Hernán Vidal is a professor of Latin American comparative literature and cultural studies at the University of Minnesota.
Published in Latin American Perspectives, Issue 113, Vol. 27 No. 4, July 2000, pp. 80-102
© 2000 Latin American Perspectives
José Joaquín Brunner is one of a small number of cultural sociologists in Chile, but he is the most widely known and the one to have carried out the most extensive critical analysis since the military coup of September 11, 1973.Heis also the onewhohas most frequently used the term “postmodernity” as an entry point into the debate on Chilean and Latin American culture in recent decades. His name is associated with those of the other socialist intellectuals in the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences (FLACSO), such as Tomás Moulian, Manuel Antonio Garretón, Norbert Lechner, and Augusto Varas, who participated in Chile’s so-called Socialist Renovation. Most recently he has occupied the post of government secretary general in President Eduardo Frei Ruiz-Tagle’s administration.
José Joaquín Brunner’s is perhaps the most intriguing political sensibility to arise during Chile’s transition to democracy. In the discussion that follows an attempt will be made to trace its development and reveal the spiritual resources drawn upon by a group of intellectuals from the left in an effort to overcome the profound existential crisis caused by the catastrophic defeat of the Popular Unity in 1973. In this respect terms such as “catastrophe,” “modernity,” “postmodernity,” and “Socialist Renovation” became closely linked in the search for a discursive space in which to create a newpolitical identity and a new form of cultural action to lead Chile toward redemocratization.
Socialist Renovation was one of the outcomes of the exile in the German Democratic Republic experienced by the leadership of the Socialist party. In their minds, the direct experience of a police state totally undermined the validity of Soviet socialism as the desirable utopia for Chile and Latin America. Disillusionment brought about the fragmentation of the Socialist party and the demise of the Popular Unity as the umbrella organization for the antimilitary opposition of the left.