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Educação & Realidade

versão impressa ISSN 0100-3143versão On-line ISSN 2175-6236

Educ. Real. vol.44 no.3 Porto Alegre  2019  Epub 27-Maio-2019 


Occupy Movement in Pernambuco: for a stimulated dialogue in Education

Ana Claudia Dantas CavalcantiI

IUniversidade de Pernambuco (UPE), Recife/PE - Brazil


Our objective was to analyze citizen participation through the Occupy Movement, (OM), which leads mobilizations against current educational issues, in its dialogue with education. With the theoretical contribution of Habermas (2012), under the qualitative perspective and content analysis, Bardin (1977), we collected the data, through bibliographic review, documents and semi-structured interviews with representatives of High School and University entities. The research can not point to achievements on the agenda with state, power but verified the Movement strengthening and resistance.

Keywords: Educational Policies; Student Movement; Occupy movement; Citizen Participation; Managerial State


Nosso objetivo foi analisar a participação cidadã através do Movimento Ocupa (MO), que lidera mobilizações frente às questões educacionais atuais, em seu diálogo com a Educação. Com aporte teórico em Habermas (2012), sob a perspectiva qualitativa e análise de conteúdo, de Bardin (1977), coletamos os dados através de revisão bibliográfica, documentos e entrevistas semiestruturadas com representantes de entidades secundarista e universitária. A pesquisa não pode apontar conquistas na pauta com o poder estatal, mas verificou o fortalecimento e a resistência do movimento.

Palavras-chave: Políticas Educacionais; Movimento Estudantil; Movimento Ocupa; Participação Cidadã; Estado Gerencial.


This research1 was realized in Pernambuco state, and aimed to analyze citizen participation through Occupy Movement (OM), a movement realized by students in order to establish dialogue with the government on educational issues.

The research field was delimited to the University Students movement and the high school students movement, who were the participants of Occupy Movement. Representatives from the Central Directory of Students from University of Pernambuco (UPE), from the Students of Pernambuco Union and from the Metropolitan High School Union were interviewed in this study. For purposes of distinguishing the research subjects’ words, we will use the letter S as a representation of High School students and the letter U for the University students. The problem that defines our research question is the following: what was the OM’s contribution to development of dialogue with the public power as a response to the confrontation of the of state’s contemporary educational issues? We conducted semi-structured interviews on: face-to-face, recorded and by e-mail situations.

We began ours thoughts about contemporary educational policies in the state of Pernambuco by contextualizing the 1980’s educational policies and the managerial policies initiated in Brazil, starting with the State Administrative Reform in the 1990’s. Then, we deal with the OM and its claims agenda on Education, by considering that the occupation was the dimension found for the dialogue development with the public power. We analyze the dialogue theoretical dimension based on the dialogical rationality conceptualized by Habermas (2012) as the basis of perception of the studied phenomenon. We consider that the OM imposed the occupation in institutions as a form of action and confrontation with the educational issues and that this stimulus propitiated the development of society’s participation. Some achievements and the “resistance” phenomenon strengthened the Movement in mediation with the state.

The Managerial State Educational Policies and the Rhetoric of Participation

The historical process of 20th and 21st centuries, evidences new forms of policy action in reinforcing the market in the globalization context. This fact demonstrates the capitalism reorganization with the state administrative model reorientation in different national experiences. We observed the transition from the bureaucratic model to the models of the participatory state in the 1980’s and the managerial state model in contemporary times.

The 1980’s participatory state model in Brazil had the objective of consolidate the practice in the context of popular deliberation on public policies and, especially on educational policies. This model expressed governmental actions in which the concepts of democracy, participation and popular sovereignty guided society discussions defending the citizen protagonism to define the state actions. Bobbio (2007) elucidates that political citizenship, when expressed itself through democracy, lies on the exercise of popular sovereignty. In the 1980’s, we witnessed the social movements proliferation in the struggle for the social rights expansion deprived by the state, and in this discussion, Gonh (2008) pointed out social gains with these movement actions. However, it should be noted that in the 1980’s in Brazil, the role of organized civil society was strong, in order to seek the state role re-signification in the struggle for the rights expansion, in which, contrary to what was expected by civil society, neoliberal proportions on a world scale were intensified in the following decade. In this sense, the social propositions of an alternative society project, articulated with the popular movements of civil society, are more fragile (Silva, 2003).

