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Brazilian Political Science Review (Online)

versão On-line ISSN 1981-3821

Braz. political sci. rev. (Online) vol.4 Rio de Janeiro  2009


Social scientists and public administration in the Lula da Silva government*

Maria Celina D'AraujoI; Camila LameirãoII

ICatholic University of Rio de Janeiro (PUC-Rio), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
IIFluminense Federal University (UFF), Niterói, Brazil




We focus here on a new theme among studies on the Social Sciences in Brazil, namely, the presence of social scientists in high-level office in the federal government, whether as directors or advisers. In general, studies on the social sciences in Brazil are devoted to examining the academic profile of their founders, the contents prioritized in the disciplines, processes of institutionalization and methodologies adopted, among other aspects. However, there has never been an examination of the place of the social scientist in the division of labour of the state bureaucracy, in the market and close to those in power. By means of empirical research, we have ascertained that individuals with this academic background have a notable presence in the Lula da Silva government (2003-2006; 2007- ). Our hypothesis is that this presence cannot be explained chiefly by the specificity of the knowledge produced by this set of disciplines. Instead, one has to look at other variables, especially social scientists' link with the public service.

Keywords: Lula da Silva government; Social Sciences; Burocracy; Public administration.




The administrative structure of the Executive branch of the Brazilian government in January 2009 had over 77,000 so-called "confidence posts" or "confidence functions", held by people appointed by President Lula da Silva, his ministers or other relevant authorities.1 Of this total, 26% (approximately 20,000) were "political appointees", holding Higher Direction and Advice (DAS) posts, which are divided into six hierarchical levels. There were 1,200 people in the two highest levels (DAS 5 and 6 posts), coming just below ministers and executive-secretaries of ministries. Their holders play strategic roles, directing, coordinating and advising on policies and projects developed within government agencies.

Because they are confidence posts, i.e., people may be freely hired and fired, DAS posts are not filled according to the formal public-sector recruitment procedure (concurso público).2 Moreover, given that there are thousands of DAS posts in the federal sphere, the turnover of people in public administration is probably intense from one government to the next, and also over the course of one term of office, which may have impacts on the conduct of the projects and policies of the Executive. These points have elicited debates within political, journalistic and academic milieux. What tends to be questioned is the possible politicization of these posts, i.e., their use as "bargaining chips" by means of which the government would seek to form a party and parliamentary coalition to obtain political support and approve its measures in the Congress. In return, it would give over posts in the government for allies to fill with their political appointees. In this sense, what is questioned is the fact that these posts acquire a party character, since the main criterion for filling them would be connections to the president's party or to allied parties. This kind of questioning evokes discussions on the administrative and professional abilities of the holders of DAS posts and the criteria that guide their recruitment.

None of these hypotheses has been verified empirically. This is why we are conducting research that may help clarify certain points in this debate, specifically with regard to the abilities and competencies of part of the holders of confidence posts in the federal Executive. Based on a sample of 505 people holding DAS 5 and 6 posts and Special Nature (NES) posts in 2006 and 2007, amounting to some 42% of such posts held during President3 Lula da Silva's two terms, we have gathered information on their education, professional training, socio-political links and public service experience, among others. We thus have evidence at our disposal that may contribute to the development of the debate alluded to above.

As a result of this survey we came upon a surprising fact: the significant participation of professionals linked to the Social Sciences in the Lula da Silva government. We observed that the Social Sciences, with their three internal fields (Anthropology, Political Science and Sociology), plus International Relations, constitute one of the main education areas among the holders of DAS 5, DAS 6 and NES posts analysed. This group represents some 12% of the total sample. It is important to mention that this item of information drew our attention basically for two reasons: (i) at undergraduate degree level, Social Sciences come right after the main university careers: Economics, Engineering, Law, Administration and Medicine; and (ii) at Master's and Ph.D. level, Social Sciences come in second place, after Economics. Given the above, we consider it fundamental to carry out an analysis that reflects upon the profile of these professionals and on the kind of connection they have with the public service, the Lula da Silva government and academia, as well as their links with the State and civil society.

The article is structured as follows: firstly, we introduce some of the challenges that surround our field of study, given the absence of research dealing with the makeup of confidence posts in the federal Executive, which deepens the lack of knowledge of the academic and professional characteristics of our ruling elites, as well as the uncertainties vis-à-vis the technical and applicable character of the knowledge generated by the Social Sciences. Then, we provide a brief overview of relations between intellectuals, especially those from the Social Sciences, and government in the United States, since this question has been discussed from different angles in that country. Lastly, we present quantitative data on education in connection to public service, professional trajectory, experience in public office and membership of parties, trade unions and civil society organizations for the whole sample of DAS 5, DAS 6 and NES office-holders in Lula da Silva's two terms, and, separately, for the 58 people connected to the Social Sciences in this sample.

The central aim is finding out the origins and professional trajectory of these social scientists so as to X-ray this cadre of high-level officials of the Lula da Silva government. Our hypothesis is that the presence of social scientists in the government cannot be explained by the specificity of the knowledge they possess. Rather, it can be explained by variables such as the link to the public service and the Workers' Party (PT), and the interface with trade unions and civil society.


Confidence Posts, Professions, Social Sciences and Government

There is scant research in Brazil presenting empirical data on the appointees for confidence posts under different governments. However, it is worth highlighting the pioneering efforts by Maria Rita Loureiro, Fernando Abrúcio and Regina Pacheco, which, to some extent, brought conceptual and empirical references to the Brazilian academic debate with a view to the development of this research field. The few studies that exist4 offer a broad perspective of analysis, not restricted to a critique of the politicization of these high level posts. On the contrary: they discard the dichotomic view that counterposes politics and bureaucracy, stressing the hybrid role and attributes of DAS posts and, consequently, the specific leadership competencies required.

