“A professor at the Federal University of Juiz de Fora (MG), Jesse Souza, has taught social studies classes for 20 years and advocates the use of criteria beyond one’s income. In his view, a recent phenomenon has been the rise of a ‘precarious new working class.’
Is Brazilian society perverse?
Yes, because the level of inequality is huge. The fact that the banker on Avenida Paulista earns 500 times more than the person who cleans his room is not normal. And we live with this perversion in a very natural way and yet we still hold that Brazilian myth that we are very kind.
Do you disagree that there is a new Brazilian middle class?
This concept is embedded in the blindness of thinking that social classes are reproduced only via economic capital, when the most important part has nothing do with it, but rather with cultural capital, with everything that we incorporated from an early age.
What are the social classes in Brazil?
Basically, there are four. The upper class, which has economic capital. There’s the middle class, which is not as privileged as those above them, but appropriates a valued cultural capital, scientific knowledge, education, foreign languages, and knowledge that has economic value. These two classes are the privileged ones. For the upper class, the most important thing is the economic capital, although the cultural capital has a function. And for the middle class, what prevails is the cultural capital, although some economic capital is also needed.
What are the “unprivileged” classes?
The regular classes don’t have privileged access to economic, cultural or social capital, and they will not have access to important people. They have to work very early, and are struggling. This is the new precarious working class (called, by economists, the “new middle class”). They were included because they have a place in the market, they have income, long-term consumption plans, but these things don’t make them middle class. The other “unprivileged” class is made up of the very poor, those who don’t even have a precondition for learning, whom we provocatively call the ralé (poor/riffraff). For the middle and upper classes, it is good that there are poor people, because they can enjoy services that the European and American middle class don’t have, like someone to do the cooking and the caring of the children. It’s the struggle of the invisible (and typically Brazilian) classes.
Privileged classes put aside an important part of their time for study or for more profitable work, while the poor clean their house and make their food. Class struggle is one class stealing time from another. When the employee leaves the employer’s son’s lunch ready for him to study English, instead of preparing their own food, this young child is using his or her time to reproduce their cultural capital. And the maid, using her time to repeat her social condition.
And why would there be a need to inflate the middle class?
Because is it good to be middle class. It includes the notion that individuals are free as consumers and citizens. It condenses the dreams of upward mobility. Belonging to the middle class has an effect of distinction, like buying a nice car or a nice house.
The criterion of income is not important?
You must be aware of the other conditions that make up a human being. For example, every person must have confidence in themselves. The son of a middle class family can devote himself strictly to his studies, and he’s prepared to be a early winner. The son of the poor family comes to school as a loser, and school is not the solution for everything. In our research, what we saw was not that there was no schooling, but that people said, “we were staring at the blackboard for hours without being able to learn.” If people do not receive preparative stimuli, schooling alone will not solve things.” – O Globo