From hope to hate: The rise of conservative subjectivity in Brazil

Rosana Pinheiro-Machado, Lucia Mury Scalco


This essay focuses on the voters of Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro in Morro da Cruz, a low-income community in Porto Alegre. The transition from Lulism (2002–16) to Bolsonarism (2018–) was marked by the rise and fall of the economy and the collapse of the political system. Based on a ten-year longitudinal ethnography, we look at the effects of such major shifts at the national level on people’s individual self- and political subjectivity. We investigate how and why “new consumers”—those who accessed the finance system during the Workers’ Party (PT) Administration—came to support a far-right candidate. We argue that the inclusion of the poor into the market economy brought about individual empowerment and a sense of self-worth in the PT era—a process that was threatened by economic recession and unleashed an existential crisis, especially among men. Bolsonaro, as a male figure, and his campaign gave order to a changing world, resulting in a reconciliation of personhood and political belonging.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.1086/708627