Loureiro (1998c) talks about a hybrid professional, who "is responsible both for efficient management and for achieving the political objectives of the government agenda". According to Pacheco (2002), in studies about confidence posts,

[...] what becomes important is not the traditional separation between politicians and bureaucrats, but new forms of defining specific responsibilities between policy and management, between management and bureaucracy. The differentiations do not lie in levels of neutrality or insulation of each of these spheres, but, above all, in the differentiation of the specific ethos of each group of actors. Public-sector leaders have the ethos of economic rationality: what moves them is the principle of creating the most public value on the basis of the inputs for which they are responsible.5

The investigation we are currently conducting on the makeup of the Lula da Silva government's DAS 5, 6 and NES posts is also innovative due to its focus on empirical data, i.e., on information gathered through questionnaires answered by 505 office-holders in our sample. As has already been mentioned, it was based on these answers that we surprisingly found the very significant participation in the government of professionals with training in the Social Sciences. This revealed our lack of knowledge with regard to the professions that supply the personnel for confidence posts in government. It is true that much is said about the presence and importance of economists in government, particularly from the 1970s, when the expression "technocracy" became an everyday part of the definition of public occupations. However, with the exception of economists, there is little evidence on the question of which professions supply the holders of direction posts in the federal government.6

At the Legislative level, this field of research has advanced. Studies by Leôncio Martins Rodrigues (2002) show data on the social origin and professional, ideological and political profile of federal deputies, for example.7 It is important to underline the fact that in his analysis of the makeup of party caucuses in the Chamber of Deputies, the author points out that there is "a linear growth tendency in the proportion of intellectual professions as one goes from the right to the left [in the party spectrum]".8 One supposes that members of parties located at different positions on the political spectrum connect with organizations, groups and professions of a different nature. Hence, according to the party, one might be able to identify certain patterns in the makeup of parliamentary caucuses and also in government, since recruitment would take place among specific professional and social groups.

This relationship between careers, professions and party orientation observed by Rodrigues in the federal Legislative seems to match the data found by our research. They show a high level of involvement of individuals with Social Science training — a professional field with a strong link to intellectual activities — with the Lula da Silva government, whose party origins can be traced to a leftwing political position. This would allow us to suppose that the presence of social scientists in the Lula da Silva presidency is owed to an affinity with the political and ideological orientation of his party, PT (Partido dos Trabalhadores, Workers' Party). Bearing in mind this approximation between intellectuals and government, it is worth evoking a discussion raised by Simon Schwartzman (1987) about the relationship between the knowledge produced by the Social Sciences and government power. According to the author, the Social Sciences, due to their academic and social criticism character, have not developed an "empirically applicable social technology". For this reason, their capacity to influence established power is remote. From this viewpoint, the Social Sciences in Brazil "developed at what they do best, a combination of academic scholarship and social criticism, and not as a social technology liable to being implemented". For this very reason, even if social and political circumstances were to permit it, their contribution to government matters would be precarious, since they would lack both "adequate knowledge" and consensus on its legitimacy and appropriateness (Schwartzman 1987, 14-15). Loureiro (1992) also emphasises this argument and points out that differently from economists, Social Science professionals do not have "specific competencies" at their disposal. In the author's eyes, it is precisely these competencies that confer upon economists "a hegemonic role within governments" as a ruling elite. Her understanding is that the technical-scientific abilities produced on the basis of the knowledge generated in the ambit of economic sciences have over time become important instruments of political power in Brazil. In other words, the knowledge developed by Economics is fundamentally practical, or applicable, whilst the Social Sciences deal with generalist teachings with little to offer in terms of techniques that might be applied or used by governments. With the ideas of Sergio Miceli (1989) as her starting point, Loureiro (1992, 3) stresses that:

For the sake of comparison [with economics], it is indicated that sociology was constituted differently in Brazil, as a university course that predominantly recruited among women and less favoured social layers. Furthermore, sociology scholars, as well as those from the other social science disciplines, in spite of having been intimately linked with politics and having held public office, especially in Rio de Janeiro, did not manage to achieve the same as economists, that is, the creation of spaces within government bodies practically reserved for them due to their 'specific technical competence'.

Below, we reproduce a few points of the analysis by Elisa Reis (1999) on the limitations in the training of social scientists in Brazil, which compromise their ability to intervene and operate professionally, for instance, with regard to the social problems that affect the country, such as poverty and inequality. She mentions these scientists' activities in the voluntary sector and refers to their lack of grounding to "respond to knowledge demands", confusing "ethical-religious fervour with efficiency". According to this author,

In a sense, we remain tied to the political rhetoric of previous decades and fail to realize that the world around us has become infinitely more complex. [...] The knowledge we produce becomes obsolete at a growing rate. Not because new knowledge and theories overtake us, but because new realities surprise us while our models and methodological resources often display anaemia and incapacity to generate progressive research programmes. [...] Social scientists do not manage to equate the puzzle of social policy: how to sensitize those liable for taxation, how to make resources reach the neediest, how to minimize waste and large- and small-scale corruption? What are the negative externalities of poverty today? How do the non-poor perceive such externalities? What processes affect positively and negatively the solidarity between groups, classes or nations? Such urgent questions have been widely neglected. [...] Of course, these problems are not new. They are part of our research tradition. But we have not known how to put them into the framework of the present (Reis 1999, 7-8).


