The richness of ordinary life: Religious justification among Chile's business elite

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Based on the analysis of 75 in-depth interviews with managers and businessmen of Chile's main economic conglomerates, this article is concerned with the justification, on religious and moral grounds, of the establishment of a neo-liberal economic model during Augusto Pinochet's regime (1973-1989) and, most importantly, with the representation of business as a religious vocation. The value granted to wealth creation as a path to salvation, as formulated by the conservative religious movements Opus Dei and the Legionaries of Christ, is one possible response to the Church's call in Vatican II for the greater involvement of the laity in their cultures and societies. In the context of an increase in pluralism during the 1960s and 1970s, the perceived shift of the Catholic Church to the Left, and the threat that the political project of Salvador Allende's socialist government (1970-1973) posed to the elite's centenary lifestyle, the practice of more conservative forms of Catholicism has allowed for a restoration of the historical bond between the elite and its religious tradition. The case of Chile's elite can be seen as an example of an increase in pluralism which does not lead to a weakening of religious belief and practice, but to their strengthening.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)14-26
Number of pages13
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 22 Feb 2011


  • Catholicism
  • Chile
  • Elites
  • Pluralism
  • Religious identity
  • Religious movements


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