chapter  Chapter Five
31 Pages

Formation of People’s Neighborhood Courts

ByJack Spence

This chapter traces the initial structural development of the neighborhood institutions of justice in one squatter settlement. It argues that development within the context of the settlement’s political strategy—a strategy embodied in the elaboration of a variety of other institutions for political participation. Implementation of the overall strategy, and that aspect of it that applied to the Neighborhood Courts, depended upon the willingness of the population to participate in Chilean institutions. The strategy sought to achieve mass levels of political participation, to use the neighborhood self-consciously as a context for political learning, and to create institutions alternative to the formal legal institutions of Chile. The goal of political learning in Nueva Habana meant understanding that changing the broader context was the ultimate goal, and that mass participation was therefore not only morally desirable, but essential. The implementation of Nueva Habana strategy depended upon the attitudes and awareness of the people involved.