Social Sciences and Government in the United States

Unlike Brazil, where the practical and specific contribution of social scientists' knowledge to governments is what tends to be questioned, in the United States the participation of academia, including social scientists, has been recognized in some works. This has elicited questions as to the extent, consequences and progressive content of this cooperation. The study by Eleanor Townsley (2000) seeks to investigate the tenor of relations between social scientists and US governments in the 1960s. This was a period when, according to authors like Daniel Bell and John Kenneth Galbraith,9 knowledge and technique became central to the conduct of government and business. In particular, Townsley's aims were to verify the hypothesis according to which the participation of academics from the Social Sciences in government would make it more progressive, and to ascertain this group's level of institutionalization in the governmental division of labour.

Based on empirical data, the author reveals that academics in general began taking up more and more posts within the presidency's remit, whether in the civil service or as political appointees, but this did not mean that they wielded political power over governments. She argues that in the mid-20th century, due to the spread of a technical-scientific discourse in government spheres, the recruitment of intellectuals to high public office emerged as a political tendency. Hence, the influence of academia in government did not occur by means of specific individuals, organizations or agencies, but due to a context of diffusion of a certain discourse involving knowledge, expertise and technical language, which shaped every conversation and governance space. This developed with the emergence of a technocratic political culture among governments (Townsley 2000, 72-75).

Anyway, based on empirical evidence, Townsley shows that in that context not every academic discipline managed to reach high levels of professionalization within the State. In other words, not every discipline, due to its expertise vis-à-vis a particular institutional domain, managed to make its professionals serve US governments continuously, regardless of which party got to power. The Natural Sciences area demonstrated this professionalization. However, social scientists displayed a specific tendency. Though present in government as political appointees in different administrations, they did not form a homogenous group with similar programmes and projects. For this reason, they aided different governments, but not continuously, since their participation in government office was limited to the period in which the political parties responsible for their appointments remained in power. In this case, Townsley considers that Social Sciences did not achieve the institutionalization of their expertise within the State, since both the access to and the permanence of their professionals in government were subject to party-political connections. In this light, she further argues that the progressive character of the US government during certain administrations cannot be explained necessarily by the participation of social scientists in public office. Rather, this character was a consequence of a political project whose main articulator was the Democratic Party itself.

Still on the matter of the involvement of social scientists with the government in the United States, some analyses deal with the effects that this partnership might have on the knowledge produced by the Social Sciences. In this field, Philip Green (1971) highlights the implications as to the independence of studies produced by social scientists when recruited to take up government office, or to act as advisers, or, principally, when their research is commissioned by public bodies. In the author's eyes, there are several elements that can skew the activities of these professionals when they provide services to government bodies, such as the uncritical use of official statistical data or of conceptual categories and schemes that orient government programmes and policies. Furthermore, Green points out that there is something much more direct and objective that affects the independence of social scientists, namely, institutional pressure on the conduct and result of their work, so as to ensure that they are "constructive" and "positive" in the eyes of the administration they are serving.

In this conception, certain social problems and their respective resolution procedures, diagnosed by Social Science professionals, could be ignored or considered too ideological by governmental agents. The latter would be more prone to assimilate "politically acceptable" questioning and solutions, "that is, (...) 'constructive' rather than 'negative', and consensus- rather than conflict-creating" (Green 1971, 15). However, the implications of this context would be perverse for the Social Sciences, given the impediments that might be caused to the essence of this discipline, which is the formulation of a social critique. Green points out, on the other hand, that on certain occasions, social scientists voluntarily come upon this setting, so that this is not something imposed unilaterally by government power. The author refers, above all, to the interest of Social Science academics in making their knowledge practical and applicable by governments, which would induce approximations with established power that might result in relations of loyalty. These would compromise the impartial character of the knowledge produced by the discipline. In this setting, social scientists would accept a "particular view of the real world", i.e., the government's. The focus would be on "incremental changes" and "political prudence", that is, a logic of action that could collide with the structural innovations and transformations prescribed by the Social Sciences. Therefore, in these circumstances, any approximation with government, voluntary or not, would bring constraints to the free exercise of social scientists' functions.

With regard to the cooperation of the Social Sciences with the US government, the implications of public sponsorship and funding for the development of research in this scientific area are also questioned. The nature of this questioning is also grounded in the argument mentioned above, i.e., the impact that the approximation with established power can have on the impartiality of a given social research project.10 In this case, it is considered that governmental organizations may constitute sources of outside pressure on academia, thus moulding the methodology and the research techniques of projects that receive their sponsorship. Michael Useem (1976) argues that public investments in research programmes may make them more responsive to the government's demands and political priorities than would normally be the case. However, ponders the author, this picture does not mean that researchers do not have some level of autonomy in conducting their work, but does reveal that some scientific aspects are far from being defined exclusively by them.

In general, it is important to point out that this discussion emerges with the process of professionalization of the discipline in the United States and Europe. Social scientists began placing themselves in the labour market, seeking new work opportunities beyond the confines of the university milieu. As stressed by Silva and Slaughter (1980), this environment first emerged in the United States in the 19th century, specifically between the end of the Civil War and the Fisrt World War, at a time of "crisis of ideology, a period of intense normative uncertainty and questioning generated by the experiences attending the accelerating pace of American industrialization after the Civil War" (Silva and Slaughter 1980, 781). In this context of transformations in the social order, the expertise of the Social Sciences was important and required to provide society in general with objective solutions for contemporary problems. The first professional associations appeared,11 with the chief aim of regulating and mediating social scientists' relations with the market and the government.

