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Revista de Sociologia e Política

versão impressa ISSN 0104-4478versão On-line ISSN 1678-9873


OLIVEIRA, Wilson José Ferreira de. Political engagement, experts and elite leadership in the environmental movement. Rev. Sociol. Polit. [online]. 2008, vol.16, n.30, pp.167-186. ISSN 0104-4478.

This article examines the conditions and the dynamics of the use of technical abilities in political activism. Notwithstanding differences pertaining to different approaches, one of the constant themes within both national and international literature deals with the growing importance of educational resources and of technical legitimacy in recruiting and selection for leadership positions within environmental organizations. Based on research on the main leaders of environmental mobilizations and organizations between 1970 and 2004, we have seen that the use of technical abilities for the exercise of leadership functions has been a result of the dynamics of an increasingly diversified higher education system and of the greater articulation between educational background and political engagement, as leaders position themselves within a range of organizations and "social movements" over the course of their family, educational, political and professional trajectories. The methodological procedures employed here consist of biographical interviews carried out with leaders of different types of environmental associations meant to capture the itineraries that have led them to political engagement, the meanings given to professional training and the types of resources and social ties that support their conceptions and activist practices. Our main conclusions demonstrate that, rather than "technical activism", the situation is characterized by a strong interrelationship between the exercise of technical functions within environmentalism, a simultaneous participation in multiple networks of organizations and "social movements" and occupation of positions in different social spheres as based on the resources and political ties accumulated through such participation.

Palavras-chave : elite leadership; engagement; political participation; expertise; environmentalism.

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