Dissertation Abstracts

The System of Professions in Brazil: Formation, Expansion and Fragmentation. A Social Stratification Approach

Author: Ian Prates, ianprca@yahoo.com.br
Department: Sociology
University: University of São Paulo, Bahamas
Supervisor: Nadya Araujo Guimarães
Year of completion: 2018
Language of dissertation: Portuguese

Keywords: Stratification , Professions , Higher Education , Brasil
Areas of Research: Stratification , Professional Groups , Political Sociology


This dissertation aims at analyzing the trajectory of the Brazilian system of professions and its linkages with the country’s social stratification system. It focuses on the changing configurations of the professional stratum, and the social mobility movements to and from this group of privileged positions at the top of the occupational hierarchy. My main argument is that the system of professions reflects the historical interplay between three autonomous institutional systems: the division of labor, the higher education system and professional regulation. The State is a central actor not just because it regulates the production of credentials and monopolies. But also, because the way it organizes the economic activity and the welfare services create new markets, constrain and legitimate the professional services. The empirical research builds on several sources (legislation, documents, microdata from IBGE's Census and household surveys) and different techniques (content analysis, quantitative analysis, historiographic research). As a result, three significant periods have been identified in the history of the system of professions in Brazil. A first one, of formation and stabilization (until the 1940s), when the rules that link professional practice, market monopolies and higher education diploma were consolidated; a second period of expansion and differentiation when the system of professions grew, sharing privileges with the new careers that arose in a moment of increasing division of labor and expansion of the higher education system (from the 1950s to the 1980s). A third period, inaugurated in the 1990s, marked by a decline in the association between the specialized division of labor, the higher education system and the extension of market monopolies, making the system of professions more unstable and fragmented. The configuration of the system of professions over time conditions social mobility at the top of the stratification system, for two particular reasons: i) the way different types of higher education diplomas provide the insertion in the professional stratum; ii) and the way the state and the market recruit professionals. Thus, it reconfigures a historical association between higher education diploma and upward social mobility, changing the very meaning of social mobility in Brazil.