Lastly, what is worth highlighting regarding these issues about social scientists' participation or cooperation with government in the USA is precisely the demand that exists around the expertise and knowledge of the Social Sciences. According to the arguments described above, it is clear that among US authors there prevails a critical view of the involvement of academia with established power. But what stands out is the fact that an interaction between the Social Sciences, government and society exists. This is something that remains difficult to evaluate in Brazil, given the absence of information or research on the level and type of social science research commissioned by governments in comparison with that of other disciplines, for instance, or the main academic institutions called upon, among other topics. Despite the diversity of realities, the questions addressed by the abovementioned authors can provide us with parameters and help constitute a research agenda to analyse the relationship between academia, and the Social Sciences in particular, and government in Brazil.

It is not possible to discard the arguments of Schwartzman, Loureiro and Reis just with the data we have. Neither can we conclude that social scientists are present in larger numbers in this government in comparison with previous ones. It is also impossible to infer that this is a trend, rather than merely a product of an experience in government that is more to the left in the ideological aspect. According to Rodrigues (2002), one may suppose that the rise of a leftwing party that reaches the Presidency of the Republic alters the educational makeup of the elite, inasmuch as studies show that PT's links with the academic milieu, especially with professors, tend to be more pronounced. However, it is possible to suggest that the recruitment of these professionals trained in the Social Sciences was unrelated to the content of the discipline, but rather, was owed to links with the public service, party affinities and relations with trade unions or social organizations.

There remains for the Social Science academic community the curiosity of knowing to what extent it actually is the carrier of a new brand of knowledge, and whether this brand, or these brands, are adaptable to the efficacy of a democratic and egalitarian government. The question is not just being able to take part in government, but understanding the difference that this participation can have, given social scientists' capacity to conduct research and methodological evaluations, and the long-running critical potential of the profession in relation to social injustice, undemocratic political practices and the capitalist system.

Our data show that this group of social scientists that is in government is a highly-educated segment, with significant links and experience in the public sector and other professional fields. In fact, most are public servants. Furthermore, they have strong links with associative practices and political party life. In general terms, their educational, professional and associative attributes are coherent with those of the sample of DAS 5, 6 and NES that we use for the sake of comparative reference. This reveals that this group of professionals is in line with the more general patterns displayed by high-level office-holders under the Lula da Silva government.

Below, we start presenting the empirical data gathered by our research. Firstly, we show the Social Science share in the schooling of the DAS 5, 6 and NES sample we work with. Clearly, it is a highly-educated group of professionals. Over the course of this section, we also present various aspects of the profile of the social scientists in our sample.


Notes on the Education Level of DAS 5, 6 and NES Office-holders in the Lula da Silva Government

With reference to the academic education of those in the sample, we found that 97% went to university and 49% conducted postgraduate studies in the strict sense (Master's degree, Ph.D. or postdoctoral qualification). If we include specialization courses, the figure reaches 80%, i.e., 407 people who went beyond their first degree, which is indicative of a high educational level.



Next, we present the main first degree, Master's degree and Ph.D. courses done by these professionals. As mentioned earlier, it was based on these data specifically that we noticed a meaningful social science presence among DAS 5, 6 and NES office-holders in the Lula da Silva government.



With reference to first degree courses, we found that each of six professions accounted for over 5% of the office-holders: Economics, Engineering, Law, Administration, Medicine and Social Sciences, in that order. This meant significant plurality in terms of fields of knowledge, involving traditional professions like Law and Medicine, and newer ones, like Economics, Administration and Social Sciences.12

When one examines postgraduate studies, the data are even more incisive. We have already seen that some 50% of the sample members hold Master's degrees. Economics leads, albeit with a drop in the total number in President Lula da Silva's second term. Social Sciences and Medicine come in second and third place. As far as Master's degrees are concerned, the plurality of courses remains, albeit at a lower level than for first degrees. It is worth remembering that at postgraduate level, the Social Sciences normally get divided into fields of specialization, which as well as Sociology, Anthropology and Political Science, also include International Relations. If we join these four, we arrive at the graph below, which places the Social Sciences second among holders of Master's degrees in our sample.

Also worthy of note is the fact that when comparing first degrees with Master's degrees, Law courses fall from third to sixth place. Law and administration are subjects that for a long time were known for imparting practical knowledge. Only in recent years have they accorded systematic attention to the academic training of masters and doctors.



In absolute terms, the numbers of holders of Social Science Master's courses in the sample during President Lula da Silva's first term were as follows: Social Sciences (1), Sociology (1), Anthropology (3), International Relations (3) and Political Science (7). During President Lula da Silva's second term, the figures were as follows: Social Sciences (2), Sociology (2), Anthropology (2), International Relations (6) and Political Science (10). This shows that at Master's level, Political Science is the Social Science field with the most significant presence in the government, with a total of 17 people.

At Ph.D. level, the distribution of fields undergoes alterations in comparison with first degree and Master's level. Three subjects stand out: Economics, Social Sciences and Health, respectively. According to several studies and varied evidence (Loureiro 1997), economists are the professionals that have stood out the most in governmental functions over the last few decades and our sample confirms this trend. Here again, the news is the emergence of the Social Sciences as a field that supplies qualified personnel to the government, ranked second among Ph.D.s.

