Images of Social Policy in Brazil: A Comparison Between Governments

Wednesday, 13 July 2016
Location: Hörsaal 30 (Main Building)
Distributed Paper
Mario Luis GRANGEIA, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
The analysis of official images of social policy in Brazil illustrates the utility of the concept of frame, developed by cultural sociologists, in comparative studies. The focus of this paper is the discourse of nine federal governments since the restoration of democracy, in 1985, and the three administrations of Getulio Vargas, president once called “father of the poor”, in the 1930-1950s. A pair of inevitable problems in framing research is discussed: the nature of the concept (what a frame is) and its operationalization (where it is). Once solved the ambiguity and vagueness of theoretical and methodological use of this concept, attention is called to the recognition and comparison of frames in 12 inaugural speeches and 35 “Messages to National Congress”, annual documents of Executive’s accountability. Governmental understandings of four aspects of social policy are analyzed more closely: objectives, audiences, results, and obstacles. There were important changes in the meanings attributed to social policy (e.g. legitimation of beneficiaries) as well as continuities, such as the linkage between social development and economic development. This study also highlights pros of this perspective, as the solid approach of processes of framing changes, and some of its difficulties, such as minimizing the relational aspect of discourses and reducing frames to more traceable and measurable themes. It is also demonstrated that, due to its dynamic dimension, the concept of frame is more useful for comparative studies than repertoire and symbolic boundary, concepts equally adopted by researchers of the relations between culture and politics.