Revista de Sociologia e Política
Print version ISSN 0104-4478
MOURA, Joana Tereza Vaz de and SILVA, Marcelo Kunrath. Social actors and attempts to broaden democracy: social networks in perspective. Rev. Sociol. Polit. [online]. 2008, vol.16, suppl., pp. 43-54. ISSN 0104-4478. http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S0104-44782008000300004.
Over the course of the 1980s and 1990s, Brazil has witnessed the proliferation of forums, councils, committees and partnerships that have instituted institutional channels open for the political expression of actors and segments of civil society at the different levels of government and over a wide range of areas of State action. Nonetheless, the literature that analyzes this process has, to a large extent, adopted a dichotomous and normative view of civil society. We put forth a need to break with static and substantialist views of civil society, through adoption of a processbased and relational approach allowing us to analyze the process that constructs social actors in their relation to other actors and institutions (particularly, with the political and institutional field). Thus, the present paper represents more of a theoretical and methodological proposal than a presentation of research results. Our goal is to look critically at the literature that employs a normative and stylized approach to civil society and propose the incorporation of a political networks approach for the discussion and analysis of processes of formation and engagement of actors from civil society and -more specifically - of how these processes are related to institutional spaces of participation.. As an instrument for methodological operationalization of the ´political networks approach, we propose social network analysis. This method of analysis permits the apprehension of the processes of formation and engagement of actors from civil society through their belonging to a relational and dynamic space where actors with distinct institutional connections (civil society, the State, the market) can be found.
Keywords : participation; social network analysis; process-based and relational approaches; civil society.