Of course, we are talking about a slice of 113 people, meaning some 22% of the DAS and NES office-holders in our sample that have doctoral or postdoctoral qualifications. But, still, it is an item of evidence that helps one think about the interfaces of professions with the public administration and, particularly, about the contribution that the Social Sciences have been making to knowledge and to government.



At Ph.D. level, we found changes in relation to Master's level in terms of the distribution of Social Science courses in the sample. In Lula da Silva's first term, the numbers of holders of Social Science Ph.D. courses in the sample were as follows: Social Sciences (1), International Relations (1) Political Science (2) and Sociology (5). During his second term, the distribution was as follows: International Relations (1), Social Sciences (2), Political Science (3) and Sociology (6). The change occurs as a function of the growing presence of the Sociology course to the detriment of Political Science and International Relations, which stand out more at Master's level. There are no Anthropology Ph.D.s in the sample.


Social Scientists in the Lula da Silva Government

By "social scientists", we mean a group of 58 people in our sample of 505 who at first degree and/or postgraduate level did courses in the realm of the Social Sciences, understood here as Sociology, Political Science, Anthropology and International Relations. In the 58-person sample we worked with, 31 had a first degree in social sciences. Of these, five also did Master's degrees and another five did Ph.D.s in the field. The other 27 did first degrees in other subjects and postgraduate courses in Social Sciences: 17 did Master's degrees and 10 did Ph.D.s. Table 2 shows the education level of this group of 58 professionals who at some time in their academic trajectories adopted the Social Sciences as a field of study.



Since there are no cases in our sample of specialization courses in Social Sciences, we have on the table above ten Social Science graduates whose specialization in another field is their highest level qualification. Just three people with first degrees in Social Sciences or International Relations do not hold postgraduate qualifications. For their part, the 45 holders of Master's degrees or Ph.D.s in this group are divided into Social Sciences and International Relations graduates with postgraduate qualifications in this field or others, and graduates from other fields who did postgraduate courses in the realm of the Social Sciences.

We then turned to the first degree courses of the members of our group of 58 professionals and the higher education institutions where they studied. This group mostly graduated in a subject from among the human sciences, with USP, UNB and UFF, respectively, being the Brazilian universities that appeared with the most frequency. Five social scientists graduated from overseas universities. There is also a significant number that graduated from "other institutions", which to a certain extent demonstrates that the first degrees of this segment of senior office-holders are not institutionally concentrated.



Considering those who hold Master's degrees,13 we found that the Political Science course predominates, followed by International Relations. As for institutions, USP and UNB predominate, followed by UFPE. It is worth noting that at Master's level, the number of "other institutions" (10) is smaller, when compared to first degree level, which denotes the concentration of this qualification level in certain educational institutions. Moreover, the number of masters who went to overseas institutions (7) is practically half the number of those who went to "other institutions", a significantly higher proportion than that seen at first degree level (table 4).



With regard to Ph.D. courses, we found the same institutions as for Master's courses, with the exception of UFPE. The main provider, as in the case of first degrees and Master's degrees, was USP. However, the main course at this qualification level (Sociology) is spread over the range of institutions. Only one sociologist was awarded his/her Ph.D. at USP. Another point worth mentioning is the strong institutional concentration of courses in this group, with only two Ph.D.s obtained at "other institutions". There is also a significant number who got their Ph.D. abroad (7) (table 5).



The Table 6 shows the areas of government in which these Masters and Ph.D.s work, out of our sample of 505 that includes 113 holders of Ph.D.s and 136 just of Master's degrees. It also shows the areas where the social scientists work. They are more present in development agencies, followed by the Presidency of the Republic, education, culture and leisure, and the social area. In general, the distribution of masters and doctors from the social scientists' group follows the same trend of the larger sample. This allows one to say that social Science Professionals are active in several areas of government.



Hence, with the exception of the Health area, where there are no Social Science Masters or Ph.D.s , the holders of these qualifications are mostly to be found at the Presidency of the Republic (8), in development (15) and in education, culture and leisure (9). Thus we can say that social scientists with postgraduate qualifications do not occupy a specific place within the government.



In order to conclude the evaluation of the education data both of the full sample of DAS 5, 6 and NES posts and of the group of social scientists, we compare the education level of these people's parents, so as to ascertain the social origin of this set of DAS office-holders. Comparing the two samples, one notices that in proportional terms, most members of the full DAS sample come from homes with medium or low educational levels (between unfinished first degrees and unfinished primary schooling): 57% of fathers and 70% of mothers. In the group of social scientists, most parents have high or very high educational levels (between a completed first degree and a postdoctoral qualification): 52% of fathers and 45% of mothers. These data allow us to say that the group of social scientists within the DAS sample originate in their majority from families with good schooling, one of the indicators of a middle-class social extraction.

Next, we intend to investigate specifically the type of link to and experience of the public service, and the professional trajectory of the two samples we are discussing in this article. The objective is to try to assess, on the one hand, the abilities and competencies of social scientists for the purposes of holding these confidence posts; to this end, we make a comparison with the DAS sample as a whole. On the other, we also analyse the academic experiences of the group of social scientists that serve the Lula da Silva government.

The table below displays information on the link these people have with the public service. The first two categories (servant of the federal sphere or servant recruited from another sphere of government) indicate the totality of public servants recruited to take up confidence posts. Public servants predominate in both samples. In the full sample, 322 (64.4%) are public employees; among the social scientists, 34 (60.7%) are public employees. The percentage of "non-public servants" is also significant, nearly reaching 30% in the full DAS sample and 40% among the social scientists. One way or another, what one notices is that this layer of office-holders in the Lula da Silva government was largely recruited from within the public service, mainly in the federal government sphere. We therefore deduce that they are professionals with experience in the routines and procedures that are part of the functioning of the State.



