Institute for International Studies

Vital Connections is the first book-length treatment in English of the evolution of social security in Chile and its privatization under the Pinochet regime. Borzutzky’s study contains a dynamic history of Chilean politics, a sophisticated discussion of social inequalities, and an in-depth analysis of social security policies in Chile from 1924 to the present. Her work focuses on three critical historical periods: the mid-1920s, the late 1960s, and the early to mid-1970s. In each of these key epochs, Chile experienced a crisis which prompted a reform of its socioeconomic organization and, consequently, of its social security system.

Throughout this concise, readable book, Borzutzky argues that Chile’s social security system presented to the world a positive image, while hiding a political reality that was steeped in profound inequality. According to Borzutzky, Chile’s social security system helped to create a “narrative” that portrayed the country as a unified society with a legitimate political system. Efforts on the part of the Chilean people to make this narrative a reality threatened those in power and ultimately led the Pinochet regime to destroy the political system and create a new “narrative” that stressed individualism, but in actuality perpetuated rampant human rights abuses.

Borzutzky’s timely analysis is particularly relevant to current considerations of social security reforms. Chile’s social security system is often presented as a model for the rest of Latin America and other regions of the world, including the United States. Borzutzky’s book highlights the impact of privatization on various segments and aspects of society, including women and the fiscal budget.

With an impressive array of historical and current data to support her statements, Borzutzky offers a compelling counter-argument to privatization and to tradtional interpretations of Chilean politics. She offers a new window on the intimate connections between politics, policies, and the distribution of socioeconomic resources in Chile.

SILVIA BORZUTZKY is a lecturer in the Social and Decision Sciences Department and the Heinz School at Carnegie Mellon University.


“Backed by solid research, this book sheds light on modern Chilean history, the ties between politics and state policies, and the connections between political goals and social security.” — Hispanic American Historical Review, December 2004

“. . . the study is well-argued and readable . . . a good overview of the topic.” — Iberoamericana

“Borzutsky’s readable analysis of political and policy problems in Chilean social security has implications for advocates of both social democratic and market-oriented approaches to social policy. Recommended for undergraduates and above.” — Choice

“. . . [A]n empirically rich account of the development of social security policies in Chile in the twentieth century. The book’s detailed account of Chile’s social security reforms demonstrates the vital connections of the Chilean case with contemporary policy debates over pension privatization.” — Latin American Politics and Society

“This book offers a timely and important contribution to the examination of social security that is relevant for Chile and for the countries that have studied and adapted the so-called Chilean model in Latin America. . . . While there have been a number of articles on this subject in English, this is the first book on the evolution of social security in Chile.” — Latin American Perspectives