Friday, August 3, 2012: 9:15 AM
Faculty of Economics, TBAOral Presentation
In this paper we aim to capture the implications of elites’ perception of social inequality in three southern democracies: Brazil, Uruguay and India. We focus on elites’ public statements on poverty by sampling opinion articles on the subject in the main newspapers in those countries. Recent studies show that Latin American elites see inequality as a threat to democracy and as a practical and moral harm. We confront speech analysis with previous elite survey data to test if that is the case for Brazil and Uruguay. We then compare them to the Indian case, where democratic stability has a longer tradition, despites social inequality. Did the risks of inequality contributed in the direction of making elites more open to redistributive policies? We assume that elites are pressured by perceived negative externalities of poverty, following the theoretical approach suggested by de Swaan (1988) and Reis (2000). Meanwhile we argue that political engagement depends also on the cultural tools mobilized to relate with the poor. That ideological frame can either reinforce the boundaries between elite and non-elite actors or help internalize perceptions of social interdependence that can lead to more equality. Therefore, we discuss the implications of cultural as well as structural constrains of elite action when dealing with the political challenges of inequality.