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Educational Imaginaries in Motion in Chile: a Cultural Political Economy Exploration of Educational De/Privatisation Discourses, Dynamics and Outcomes



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Rosenzvaig Hernandez, Mariano Alejandro 


This dissertation explores the institutional changes in Chilean education between 1981 and 2019, focusing on the privatisation and de-privatisation of the educational system. The study analyses the hegemonic and counter-hegemonic discourses in education and investigates their development, the tensions between them, why and how Chile became one of the most privatised educational systems in the world, and the challenges facing recent efforts to reverse these institutional arrangements. My argument is that the systematic analysis of this experience of de-privatisation can help contribute to a better understanding of educational privatisation and de-privatisation in a larger context. To this end, the study proposes a conceptual and methodological framework for analysing ideologies in educational discourses.

The study draws on a combination of Critical Realism and Cultural Political Economy as the philosophical and conceptual resources for investigating the process of educational privatisation. This approach allows for a more nuanced understanding of the complex social, economic, and political factors that contribute to this process in Chile and elsewhere. By combining these two approaches, the study generates a comprehensive understanding of the structuring mechanisms that shape the ongoing processes of privatisation and their impact on the Chilean educational system, offering insights into potential pathways for resisting this trend.

The analysis proposes a critical observation of the strategies, spaces, struggles and fault-lines for developing new explanations of the emergence and consequences of markets in education. In the thesis, I observe how these elements are shaping and reshaping fundamental elements of the educational field structure and their operational and governing mechanisms. I also identify tensions and struggles between contrasting views which are fundamental in defining meanings and practices in education. Finally, the study analyses how concepts like the public, the private, and the individual are both conceptualised and explained in educational discourses, and how analysing the combination of these elements can help understand the privatisation and de-privatisation process in the Chilean educational system.

The significance of this research is that it draws attention to the importance of critically examining the tensions and struggles that shape education systems, especially in times of social and political upheaval. By creating paths for analysis and new understandings, we can gain deeper insights into the complex dynamics that govern education, and in society at large. As we navigate these changing times, it is crucial to continue questioning the dominant discourses and power structures that shape our educational systems in order to work towards building a more equitable and just society.





Robertson, Susan


Chile, Critical Realism, Cultural Political Economy, educational debates, educational markets, educational reforms, elite interviewing, ideologies, neoliberalism, privatisation and deprivatisation, unmaking markets


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge
Becas Chile - Chile National Scholarship Cambridge Trust Scholarship