• Chile;
  • agrarian reform and counter-reform;
  • capitalism;
  • agrarian property regime

This article, which is published in two parts, is an empirical analysis of the Chilean agrarian reform (1964–1973) and ‘partial’ counter-agrarian reform (1974–1980). Its aim is to explain and interpret their logic and the changes they brought to Chile's agrarian property regime in particular and Chilean life in general. Chile's agrarian reform was successful in expropriating (under the Frei and Allende administrations, 1964–1973) the great estates of the hacienda landed property system. The capitalist ‘partial’ counter-reform then redistributed them (under the military, 1974–1980). CORA, the country's agency for agrarian reform, expropriated and subsequently redistributed 5809 estates of almost 10 million hectares, or 59 per cent of Chile's agricultural farmland. A large amount of the expropriated land (41 per cent) benefited 54,000 peasant households with small-sized family farms and house-sites. The rest of the farmland benefited efficient and competitive commercial farmers and agro-business and consolidated medium-sized farms. Of central concern is the role of the agrarian reform and subsequent ‘partial’ counter-reform processes in fostering the transformation of the erstwhile agrarian structure of the hacienda system toward agrarian capitalism. The redistribution of the agricultural land previously expropriated made possible the formation of an agro-industrial bourgeoisie, small commercial farmers, an open land market and a dynamic agricultural sector. While, however, under military rule, a selected few benefited with family farms and became independent agricultural producers, a large majority of reformed and non-reformed campesinos were torn from the land to become non-propertied proletarians in a rapidly modernizing but highly exclusionary agricultural sector.