In despite of the State Administrative Reform in the 1990’s, democracy and participation were reaffirmed in the new economic relations of a globalized nature, but they were against the 1980’s participatory state project. The emerging of the minimal state restricts the spaces and participants of democracy (Dagnino, 2004). In addition, the path of public deliberation is far away from been concretized on the business education standards. Democracy and participation in the 1990’s identified the citizen as a consumer and as a taxpayer, re-signifying social participation as a management technique and strengthening neoliberal ideology (Cavalcanti, 2011a). Technocracy claims that politics belongs to technicians. Citizen’s voice is not been heard, and their engagement is not relevant to influencing the global mechanisms that guide their lives (Pinzani, 2013).

The state model presented in the 1990’s was embodied by transnational capital, opposing individual rights to collective rights and, in effect, ratifying social inequality. In this way, the new capitalist organization continues to value citizenship and participation and, despite the polysemy of the terms, the connotation differs between one model and another, also in public purposes.

The new State’s logic highlights dimensions that value efficiency, competitiveness and regulation, in order to consolidate international guidelines that understand Education as a substantial way to strengthen the market. The globalization movement and liberal reforms, in the new contours of the contemporaneity, follow a pattern of adhesion, with Brazil agreeing to have congruent interests with the other signatory countries. This project is concerned with reducing state spending, encourages privatization and productive restructuring, developing practices aligned with multilateral organizations of fiscal and monetary policies. The state has minimized social investment and therefore, social rights. The Public investment moves to market strengthening, individual merit is based on competitive freedom, which enables competitiveness through management strategies, empowerment and leadership for this purpose.

In this context, the concepts of democracy, participation and citizenship come to coexist with values ​​that are no longer collective. To Cavalcanti (2015, p.27): “[...] Education does not escape rule and fulfills its role in neoliberal logic by reproducing a certain conception of society and citizenship from utilitarian ethics, individualism, exclusion and competitiveness”. It is important what experiences have brought as a renewal to the debate on democracy, however:

This debate is characterized today by a great political projects dispute that, using the same concepts and appealing to similar discourses, are in fact completely different. We refer on one hand to what we will call a participatory democratic project and, on the other hand, to the neoliberal project privatization of broad areas of public policies that is accompanied by a participatory discourse and by the symbolic revaluation of civil society (understood as the third sector). Certainly, there is also space between one and the other for the development of authoritarian projects that only respect the democratic institutions in a formal way (Dagnino, Olivera and Panfichi, 2006: 11-12).

In this project, the authors identify the appropriation of the participation discourse with civil society symbolic revaluation, however, in these spaces, despite the presence of democratic institutions, they may develop in authoritarian projects. To Fiori (2007), citizenship and democracy, as political expressions are worked within the framework of capital, they follow its logic and present limits. Broadening the reflection:

From this redesign proposed for the State reform, we pinch two tendencies: by one, the State withdraws from the execution, but it remains in role of financier and evaluator of the social policies that are now offered by different private agents, configuring what has been identified as non-state-owned public property; on the other hand, even if the activity or services remain under the state ownership, they are managed by the market logic, identified here as the quasi-market sphere (Adrião; Peroni, 2009, p. 109).

By withdrawing in part from its intervention to society, the state continues to exercise its regulation and evaluation obeying to the international financial fundamentals. The proposed citizenship dimension is that of passive client, an inverse proposal to citizenship dimension in the participatory State.

The current discourse of Education is permeated by neotechnicism. In practice, it translates into effective management and pedagogical organization associated with new technologies, as well as the dimensions of accountability, meritocracy and privatization expressed in the business model reform of school networks. This discourse translates verticalized management processes that: “[...] allow to increase the control degree over the Education professionals in order to guarantee the goals achievement and indices in the external evaluations, defining the objectives, the evaluation, the form and the content of the school” (Freitas, 2014, p. 1092). The author specifies that the business model:

[...] it seems charming in the sense that it allows responsibility for merit and, ultimately, dispose of those who do not. It is a tempting shortcut. They assume that the transfer of these competitive relations into the school would lead to an improvement in quality. However, the educational environment is different from the market environment. The market is a competitive area where winning and losing are natural consequences of the given bid, but in Education, there must be only winners (Freitas, 2016, p. 146, emphasis added).

