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Theory, Practice and ÔExternal ActorsÕ in the Making of New Urban Social Movements in Brazil



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Bull Latin Am Res Vol 18 No 2 pp 211 226 1999 1999 Society for Latin American Studies Published by Elsevier Science Ltd All righs reserved Printed in Great Britain 0261 3050 99 20 00 0 00 PII S0261 3050 98 00094 1 Theory Practice and External Actors in the Making of New Urban Social Movements in Brazil WILLEM ASSIES El Colegio de Michoaca n Centro de Estudios Rurales Mart nez de Navarette 505 Fracc Las Fuentes 59690 Zamora Mich Mexico Abstract Spontaneity and authenticity have often been key words in the analysis of the new urban social movements that emerged in Brazil in the course of the 1970s The movement discourse was often taken at face value and the involvement of other than popular institutional and social actors tended to be concealed Though in some analyses attention has been directed to the role of the Catholic Church and other institutional actors very little has been said about the personnel involved and their class position This article focuses on the latter aspect and in this manner draws attention to the role of segments of the emerging new middle classes in the social construction of the movements It is argued that processes of professional affirmation in the context of the political conjuncture of the democratisation process contributed to a radical politicisation of segments of the emerging new middle classes Such processes were related to the theoretical reflection on the new movements and the emergence of a militant perspective in research which imbricated with the development of grassroots activism amplified its impact and furthered expectations over its role in the democratisation process It thus contributed to the shaping of the movements With the return to civilian rule and the changing configuration of state society relations the relations between middle class and popular grassroots activism changed and this initially reflected in disenchanted accounts of the new movements and their failure to live up to expectations Analysis of such



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