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Brazil: Development Strategies and Social Change From Import-Substitution to the “Events of June”

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This article offers a political economy interpretation of the mass protests that took place in Brazil in June-July 2013. This interpretation is based on a review of two development strategies - import-substituting industrialization and neoliberalism - and the class structures associated with them. Examining them helps to locate the sources of current social and political conflicts in the country, and the demands of rival social groups. These strategies are analyzed in light of the forms of protest that have emerged under neoliberalism. They lead to the conceptualization of the "lumpenization of politics" and the "facebookization" of protest in the country.
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... the United States, relative prosperity in the EU, and rapid growth in China. Most low-and middle-income economies benefited from the high export prices associated with the so-called commodity supercycle and from abundant inflows of capital (Saad-Filho, 2013). These conditions facilitated the implementation of pragmatic and nonconfrontational reformist policies in the administrations led by the Partido dos Trabalhadores (Brazilian Workers' Party-PT)-the pursuit of progressive outcomes through a "path of least resistance." ...
... Real average earnings rose 70 percent between 2003 and 2014, while informality declined by 11 percentage points and unemployment by 3 percentage points ( Table 2). In contrast, the number of jobs paying more than five times the minimum wage declined sharply (Saad-Filho, 2014). These developments had immediate distributional implications. ...
... For example, between 2002 and 2010 government transfers to households rose by almost 2 percentage points of GDP; 40 percent of this increase can be attributed directly to the minimum-wage policy (IPEA, 2010: 104-109). The federal income transfer programs also expanded significantly, with the number of beneficiaries rising from 14.5 million to 24.4 million between 1995 and 2011; social spending rose by nearly 200 percent in real terms during this period, climbing from 11.0 to 16.2 percent of GDP (Saad-Filho, 2015). ...
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Under favorable external circumstances, the pragmatic political and economic strategy of Brazil’s Partido dos Trabalhadores (Workers’ Party—PT) helped to secure short-term political stability, boosted growth, and supported an unprecedented distribution of income. However, it also meant that the PT had to accommodate to rather than transform the constraints on growth in Brazil and that stability would involve unwieldy political alliances preventing deeper reforms. When it was confronted with deteriorating global economic conditions and increasingly ineffectual economic policies, the PT’s strategy immobilized the party, facilitated the dissolution of its base of support, and expedited its ouster from power. The Brazilian experience suggests that political pragmatism can, within limits, support progressive economic change but that the outcomes depend heavily on external circumstances and the stability of the political coalitions supporting the administration. Em circunstâncias externas favoráveis, a pragmática estratégia política e econômica do Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT) ajudou a assegurar a estabilidade política no curto prazo, impulsionou o crescimento e apoiou uma distribuição de renda sem precedentes. No entanto, isso também significou que o PT teve que se acomodar a, em vez de transformar, as restrições ao crescimento no Brasil, e que a estabilidade envolveria alianças políticas comprometedoras, impedindo reformas mais profundas. Quando foi confrontada com a deterioração das condições econômicas globais e apresentando políticas econômicas cada vez mais ineficazes, a estratégia do PT imobilizou o partido, facilitou a dissolução de sua base de apoio e acelerou sua saída do poder. A experiência brasileira sugere que o pragmatismo político pode, dentro de certos limites, apoiar a mudança econômica progressista, mas que os resultados dependem muito das circunstâncias externas e da estabilidade das coalizões políticas que apóiam a administração.
... 16 Two further processes negatively impacted the quality of the jobs created during the PT governments: outsourcing and high churning rates. The Interunion Department of Statistics and Socioeconomic Studies estimates that approximately 26 percent of formal workers were outsourced in 2014, up from 24 percent in 2007(DIEESE, 2017. Outsourced workers have lower wages, fewer benefits, less stable jobs, and face a harder task to organize themselves in trade unions, even when they are formal employees (Antunes and Druck, 2013). ...
... 12. For an analysis of how conditional cash transfers are the key form of social policy in neoliberalism, see Saad-Filho (2015). ...
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Brazil’s social structure and associated distributive policies during the PT governments did not depart from neoliberalism but rather implemented a poverty-reducing variant of it. Through minimum-wage hikes, conditional cash transfers, legislation driving financial innovation, and the subsidizing of privately provided for-profit services, state power was used to include individuals in ever-expanding formal circuits of commodity production and consumption. Deprivation in multiple dimensions was indeed reduced through these policies, but in the process social mobility came to mean exiting poverty, getting a formal low-skilled job, and accessing credit at lower interest rates to pay for state-subsidized private health and education. A estrutura social do Brasil e as políticas distributivas associadas a ela durante os governos do PT não se afastaram do neoliberalismo, mas sim implementaram uma variante de neoliberalismo redutora da pobreza. Por meio de aumentos do salário mínimo, transferências condicionais de renda, legislação que impulsionava a inovação financeira e o subsídio para serviços privados prestados com fins lucrativos, o poder do Estado foi usado para incluir indivíduos em crescentes circuitos formais de produção e consumo de mercadorias. A privação em múltiplas dimensões foi realmente reduzida por meio dessas políticas, mas neste processo a mobilidade social passou a significar sair da pobreza, conseguir um emprego formal pouco qualificado e obter crédito a taxas de juros mais baixas para pagar pela saúde e educação privadas subsidiadas pelo Estado.
... Thereafter, demonstrations multiplied in size and diversified in terms of social composition and political demands throughout the month (Saad-Filho 2014, 1). Although originally ignited by leftist claims to services such as free transport, the protests were soon subsumed by the 'entry of a disparate mass of middle-class demonstrators supported by the mainstream media' (Saad-Filho 2014). The left withdrew from the streets, and subsequently, the 2013 events fermented into an anti-PT sentiment, ultimately boiling over with Rousseff's 2016 impeachment. ...
... O mal-estar nacional explodiu nas manifestações de 2013. Elas revelaram graves tensões sociais devido à distância entre as expectativas de amplas camadas urbanas e suas condições de vida, a revolta diante da estagnação econômica, a rejeição das políticas públicas pela alta classe média e a percepção generalizada de disfuncionalidade e corrupção do Estado (Saad-Filho, 2013, 2014. ...
... Pour les CTA, c'est tout de même une victoire tactique importante puisqu'elles savent qu'à elles deux, en raison de la forte concentration de leur audience dans le secteur public, elles ne peuvent déclencher de grève générale augmenté, les tentatives de mobilisation nationales sont, quant à elles, restées très modestes. Le symbole le plus éclatant de cette incapacité des centrales à canaliser la contestation furent sans doute les « Journées de juin », en 2013, au cours desquelles un vaste mouvement d'opposition à la hausse des tarifs du transport en commun a su non seulement mettre dans la rue des foules considérables, mais aussi faire fléchir plusieurs administrations locales (Saad Filho 2014, Purdy 2017. Les centrales sont restées, au mieux, des acteurs périphériques de ce mouvement. ...
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