Below, we show the year in which the people in our sample were appointed to the DAS job they had at the time of survey. Note that most (some 93% of both samples) were appointed over the course of President Lula da Silva's administration. This demonstrates that their recruitment occurred upon the recommendation of members of the Lula da Silva government. However, when taking up these posts, 49% of the members of the full DAS sample already had experience in confidence posts, i.e., they had previously held DAS office. Among the social scientists, the percentage is practically the same, c.50%. This regularity stands out and reveals the relative experience of the members of the samples of confidence posts in the federal Executive.



The data presented in the last two tables allow one to state that these people have significant levels of experience both in the public service in general and in confidence functions in particular. We stress that the social scientists are not in disaccord with this pattern, demonstrating their greater insertion in public-sector roles than in academic ones. Another item of evidence that shows the level of expertise of part of the DAS sample has to do with direction-level jobs in governments in the municipal, state and federal spheres. The table below indicates that this type of experience among members of the sample is also significant. Approximately 42% of members of the full sample said they had already had this kind of experience; the figure reaches 52% in the group of social scientists, once again demonstrating their professional trajectory in public-sector roles.



The chart 2 shows the number and proportion of university teaching staff (lecturers/professors) by profession in the DAS 5, 6 and NES sample. We have separated their incidence from the full sample as a parameter for comparison. We found that among those with an academic background in the Social Sciences and in Economics, the percentage of university teaching staff was almost the same (38% and 35.1%, respectively), figures not dissimilar from that of the full sample (31.3%). However, it is physicians that display the greatest insertion in academic life, for more than half (56%) indicated already having taught in higher education. Lawyers, administrators and engineers, for their part, have lower experience levels in this activity.



Below, we can see the other professional activities carried out by the group of social scientists, as well as by the members of the full DAS sample. Among the activities listed, that of university lecturer/professor is the most prevalent in both samples, followed by technical functions and "other type of consultancy". With regard to the other activities, the two samples display different distributions. The activity "director of voluntary sector organization" is fourth among social scientists and sixth in the full sample, which evinces the proximity between social scientists and the so-called "third sector" of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs). Lastly, based on the data presented in the next chart, we see that the members of the DAS 5, 6 and NES sample connected to the Social Sciences have a vast array of activities and experience in their professional trajectory. In other words, the abilities and competencies that these professionals bring were to a certain extent acquired whilst carrying out diversified activities.



Furthermore, we found very close links between the social scientists in our sample and membership of leftwing parties and civil society organizations. The results are evident when we compare them with the 505-member sample. In percentage terms, the party activism of the social scientists is much higher than that of the full sample, as shown below. While in the full sample 24% are members of a political party — an extremely high rate for Brazilian standards — the figure increases to nearly 40% among the social scientists. The difference is also large if one considers those who have or had a party leadership role. In the full sample the rate is of 11%, while among Social Science graduates the figure rises to 19%.

If one looks at the figures referent to the other professions, we find that medical professionals have similar party membership levels vis-à-vis social scientists, both around 40%. These are the two professional groups in our sample with the highest party membership rates. The group of administrators and engineers has practically half that rate, i.e., only about a fifth of the members of these professions indicated having a party affiliation. However, it is the areas of Economics and Law that stand out for the lowest percentages of party membership, close to 10%. Thus, we may consider that in the full DAS 5, 6 and NES sample, social scientists and medical doctors have the highest levels of party insertion, followed by administrators and engineers in the middle section, and economists and lawyers at the bottom.

As for parties, some 78% and 70%, respectively, of party members from the full sample and from the group of social scientists are members of the Workers' Party (PT). This means that of the 505-person sample, 20% are PT members; out of the 58 Social Science professionals, 28% are PT members. As for the other professions, one notes that the link with PT is strong among those professionals who indicated party membership. The lowest percentages refer to administrators (43%) and lawyers (50%). Curiously, economists, whose overall rate of party membership is the lowest, have the highest percentage of PT membership (75%) among those with a party affiliation. Engineers and physicians also stand out for their major link with the Workers' Party, with membership rates above 70%.





Lastly, we examine the indicators of relations between this group of 58 people and social movements and other civil society organizations (Chart 6). Here one also finds closer relations in comparison with the 505-person sample. Revealingly, this participation level is only significantly lower in the case of professional councils (29.1% versus 10.3%). This can be explained by the fact that the social sciences have never been highly organized from the corporative point of view and lack trade unions and professional associations of any significance and legitimacy. Regardless of that, one may conclude that the social scientists in the sample display associative rates in general higher than those of the full sample, which, in turn, are also high, considering national references. According to data from the Brazilian Geography and Statistics Institute (IBGE), just 14.5% of the population has links with trade unions and only 2.6% are members of political parties.14 The data also indicate that associative practices in Brazil are mainly religious (22.9% of the population), sports-related (12.6%) and philanthropic (4.2%). Under 15% of the population claims to belong to residents' associations, the only associative practice more connected with the profile of our sample.



Once again we display data referent to the other more prevalent professions in our DAS 5, 6 and NES sample in order to compare this with the figures for social scientists. Below, one finds that some professional groups have higher rates of participation in associations than social scientists. In particular, the medical doctors in our sample stand out owing to strong links with trade unions and civil society organizations, which are higher in percentage terms than social scientists' rates. Medical doctors' high level of involvement with trade union congresses is noteworthy. Approximately a quarter of them indicated this type of affiliation.

