In order to explain the reproduction of authoritarian attitudes among top bureaucrats, this article argues for a link between bureaucratic autonomy, trust and authoritarian preferences. It compares the evolution of authoritarian attitudes among bureaucratic elites since democratization in Brazil and Uruguay, relying on a combination of ordinal regression analysis and process tracing. Results show that distrust toward voters increases the propensity of bureaucratic elites to consider authoritarian solutions, and that such authoritarian preferences declined over time in Uruguay while stabilizing in Brazil. Divergent outcomes relate to differences in the level of bureaucratic autonomy. The argument is that excessive bureaucratic autonomy encourages distrust toward voters, which in turn conducts to authoritarian preferences among bureaucratic elites.
In this article I review the literature on elites and inequality in Latin America with a focus on the emergence of uneven state structures and how they came to foster the needs of elites for protection. States in Latin America are traditionally thought of as facilitating processes of top-down modernization that transformed traditional agrarian economies into complex urban polities, while maintaining extreme inequality. The state is thus central in the genealogy of inequality and elite privilege in Latin America. The synergy between states and elites continues to mark Latin American societies, and it helps us to understand how major economic and political changes occur without significant changes in inequality. For the most part, Latin America’s current uneven states emerged as the result of exclusionary projects of citizenship during the first half of the 20th century and were advanced by the advent of repressive regimes during the 1960s and 1970s. After democratic transitions during the 1980s and 1990s, Latin American states came to be characterized, on the one hand, by procedural democratic institutions, and on the other by high levels of state violence, exclusion, and segmented citizenship. The present situation is one of a problematic equilibrium between states, elites, and inequality.
Current elite studies argue that inequality produces negative externalities to elites, who may either promote democracy or adopt authoritarian measures in order to shield their interests from the actions of the rebellious poor. This article argues that elite framing of poverty and inequality in the press is a good thermometer of elite public response to such externalities. The press represents a communication tool shared by elites in the state, market, civil society, and, most evidently, the media itself. If inequality threatens elite rule, elites should share their concerns in order to move towards a solution. Since the literature links inequality and elite response, I propose undertaking a comparison of elite public responses to poverty and inequality in two South American cases with opposite records of inequality: Brazil and Uruguay. The article approaches elite framing of poverty and inequality in the press by analyzing opinion pieces and editorials in the main newspapers of both countries. Results invert the expected link between inequality and elite response. Elite framing of inequality in the Brazilian press did not suggest elite concern with externalities, neither an elite turn towards more democracy or authoritarianism. Contrastingly, a few Uruguayan elites did frame the poor as menacing.
We analyze the cultural repertoires mobilized by elites to describe "Brazilian people." We rely on survey and in-depth interview data to capture how political, bureaucratic and business elites in Brazil frame poverty and inequality. Our data suggest that elites acknowledge poverty as a structural problem for the State to solve, but remain skeptical on the odds of actual solutions, indicating fatalistic perceptions that categorize the Brazilian poor as unorganized, passive, ignorant, and irrational. Moreover, in their definition of the poor, elites draw a symbolic boundary, separating an active sector (which includes the elites) and a passive one (the "people"). The paper also addresses the effects of such symbolic boundaries on the overall picture of Brazilian inequality.
This article reviews contemporary elite theory in political sociology and political science. Elite theory is based on the assumption that elite behavior has a causal relationship with general patterns of state–society relations. The article presents classical concepts of elite theory, such as elite inevitability and elite circulation, while privileging contemporary challenges and trends in elite theory. The discussion addresses elite origins of democracy and elite origins of the welfare state, as well as elites/non-elites interdependence.
This article approaches elites’ perceptions of poverty, inequality, and social policy in Brazil and Uruguay from democratization to the recent shift toward left-wing governments. It explores elites’ perceptions of the roles of the state, the market, and their own role in relation to poverty. The analysis relies on a series of elite surveys targeting leaders from the state and government, the corporate world, and the third sector in Brazil and Uruguay. The main argument is that poverty and inequality can be perceived by elites as a source of political and social threats, potentially motivating elites to embrace collective action and policy support. Although Brazil and Uruguay are often treated as opposite cases in Latin America, they share similarities in the way in which their national elites have dealt with poverty and inequality since democratization. From authoritarian regimes to cash transfer programs, the historical inheritance of a business-state and the threats posed by the poor pushed elites toward similar measures, although often based on different understandings of poverty and inequality.