The author reinforces the meaning of educational policies regulation in the managerial model; however, he believes that there is a possibility of establishing criticism by valuing participatory rather than vertically, responsibility as found in the model.

The management model was been introduced in Brazil in the 1990’s with the State Administrative Reform in Fernando Henrique Cardoso’s Government. This reform thesis was defended by Minister Bresser Pereira, whose official landmark was expressed in the publication of the Master Plan for the State Apparatus Reform- MPSAR (Brazil, 1995). To Pereira (2003, p. 25): “As the public rights protection becomes dominant throughout the world, it became increasingly clear that it was necessary to re-found the republic, [...] that democracy and bureaucratic public administration [...] needed to change. “Pereira (1997) justifies the managerial logic benefits by accepting that the reduction of state responsibilities through privatization, outsourcing services and ‘publicização’ (changing the pattern from state-public to public-private; a partial privatization) results in gains for the public and private (non-state) sectors. Under this view, deregulation programs raise governance mechanisms, or market control, which causes international competitiveness and consequently financial and administrative autonomy. To Pereira (1997), Governance is concretized by public institutions that guarantee State interests actions, which are legitimized by representative and participatory democracy for the dominant ideology reproduction. The term appropriation aims at legitimizing purposes to support a primer on the Hayek (1983) wills, which locates freedom in market values ​​and on disclaim of responsibility by states. The civil society becomes the main actor in contemporary democracies to promote, consolidate and reproduce the reform - of the state and of the market (Pereira, 2002).

The polysemy of the term participation exists in contemporaneity. In the managerial state, the term is anchored in Bresser Pereira’s text, which reinforces its legality in 1988 Constitution fundamentals. However, participation in such a model is far from the participation understood as a social power division, inherent in the 1980’s participatory state principles. The dominant foundation which has been criticized (Freitas, 2006) presents legitimization and governance purposes in the managerial state model. For this reason, the fundamentals of citizen participation is been based on human autonomy, against and beyond the managerial model.

Occupy Movement: for a stimulated dialogue agenda on Pernambuco Education in the 21st century

Reflecting on Student Movement (SM) and Occupy Movement in the context of the managerial State and the current paradigm crisis, means to look at analysis fields such as: State, society and the movements dynamics to build the governance principles. For this understanding, we seek Gonh (2008), in order to contextualize his perception about the social movements’ contribution in this construct. To the author, social movements are collective social actions with socio-political and cultural nature that give the population an organized way of expressing their demands. In its turn, this organization is been established by action strategies that materialize through denunciation or in actions directly or indirectly exercised. The social movements construct proposals and through collective action show resistance to the exclusion activities and injustice, which awaken the notion of social belonging of its participants. The movement identity lies on the objectification of its cause. Thus, a particular social movement, seeking mobilization alternatives with public policy propositions, is building the base of its participative intervention and resisting in the social claim field.

The SM history was cyclical and evidenced specific claims throughout its course in Brazil. The action agenda expressed, throughout its historical time, revolves around situations that exteriorize socio-political-economic inequality and authoritarianism in the roots of Education development processes.

In Brazil, the SM resisted the military dictatorship in addition to concretizing engagement in the mobilizations by the “Diretas já!” (Directs now! - for direct vote elections) and the “Fora Collor” (Collor out - for the impeachment of former president Collor) movements, and became involved in the struggle against privatizations, which were typical of neoliberalism. In the military period, the National Students Union (NSU) suffered retaliation and its headquarters were burnt down, besides receiving from the government a decree of illegality, which only was reverted in 1985 in the heart of redemocratization process of the country. During this redemocratization period, the SM took to the streets in call for the President Collor’s impeachment, in fulfillment of its commitment against corruption and for the “Diretas já!” redemocratization movement. At the time, students were been identified in the national and international press as the “Caras pintadas”(painted faces) with recognition of the movement value. In the same proportion of involvement, the High School Movement followed the path of the SM through actions, such as mobilization for students’ council formation (1980) with participation in SM national meetings by focusing on Brazilian political and social problems among other activities. The MS thus intensified with the founding of the Metropolitan High School Students Union (MHSSU), with the Paulista’s High School Students Union (PHSSU) and with the Brazilian’s High School Students Union (BHSSU).