Excepting Law, the other careers display significant levels of membership of trade unions and professional councils, which suggests that one is dealing with a group with strong corporative articulation. As for experience in the management committees of civil society organizations, local government and social movements, what one notices is a diversified linkage, for with the exception of medical professionals (who practically have a majority insertion in these fields), the groups have varied and generally lower levels of participation.



In general, our sample of social scientists reveals a strong commitment on their part with party politics and with the associative world. Bearing in mind our data, we see a double movement: the social scientists surveyed become professionals and are politicized. They are public-sector leaders in a leftwing government and mirror this commitment with political and social engagement.14

To what extent this apparently ambiguous movement — bringing together professionalism, party-politicization and an associative background — can persist is a matter for the research we are conducting at the moment. Whether this reflects a characteristic made explicit in this government, but that cannot be found in previous administrations, is also a theme for future investigation. Lastly, we cannot but ask: what is the impact of the political and associative engagement of these public-sector managers on the quality of public policies? Our data do not allow us to answer all these questions, but at least they facilitate a more grounded reflection upon the social sciences, politics and government.


Final Remarks

There is every reason to believe that this is the first time empirical research is conducted into the presence of social scientists in the Brazilian government and their significance in quantitative terms. This statement, in itself, is worthy of reflection. We share the idea that social scientists, owing to their training in research and solid knowledge of social issues, constitute a professional group that is technically well-prepared to carry out public functions. However, the small number of discussions existent in Brazil on this matter, such as those undertaken by Schwartzman (1987), Loureiro (1992) and Reis (1999), is indicative of the difficulty our Social Sciences have in being a source of knowledge, expertise and technology for governments, bearing in mind that they allegedly do not master "specific knowledge and abilities".

Our data are not sufficient to refute this argument, but evince the fact that social scientists are participating in the government. They help one reflect upon the criteria that might have influenced their recruitment to the DAS 5, 6 and NES posts. With the data as our starting point, we may ask whether these professionals were recruited into the government owing to their specialized academic knowledge, or whether other factors influenced the choice, such as their link with the public service, the Workers' Party, trade unions and civil society organizations, for example.

As has been seen, one is talking about a group that is highly involved with associative practices and party politics. Political parties are by definition the most adequate channel to achieve public office (Norris, 2006), and links with social movements are a well-established way of forming networks of contact with public agencies. For the purpose of our reflection, though, it must be considered that the weight of political party and trade union activity and of professionalization in explaining the presence of political scientists in high-level public sector office is not clear. On the other hand, the strong party-political, associative and trade union connections do not invalidate or disqualify the group's professional training.

Indeed, the fact that approximately 60% of the Social Science graduates in our sample are public servants indicates that their presence in the government is not a consequence of their links with the academic milieu. The link with the public service and the resulting expertise acquired in performing State functions may have had a direct influence in the choice of these people.

Another factor that seems to influence the recruitment of part of these professionals has to do with belonging to PT. As we have seen, 40% of the social scientists indicated a party membership, of whom 70% are members of PT. Of the PT members, 44% are public servants. This evinces a superimposition that may have been decisive in the choice of these DAS office-holders, namely, belonging both to the public service and to PT. Among the "non-public-servant" social scientists who are members of PT (56%), some 36% indicated being university professors/lecturers. In our view, this is a small percentage for an educational background geared basically to teaching and research as professional activities. This being the case, we may conjecture whether the access to confidence posts by this "non-public-servant" group was conditioned, in the final analysis, just to their membership of the party of the president of the Republic.

The connections between PT and public servants have been demonstrated by some researchers. By analysing the profile of delegates attending PT conventions, Amaral (2007) demonstrates that the percentage of public-sector workers rose from 33% to 57.1% between 1997 and 2006. For the latter year, he checked the occupational background of those who worked for the State: 19.4% were public servants, 15.6% held confidence posts in the Executive and 16.3% held confidence posts in the Legislative. In other words, the intimate link found in our sample had already been detected by other analyses.15

As for the institutions that schooled the government's social scientists, the data show that although there is some concentration of Masters and Ph.D.s from USP, UNB and IUPERJ, there is no indication that social scientists form an integrated group in epistemic and professional terms. This conclusion also derives from social scientists' precarious associative character in the professional ambit. Moreover, social scientists' participation in the Lula da Silva government is rather varied. They hold DAS posts in different areas of government, indicating that their spheres of activity and functions are diversified. They would probably be much better defined as a professional segment of an intellectual nature with ideological and political affinities, and wide-ranging skills.

The data in this research compel one to further reflect upon Social Sciences courses in Brazil, whether at first degree or postgraduate level. They are often thought of as "easier" courses, with a low level of communication with society and the market. They do lend themselves, however, to the training of public-sector leaders for high-level posts, thus laying to rest some myths about the profession. Furthermore, the interface with the public service is significant, which requires specific investigations about the professional trajectory of Social Science graduates. Our data suggest that professionals with qualifications in this field of knowledge direct themselves to State careers by means of the formal public-sector recruitment procedure — which, incidentally, does not clash with the tradition present in Brazilian culture of worshipping public-sector employment.

