Reframing Citizenship in Contemporary Brazil: The Effectiveness of Democratic Institutions

Monday, July 14, 2014: 11:30 AM
Room: Booth 45
Oral Presentation
Fernando LIMA NETO , Social Sciences, Pontifícia Universidade Católica, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
After the highly enthusiastic expectatives raised by the re-democratization of Brazil in the 1980's, contemporary sociologists and political scientists are more likely to analyze the effectiveness of political institutions that were created by the democratic constitution in 1988. This work compares the democratic effectiveness of two of these institutions: the conselhos (councils) and the ouvidorias (ombudsmen). Each of them sets a particular way of dealing with patrimonialism, a traditional obstacle to democracy in Brazil.  The research results indicate that both institutions present considerable limitations to democratic governance inasmuch as they reproduce traditional practices they were supposed to confront. In spite of that, the institutional frame of conselhos is better adapted to absorb social control practices. The work proposes a systematic reflection on the relations between the constitutional foundations of these institutions, the role played by them in politics and the individual perceptions of their agents. The experience of conselhos and ouvidorias are also analyzed in the light of the broader debate on the reformulation of conventional patterns of political representation in contemporary Brazil. The main challenge to improve their democratic effectiveness is to encompass political autonomy and accountability mechanisms in their formal dispositions and daily activities.