The Occupy Movement is the outcome of the Students Movement and High School Students Movement action plan’s, and assumed, as its proposal, to confront the vast effect of corruption in the country, what was a consequence of the neoliberal attack that invaded educational policy in Brazil on the 1990’s. Inasmuch as it occupied buildings and educational institutions, it aimed to develop the stimulus to dialogue in occupation action. The occupation was the way that the movement found to make itself to be heard in the execution process of systemic rationality in educational and managerial policies. In Brazil, in the year 2016, OM was characterized by the confront of educational policy, and, in Pernambuco, surrounded by a set of actions, it exercised the occupation of educational institutions in direct and indirect ways.

The crisis involving the Brazilian policy sectors is vast. There are innumerous government proposals that express the Brazilian citizens’ rights suppression plus the ethical crisis that points to corruption in the politicians’ class and in the governmental and business sectors of the country. As an example, we mention the “Reforma Trabalhista” (worker’s rights reform), the “Reforma Política” (political reform), the “Operação Lava Jato” (“car wash” operation) based on the misappropriation of public resources and the privatization projects. We also noticed that the projects related to the Education sector, such as the “Reforma do Ensino Médio2” (high school education reform) and the Law Project number 193/2016, which provides the “Escola sem Partido3” (“School without - a political - party”), are having an exalted repercussion in some sectors and on the organization of civil society. The project “School without a Party” receives support from movements linked to the conservative sectors of Brazilian society and criticism of progressive sectors. On this matter, Frigotto’s (2017) reflection on the proposal of a new school conception, detached from a basis of freedom of expression and of thought, warns that the maintenance of this system annuls the national states political power and transfers it to the large groups under the financial capital hegemony. It is remarkable that the neoliberal propositions that reaffirm the government principles have caused wide social reaction in Brazilian society.

The society is exercising its mobilization power in the State, as we can see on the OM example. We mention here the Occupy Movement in Brasilia and the Estelita Occupy Movement4 in Recife. In exercising the power of mobilization, the government proposals discussion is, undoubtedly, inevitable and constitutes a dialogical exercise in public spaces. The moment is paradoxical, because, in the same intensity that the government’s authoritarian projects proliferate, the social mobilizations are growing and involving social movements, workers unions and students’ movements, among others. In this tense context, OM has found space for mobilization in the critique of educational policies in the state development.

The OM began its activities in São Paulo/Brazil in 2015, by occupying 180 schools in response to the government intension of its educational network restructuration. In 2016, the OM initiated an occupation action in the public universities of all capitals, with a strategy to face the “Proposta de Emenda Constitucional 241” (PEC 241; Proposal of Constitution Amendment 241) whose motion was to “freeze” the Brazil’s government spending on some areas - such as Health Care and Education - for the next 20 years. These movements were articulated by the representatives of high school and university students, with many society representatives and social movements participation such as: “Diretório Central dos Estudantes” ( DCE - Central Directory of Students), “União Nacional dos Estudantes” (UNE - National Students Union), “União dos Estudantes dos Estados Brasileiros” (UEEB - Brazilian States Students Union), “União Brasileira dos Esudantes” (UBES - Brazilian Students Union), Student’s Councils, Student’s House Movement, Youth Union, Women’s World March, Latin America Social Movements Observatory, Collective, Workers Unions and Teachers’ Association, among others. In Pernambuco, occupations followed the organization of SM in educational institutions, such as the Federal University of Pernambuco (UFPE), University of Pernambuco (UPE), Federal Rural University of Pernambuco (UFRPE), Recife Law Faculty and Catholic University of Pernambuco (UNICAP). The occupations took place in different academic centers and in all regions of the State.

