Miguel Carter
Challenging Social Inequality
Contention, Context, and Consequences
The Landless Rural Workers Movement (mst) is undeniably a controver-
sial movement in Brazil. It not only stands at the cutting edge of meaningful
transformations in the country, in many regards, it is Brazil’s cutting edge. No
other Brazilian movement embodies the strength, incisiveness, and aspirations
for fundamental social change represented by the mst. The chapters in this
book provide a sympathetic yet nuanced assessment of this, grounded on ex-
tensive research and field experience.
This conclusion pulls together key findings and ideas in this collection and
assesses their main implications for social change in Brazil. There are three
sections to this chapter. The first, “Contention,” opens with an examination of
the principal arguments leveled against the mst’s struggle for agrarian reform
and delineates the broader contours of the debate at hand. The second section,
“Context and Complexity,” draws on the findings in this book to suggest ways
in which a sharper understanding of the landless movement can be reached.
The final section, “Consequences,” examines the formidable obstacles to land
reform in Brazil; the role of public activism in effecting change; and the radical
democratic implications of the mst’s fight for social justice.
This book takes part in a broader public debate over agrarian reform in Brazil.
The insights offered here are rarely conveyed by the country’s media estab-
lishment. Instead, the mainstream press has given ample attention to public
intellectuals with very critical views of the mst’s social struggle. Four of the
best-known critics are: José de Souza Martins, Zander Navarro, Francisco Gra-
ziano, and Denis Lerrer Rosenfield.1 Through their academic writings, news-
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