This paper provides a report on the Chilean student movement, 2011 – 2014, from the perspective of the students themselves, based on the main research question: are the student protests for reform or revolution? The analytical framework is made up of paradigms which seek to understand radical political social transformation: charisma, social movement theory, an historical-materialist political economy, and a critique of political economy based on an interpretation of Marx’s labour theory of value in a postcolonial context. We refer to this methodology and methods as ‘political sociology for action’. Each of these paradigms are elaborated with reference to an exemplary publication that deals with the Chilean situation in particular and Latin America more generally. The paper maintains that the students have developed a sophisticated consciousness in relation to the problems and possibilities of charismatic leadership, an awareness of the power and complexity of their own position as a social movement, together with a strong understanding of the need to contextualise their resistance within a particular version of political economy: neoliberalism. The paper suggests that a paradigm based on a critique of political economy can provide a foundational analysis for further understanding political society. Taken together: the methods of reporting ‘live methods’ along with this analytical framework, the paper argues that political sociology for action provides a realistic estimate of the powers required not only to interpret history, but to transform it.
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