With the objective of analyzing OM in Pernambuco and citizen participation, resulting from the established dialogue in Education with the state government, we will clarify the movement contribution, starting with these occupations, as a response to the educational policy confrontation. We understand citizen’s participation, according to Cavalcanti’s (2015) concept, as the democracy dimension that mediates between the state and the society.

We started the research by examining the OM objectification. For the high school student S: “[...] the movement emerged in the spring of 2015, so these occupations became known as High School Spring”. In this sense, the action occupied more than a thousand schools during several months in Brazil. The mobilization challenged the education reorganization, in the case of São Paulo which aimed to close schools and transfer students to the public network by arguing that it is necessary to separate the fundamental cycles I, fundamental II and high school in order to improve performance. Then, OM was founding spaces in different regions of Brazil with specific agenda in each federation unit.

Ongoing the report from the experience in São Paulo, the schools occupation was the organized form that the students found to fight against the state government proposal in that it promoted public spaces of dialogue with the educational administration and with the public powers constituted in the legislative and judicial spheres. The occupations presented a strong students mobilization through social media networks organization, not only to inform and form public opinion, but also to mobilize the deliberative assemblies execution. The objectives of assemblies on occupations were to define and evaluate the movement direction. Besides the assemblies in the occupied institution, different types of activities were been planned that varied from the occupation5 infrastructure organization and cultural activities, to evaluation and reassessment of the movement. In this sense, the OM potentiated the action in the ability to exercise criticism collectively.

In 2016, the SM adhered to the confrontation against PEC 241, as well in other movements of claiming character in Temer’s government. For such, the students received social movements and unions support for beyond state borders mobilization in actions expressed on Occupy Brasilia’s Movement. In Occupy Brasilia, the motivation was the follow-up of the President Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment process, as a way of positioning itself against the impeachment. Student U reported the pressure received from the federal police at this time:

We went to the President Dilma’s impeachment voting in April and we saw all the congressmans voting for his family, his dog, his uncle, [...] they voted for everyone but no for society. [...] We were bombed in a terrible way. We were received with a bomb, many bullets and a lot of tear gas. They were terror moments, it was repression [...].

This report coincides with what was been reported by the press at the time, highlighting the confrontation moment between civilians and military. This action proves that the nation-state institutions, including the military, are committed to restrain popular actions that react to opposite movements under the pretext of maintaining order. Therefore, dialogue in a state of repression is not established.

The high school education reform, conceived by the Education’s Minister caused a new reaction among students and others sectors of Brazilian society as well as the creation of the Proposal of Constitution Amendment - PEC nº 241/55. More than 550 universities in Brazil and more than 1,200 high schools were occupied in Brazil. “[...] the high school reform portrays a teaching model that further deteriorates basic education, excluding important subjects such as Philosophy, Arts, Physical Education and Sociology of the obligatory grid”. For the high school students’ representation, the proposed new model has, at least, three problems: 1) it would not correct the problems that affect High School; 2) the proposal was been made without dialogue with the students; 3) the new proposal was been planned in order to conduce students into the labor market. For the high school students, Michel Temer’s government threatens to deteriorate basic education in Brazil with imposed measures “[...] by an Education Minister who does not represent the students” - student S. The Brazilian High School reform proposal in 2017 disregards the proposal on Law of Guidelines and Bases for Education No. 9.394 / 96, whose proposal made possible a formation with new formative perspectives. The Law 13.415 / 2017 limits the potential of this level of education and promotes a dual proposition involving propaedeutic and professional education, which in a way neglects the purposes of the High School contained in LDB / 1996.

Against the Proposal of Constitution Amendment - PEC No. 241, which established limits on government spending on education, health care, and other public services, the OM in Pernambuco started its actions at University of Pernambuco (UPE), beginning with the state’s inner campuses. For student S: “The occupation was long, with a symbolic appropriation of university rectory for a few days”. Following the UPE occupation, there were others occupations of public and private universities in the state. About UPE occupation, student U reports:

We managed to occupy Petrolina, Nazaré da Mata, Garanhuns, Palmares. Serra Talhada, was not OCCUPPIED because the Campus is small. The Santo Amaro Campus and the rectory were our main spaces. [...] We needed strength for Santo Amaro’s Campus, which has five teaching units, including the Medical Sciences College - MSC. It is a space of difficult dialogue and we managed to OCCUPY [...]. It was 72 days of OCCUPATION. [...]. We held an assembly on the Physical Education Superior School’s block - (Escola Superior de Educação Física - ESEF) with more than one thousand students. We got many people involved, including the ones who were never interested in student movements. [...]. That was the greatest.

