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The Rhetoric of Legal Crisis. Lawyers and the Politics of Juridical Expertise in Chile (1830-1990)


By the mid-1960s, different groups of Chilean law graduates pervasively began to manifest malaise about the competition of other professions in public decision-making and the unresponsiveness of legal institutions to new social needs. Socio-legal scholarship agrees, based on a preliminary reading of the historical sources and anecdotal evidence, that lawyers lost their quasi-monopoly on statecraft and were unable to resourcefully participate in the political arena during twentieth-century Latin America. However, such phenomena have not been analyzed systematically. Paying attention to Chilean elite lawyers, this dissertation tries to fill the aforesaid gap.

Builds upon Max Weber and Pierre Bourdieu’s scholarship as theoretical scaffolding, this research examines the transformation of juridical expertise in the process of modernization and the different strategies employed by legal professionals to regain influence in public governance. Through qualitative and quantitative analysis, the first part of my dissertation studies how the legal profession lost political power along with the division of governmental labor and the bureaucratization of courts and the bar occurred in twentieth-century Chile. The second part, chapters 4 to 7, analyzes how different networks of lawyers mobilized after the erosion of their authority, employing a dual strategy of collective action to advance simultaneously their position inside the legal field and diverse political agendas during the Cold War years

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