Theses Doctoral

Exemplary Comrades: The Public and Private Life of Communists in Twentieth-Century Chile

Salgado, Alfonso

This dissertation studies Chilean communists’ public and private lives. It examines the experience of being a communist and the Communist Party of Chile’s efforts to shape that experience, both in the street and at home. To what extent did communists follow party principles regarding public and private life? To what extent did communism succeed in challenging the public-private divide so dear to liberalism? These are the questions I seek to answer in this dissertation. I argue that communism was lived quite intensely, but that it would be an exaggeration to claim that most party members lived and breathed communism. Communists lived a bifurcated life: one life lived to the fullest in the public sphere and another life lived less intensely at home.
This dissertation provides a detailed portrait of communist men and their relations, both at home and in the street, in order to understand how they came to inhabit and expand the Chilean political sphere. Communist ideology and activism helped men reaffirm their masculine sense of self and claim a space in the public arena, but self-sovereignty came at the cost of family life. Communism strengthened the gendered public-private divide by pulling men from their homes and imbuing them with a strong sense of mission. Communist men’s intense involvement in public affairs was to the detriment of their wives, who ended up confined to the domestic realm. Notwithstanding communist discourse, the practices fostered by the party led communist men to think of public and private as separate spheres.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Piccato, Pablo A.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
April 21, 2016