Suck on this Pinochet

PIC Buying into the RegimeBuying into the Regime
Heidi Tinsman
2014, Duke University Press
363 pages, paperback, plates


CHILE’S military dictator August Pinochet may have bought wholeheartedly into the promise, under his neoliberal vision, offered by the production of commodities such as grapes, but he probably did not realise that these contained the seeds of both the democracy movement and a new form of labour politics that challenged his regime’s oppressive ideas. Buying into the Regime is a groundbreaking transnational study of the Chilean and US grape industries. Everyone is familiar with Chilean wine, not least because under Pinochet the country became a major producer of grapes and the world’s leading exporter of this product. This book traces how income from grape production generated a new consumerism in the country by enabling fruit workers, a large proportion of them women, to buy imported products. In so doing, this industry had unforeseen consequences, influencing gender relations in a deeply comnservative country as well as the pro-democracy movement that increasingly began to challenge Pinochet’s brutal authoritarianism. While in the US businessmen were vigorously promoting grapes as a new form of healthy snack, trades unions were mobilising to highlight exploitation and environmental risks in the grape industry. Heidi Tinsman provides a fascinating insight into the evolution of production, consumption and social conflict in the grape industry in both Chile and the US at a time in which the shared values of elites were sowing the seeds of new forms of discontent.