Change and Continuity in the Perceptions of Brazilian Elites about Poverty and Inequality

Sunday, 10 July 2016: 09:00
Location: Hörsaal 10 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Elisa REIS, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
How do elites in very unequal societies perceive the causes, consequences, and possible initiatives to reduce poverty and inequality? Under what circumstances  they might be willing or compelled to back social policies to reduce poverty and inequality? These are the questions that drive the project  “Perceptions of Elites about poverty and inequality in the Global South”, where elites are defined as those who occupy top positions in bureaucratic, political and business institutions, and who potentially have power to influence or make decisions.   In this paper I first discuss the theoretical arguments informing the research design, and next compare survey results on perceptions of poverty and inequality among Brazilian bureaucratic, parliamentary and business elites in 1993 and 2013.  The analysis points to significant changes in how they perceive inequality, suggesting that if in 1993 elites tended to see the trickle down effects of economic growth as the best solution to reduce poverty, now a significant percentage of them see opportunities for growth in the expansion of the consumption market promoted by distributive social policies. Yet, the data also indicate significant continuities such as, for example, in the elites evaluation of particular social policies, or in their normative conceptions about the role State.