Dissertation Abstracts

Injustice, delay and debt: inequalities in the discourse of Brazilian governments

Author: Mario L. Grangeia, mario.grangeia@gmail.com
Department: Sociology
University: Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Supervisor: Elisa P. Reis
Year of completion: 2016
Language of dissertation: Portuguese

Keywords: Inequality , Discourse , Frames , Governments in Brazil
Areas of Research: Comparative Sociology , Political Sociology , Poverty, Social Welfare and Social Policy


The study examines governmental discourses in Brazil to capture and compare their images of inequality. The concept of “frames” is used as adopted in the perspective of cultural sociology to examine the discourses of the governments of Getúlio Vargas (1930-45 / 51-54) and the ones since the restoration of democracy in 1985. In the official rhetoric of these periods, three meanings were attributed to inequality: injustice, noticeable since the 1930s, which dates back to the moral condemnation of inequality and the notion of enforcing rights as a response to social issue; delay, the sense more reiterated in recent decades and already captured in the 1950s, coming from the belief that a modern country should overcome great inequalities through economic and educational policies; and debt, noted in the 1980s and of increasing use in the last decade and a half, which responds to inequalities with the redistribution of resources, whether by distributive reforms or direct income transfer programs. Interpretations of inequality influence social policy – meant as justice, modernization and redistribution, respectively – and seek to direct popular perceptions. Changes and continuities in official images of inequalities are discussed based on 12 presidential inauguration speeches and 39 Messages to National Congress (annual reports of the Executive). The thesis points out relevant variations in the relations between governmental priorities (e.g. inflation contention and improvement of public education) and the agenda of reducing inequality. The comparison between images of inequality, captured from the similarities and differences in the discourse of the governments, contributes to reflect on this enduring issue in the country and the role of the state and citizens towards it.

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