Faculty Scholarly Dissemination Grants


Producing Space, Producing Protest: Chilean Metalworkers Spatial Strategies across Political and Economic Regimes, 1945-2011


Sociology Department


College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Date Range



Social and Behavioral Sciences


Students of contentious politics have recently focused on how space, place, and scale shape collective action. However, few scholars have integrated an analysis of activists spatial strategies with the economic and political organization of space. This paper seeks to fill this lacuna. Using Lefebvres conception of the production of space (1991), and Brenners (2004) notion of Keynesian and neoliberal state spaces, I examine how changes in the spatial structure of capital and government in Chile affected labor mobilization. I integrate these concepts with the ideas of spatial routines, time-distance costs, safe spaces, and sense of place (Tilly 2000) to understand changing mobilization strategies across political conjunctures. Drawing on over 100 oral histories, participant observation, and documentary evidence, I examine the trajectory of Chilean metalworkers protest under democratic-Keynesian, authoritarian-neoliberal, and democratic-neoliberal political-economic regimes. I argue that under Chiles democratic-Keynesian state space (1939-1973), the spatial concentration of factories, housing, and union infrastructure in Santiago, the countrys capital, facilitated the creation of a sense of place among workers and provided political allies thereby facilitating successful labor mobilization. Under authoritarian-neoliberal state space (1973-1990), political repression as well as industrial, state, and housing decentralization and fragmentation eroded the sense of place, eliminated labors political allies, and decreased labors mobilization capacity. Under democratic-neoliberal state space, the legacies of fragmentation continued though a political opening and transnational targets led workers to jump scale (Smith 1992). The political conjunctures for each of the strikes (balance of power between pro- and anti-labor parties, labor movement strategies) shaped both labors and capitals spatial strategies. These findings have broad implications for the evolution of social protest over short- and long-term changes in the spatial configuration of economy and state.

Conference Name

North American Labor History Conference

Conference Location

Detroit, MI

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