Lastly, a reminder: the US literature we use as a reference in this article to reflect upon the approximation of intellectuals to government power has inspired us in a research agenda that we intend to deepen. We aim to approach with more acuity questions referent to (i) the professionalization of the Social Sciences in the State sphere, and, consequently (ii) their role in governments' social division of labour. It is true enough that the US context seems distinct from the Brazilian, at least in the ambit of the Lula da Silva government, since US research shows that academia, understood as universities and research centres, has tended to constitute the main professional milieu of social scientists that take up government posts. In Brazil, most of these professionals were recruited from within the public service, i.e., they had a prior insertion in public bodies. However, the absence of research into the professions that provide governments with personnel precludes us from asserting whether this finding, arrived at on the basis of our data, reflects just a tendency of the Lula da Silva government or can be generalized to other administrations.



1 All these data were extracted from the latest Statistical Personnel Bulletin (nº 154 - February 2009), a monthly publication of the Ministry of Planning, Budget and Management, started in 1996 on the initiative of the Ministry of the Federal Administration and Reform of the State (MARE), headed by Luiz Carlos Bresser-Pereira. The Bulletin is available at:

2 According to Decree nº 5497 of 2005, 75% of the DAS levels 1, 2 and 3 confidence posts, and 50% of the DAS level 4 confidence posts are to be filled exclusively by career public servants of the federal direct administration, federal autonomous agencies (autarquias) or foundations. There are no restrictions with regard to DAS 5 and 6 posts, which may be freely filled by individuals from within and without the public service.

3 It may be said that some of the pioneering works in this line of research are Loureiro et al. (1998c), Loureiro, and Abrucio (1999), Pacheco (2002; 2004; 2008), D'Araujo (2007; 2008).

4 Pacheco (2002, 12).

5 Loureiro (1997).

6 It is also worth mentioning the book edited by Renato Perissinotto et al (2007) on the profile of the holders of legislative, party and administrative office in the state of Paraná from 1995 to 2002.

7 Rodrigues (2002, 71).

8 We refer here to the books The coming of post-industrial society (1973/1976) by Daniel Bell and The new industrial State (1967) by John Kenneth Galbraith.

9 See the works of Michael Useem (1976), Edward T. Silva and Sheila Slaughter (1980) and Desmond King (1998).

10 American Social Science Association (ASSA), created in 1865; American Economic Association (AEA), in 1885; American Political Science Association (APSA), in 1903; and American Sociological Society (ASS), in 1905.

11 Schwartzman (1987).

12 We are assuming that every Ph.D.-holder did a Master's before.

13 Data referent to the population over the age of 18 in the metropolitan areas of Recife, Salvador, Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte, São Paulo and Porto Alegre. Source: Monthly employment survey - membership of associations item, April 1996. Table 1.9.

14 Data referent to the population over the age of 18 in the metropolitan areas of Recife, Salvador, Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte, São Paulo and Porto Alegre. Source: Monthly employment survey - membership of associations item, April 1996. Table 1.9.

15 On this point, see also Rodrigues (1990).


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Submitted in August, 2008
Accepted in June, 2009



* The present research is part of a project we are developing on public-sector elites in the government of President Luis Inácio Lula da Silva, with support from the Ford Foundation.



Annex 1

Division of federal public administration bodies into "areas of government".

Presidency of the Republic = Office of the Attorney-General; Office of the Chief of the Presidential Staff; Office of the Comptroller-General; Alexandre de Gusmão Foundation; Office of Institutional Security of the Presidency of the Republic; Private Office of the President of the Republic; National Information Technology Institute; Ministry External Relations; Strategic Affairs Unit of the Presidency of the Republic; Presidency of the Republic; Press and Spokesperson's Department of the Presidency of the Republic; Institutional Relations Department of the Presidency of the Republic; Department of the General-Secretary of the Presidency of the Republic; Vice-Presidency of the Republic.

Development = Amazon Development Agency; Northeast Development Agency; National Transport Infrastructure Department; National Works Department Against Droughts; National Public Administration School Foundation; Brazilian Geography and Statistics Institute Foundation; Applied Economic Research Institute Foundation; Jorge Duprat Figueiredo Foundation for Labour Safety and Medicine; Brazilian Institute for the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources; Rio de Janeiro Botanical Gardens Research Institute; National Industrial Property Institute; National Colonization and Agrarian Reform Institute; National Institute of Industrial Metrology, Normalization and Quality; Ministry of Agriculture, Stock-rearing and Supplies; Ministry of National Integration; Ministry of Urban Affairs; Ministry of Communication; Ministry of Mines and Energy; Ministry of Agrarian Development; Ministry of Development, Industry and Foreign Trade; Ministry of the Environment; Ministry of Planning, Budget and Management; Ministry of Labour and Employment; Ministry of Transport; Special Department for Aquaculture and Fisheries; Office of the Superintendent of the Manaus Free Trade Zone.

Economic = Central Bank of Brazil, Securities and Exchange Commission; Ministry of Finance; Office of the Superintendent of Private Insurance.

Health = National Health Foundation; Ministry of Health.

Science = Brazilian Space Agency; National Nuclear Energy Commission; National Council for Scientific and Technological Development; Ministry of Science and Technology.

Social = National Social Security Institute; Ministry of Social Security; Ministry for Social Development and Combating Hunger; Special Department for Racial Equality Promotion Policies; Special Department for Policies for Women.

Education, Culture and Leisure = Foundation for the Qualification of Higher Education Personnel; Joaquim Nabuco Foundation; National Fund for the Development of Education; Brazilian Tourism Institute; Anísio Teixeira National Institute for Educational Studies and Research; Ministry of Culture; Ministry of Education; Ministry of Sport; Ministry of Tourism.

Justice = Administrative Council for Economic Defence; National Indigenous Peoples' Foundation; Ministry of Defence; Ministry of Justice; Special Department for Human Rights.