Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy


Political Science

Date of Defense


Graduate Advisor

David Kimball


Kenneth Thomas

Stephen Bagwell

Camila Ponce Lara


Chile has frequently been touted as an economic miracle, the “Jaguar of Latin America”. Boasting the strongest economy in South America, due to severe neoliberal economic structural adjustments made under the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet, it has long been held up as the perfect exemplar of economic growth and stability, as well as the poster child for the effectiveness of neoliberal economics. After the re-establishment of democracy in 1990, political conditions improved as well; the country enjoyed a decade of stability and peace under its first two democratically-elected governments.

Yet, beginning approximately ten years after the transition to democracy, Chilean students began engaging in massive waves of protest. Discontent grew, and students manifested in larger numbers and for longer periods of time with each successive cycle of mobilization, eventually culminating in the “social explosion” of 2019. This dissertation examines three cycles of student mobilization in Chile; the Mochilazo (2001), the Revolución Pengüina (2006), and the Invierno Chileno (2011), seeking to explain the effects the protests had on public policy, laws, and political institutions in the country. It delves into how the students were able to enlarge both the number of participants and their claims with each successive cycle; their repertoires of contention; their interactions with government officials; their framing and messages; and what changes occurred as a result of each cycle. A combination of the joint-effect model and Felix Kolb’s framework are used to analyze the effects of social mobilization.

Guided by the state-movement intersection model, Marco Giugni’s joint-effect model, and Felix Kolb’s framework for analyzing the impact of social movements, I find that the students were able to affect numerous changes in each cycle of mobilization, enlarging their claims and numbers each time via transferred knowledge from previous cycles. Chilean students have come to be regarded as important political actors in the political system, and have evolved their claims to demand massive structural changes to both the political and economic systems in the country.

Previous Versions

May 26 2023