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IV ISA Forum of Sociology in Porto Alegre

The SBS Greets the ISA Forum

Porto Alegre at sunset. Photo by Felipe Valduga/Flickr. Some rights reserved.

February 21, 2020

In 2017, the Brazilian Sociological Society (Sociedade Brasileira de Sociologia, or SBS) completed 70 years of existence. Founded in 1937 as the Paulista Society of Sociology, it was only effectively organized as the Brazilian Sociological Society in 1950, joining the newly founded International Sociological Association.


The period from 1937 to 2017 was not continuous, due to the political and organizational features of a small professional category that was almost exclusively linked to the university. After its reorganization in 1950, the SBS held in 1954 the first Brazilian Congress of Sociology in the city of São Paulo. With the military coup of 1964, sociology was hit hard, involving the compulsory retirement of numerous university professors and researchers. The SBS was only reorganized after the democratization of the country in 1985. Since then it has had a regular existence, with biannual congresses, holding in 2019 its nineteenth congress in the city of Florianópolis.

The erratic trajectory of the SBS in its early decades was accompanied by the establishment of the first undergraduate courses in sociology and politics or social sciences, initiated in 1933 in the city of São Paulo. Until 1964, nineteen additional courses were set up in different regions of the country, as well as two graduate courses, also in São Paulo.

During this period, sociological production was on the rise, as well as the defense of sociology as a science; however, research was still mainly restricted to São Paulo. The military dictatorship and its concern about scientific and technological autonomy inadvertently contributed to the expansion of sociology and the social sciences. The structuration of a research and postgraduate system led to the expansion of undergraduate and graduate education across the country, enabling in the 1970s the emergence of social science associations and conferences and the diffusion of scientific knowledge. The evaluation system implemented by CAPES (the Brazilian Federal Agency for Support and Evaluation of Graduate Education) in graduate programs, the establishment of a doctoral degree as a requisite for teaching in public universities, and access to research funding, led to the creation of national quality parameters.

After democratization, this expansion was boosted by an increase of incentive policies that enabled the consolidation of sociology as a discipline and a field of research. Internationalization accompanied this expansion, with Brazilian sociology standing out worldwide. Starting in 2006, the discipline became compulsory in high school, expanding the labor market for sociologists. It is important to stress that this labor market is mainly found in higher and high-school education. In other sectors it is almost invisible, since sociologists are for the most part employed as social and planning technicians in public institutions, NGOs, and private companies, functions which are shared with graduates from other humanities subjects.

These achievements, however, have been threatened since the so-called parliamentary coup of 2016. Sociology has become a target of rulers who have come to question its usefulness and relevance, whether in universities or high schools, its access to research funds, and more. Recently, sociology was accused of preaching an obscure “cultural Marxism” that would threaten the Brazilian family.

These attacks are on the rise, with worrying results, and sociology is not the only target. In 2017, in the course of a hasty high-school reform sociology was downgraded to an optional discipline, as was philosophy. The extreme right-wing government that took office in 2019 attacked the two disciplines arguing that the public university should prioritize “useful” or in other words applied courses, like veterinary, and that those willing to study sociology and philosophy should attend private universities. The attacks have gone further and are now more generic, stating that the public university, where sociology and philosophy undergraduate courses as well as graduate programs are concentrated, is a useless expense and the locus of resistance of the political opposition.

The SBS, along with other social science professionals, such as the Brazilian Anthropological Association (ABA), the Brazilian Association of Political Science (ABCP), and the Brazilian Society for the Advancement of Science (SBPC), have joined efforts to resist these policies of dismantling the country’s public structure in the name of fiscal adjustments. Since the 1990s, such policies have resulted in social and political disasters in most countries where they have been applied, as in Argentina in 2000 or Greece in 2010, among others.

In this context, holding the IV ISA Forum in Brazil represents an additional space for resistance, not only for sociological knowledge, but also for the fight of knowledge against barbarism. Such barbarism is accompanied by a narrow-minded religious fundamentalism, and an authoritarianism that has the complicity of institutions of the Republic that were supposed to defend democracy but that apparently do not have much conviction about it.

Welcome to all. We count on you in this struggle for freedom, democracy, and social justice. Without freedom, there is no sociology possible.

Jacob Carlos Lima, Federal University of São Carlos, Brazil, President of theBrazilian Sociological Society, and member of ISA Research Committee on Sociology of Work (RC30) <jacobl@uol.com.br>

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