Dissertation Abstracts

Familialist poverty regulation : the case of the ‘Bolsa Família’ Programme in the Northeast region of Brazil

Author: Flávio Eiró, flavioeiro@gmail.com
Department: Centre Maurice Halbwachs
University: École des hautes études en sciences sociales, France
Supervisor: Serge Paugam
Year of completion: 2017
Language of dissertation: French

Keywords: poverty , social assistance , clientelism , citizenship
Areas of Research: Political Sociology , Poverty, Social Welfare and Social Policy , Social Classes and Social Movements


This thesis’ object is the poverty regulation in Brazil within the framework of the ‘Bolsa Família’ Programme, a conditional cash transfer social policy assembling several elements of the debate and the experience of poverty in Brazil. This work explains how the mechanisms of poverty regulation interact with local citizenship practices. In effect, the access of the poor to social rights and the exercise of their political rights are both object of a process of regulation by family values ??in a context of strong social inequalities. Beyond the fact that social assistance depends on family organisation, the implementation of the ‘Bolsa Família’ Programme is based on informal rules, reflecting the dominant social representations of poverty in Brazil. In addition, the allocation of social benefits depends in part on personalised rapports between the programme’s beneficiaries and political candidates and elected representatives. This work is based on a case study in the Northeast region of Brazil—in a middle-sized municipality of the Ceará state. An ethnographic approach allowed the identification of the logic of operation of a political machine involving social assistance, elected officials, social workers and beneficiaries. More generally, this thesis examines the interactions between the poor and the society as a whole, from a local perspective of contemporary issues of poverty regulation and contributes to the study of the political and electoral use of social assistance.

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