Abstract

During the last decade, the term Establishment has gained currency among Colombian opinion makers—be they newspaper columnists, politicians, or even academics. After surveying the ambiguities of the concept in the United Kingdom and the United States—the countries where it was first popularized in the 1950s and 1960s—this paper focuses on the usages of the expression in the Colombian public debate. Based on a variety of sources—including op-eds and newspaper reports, interviews with leading public figures, and other political and academic documents—I show how generalized the term has become. I examine how the prevailing language gives the "Establishment" a central role in shaping political developments in the past decades. It blames the Establishment for the country's most fundamental problems while conferring on this same Establishment the power to solve them. However, any attempt to identify what is meant by the Establishment soon reveals an extremely confusing picture. In the final part of the paper, I highlight some of the implications of the general usage of such a vague and contradictory concept for the quality of democratic debate, the legitimacy of the political system, and the possible solution of the armed conflict in Colombia.

Durante la década pasada, la palabra "Establecimiento" parece haber ganado terreno en el debate público colombiano. Basado en una variedad de fuentes – incluyendo columnas de opinión e informes de prensa, entrevistas publicadas con destacadas figuras, memorias y otros documentos políticos y académicos, este artículo muestra cómo se ha generalizado el uso del término, examina las distintas formas en que se lo define, y cuestiona su validez conceptual. Los usos confusos y hasta contradictorios de la expresión, como lo demuestra ampliamente el artículo, simplifican y hasta distorsionan la naturaleza del poder en Colombia. Aunque mi atención está centrada en los usos equívocos de la palabra "Establecimiento", también discuto su impacto en las percepciones colombianas sobre la democracia, y sus implicaciones para la legitimidad del sistema político, la búsqueda de la paz, y la calidad del análisis político y el debate democrático.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1542-4278
Print ISSN
0023-8791
Pages
pp. 111-135
Launched on MUSE
2007-07-19
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Archived
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