The student highlights the Santo Amaro’s campus difficulties in terms of dialogue with the students movement and that the OM has provided an extension of the resistance bases with the students participation. The evaluation indicates positive outcomes from mobilization and occupation actions. OM maintained interlocution with the government, with instances of the legislature, with society and with public instances - like the Judiciary - for intermediation in the educational agenda negotiation. According to student S, OM had its own organic life:

There was an incredible organization in the schools and universities where the students organized themselves and created commissions to take care of their schools and universities, the students cooked, cleaned, organized lectures, discussion groups and workshops.

The entire internal structure of the MO required organization, mobilization and interrelation with other movements of different social and professional categories. The student S, when analyzing the articulation forms in the OM with their representative entities organization, reports: the National Students Union (UNE) and the Brazilian High School Students Union (UBES) needed to have enormous logistics to follow occupations and to get donations to occupied schools and universities. In this sense, the UNE and UBES were articulated with other entities such as Municipal High School Students Union (UMES), the Pernambuco Students Union (UEP) and the Workers Central Unit (CUT), in order to obtain support for the OM on several points. Collaborating with such perception, the student U informs:

The OM has state, municipal and educational units representations, and each university has its Academic Directory (DA) and has its Students Central Directory (DCE). Within Pernambuco we have the Students Union of Pernambuco (UEP), the Metropolitan High School Students Union (UMES), which takes care of the secondary movement as a whole and, in addition, we have the Students National Union (UNE) ) and the Brazilian High School Students Union (UBES), which made all articulation at national level. All directions were from UNE and UBES [...] all articulation at national level. All directions were from UNE and UBES [...]

OM expanded its activities to strengthen the moment of resistance and to conduct the issues that were presented objectively and, this way, involved the entities of representation in the articulation and support to action basis. In this sense, student S explains: “It was really a beautiful movement, the students, as always, organized in one of the country’s crisis moments to claim their rights.” Continued S: “[...] unfortunately, the repression was also big, especially in schools. Some federal institutes were also occupied”. The expression “beautiful” exalts that the goals were being met, but they had to face the state’s restraint. Completes student U:” [...] we were able to show that the students could organize themselves, and in fact, they will not be kept silent about the setbacks that have been imposed.” This argument was replicated through banners, posters, slogans of the movement, and in the press news, were the students explained: to fight is not a crime. The students faced difficulties such as pressures from the government, the media and from the military police’s repressive force, the suppression of infrastructural resources and external psychological pressure. Student S’s analysis for such difficulties shows that: “... it was a lot of willpower ... all were united [...] entities ... relatives and teachers ...”. Student U’s points out that from the internal point of view, in the organization, there was life even though the work was gigantic. It emphasizes that the item coexistence with the other left great learning in terms of learning to live together, not only for eminently human and emotional issues, but also for the plurality of arising ideas from diverse political forces in the movement. In this sense, learning has incorporated the dimension of learning to agree, culminating with the moment objective deliberations. Habermas (2012) clarified this dimension in the dialogue forms importance present in the theory of communicative action. Dialogue as the mediation of an agreement presents the primacy of the best argument. In this logic, intersubjectivity, the dialogue and communicative rationality fruit, propitiate the recognition of the other, the learning with the other, the subjects understanding, culminating, in practice, with consensus and collective deliberation. The participatory movement generates learning in the action field on the dialogical communicative base. To Fonseca (2008), the OM ends up fulfilling the formation role that is necessary to every human relationship. Living with plurality, discussing understanding prudently within the scope of dialogical rationality is not easy, even because our society is still immature for participatory exercise.

Evaluating the OM’s results, the student S analyses that there was no achievement in order to bar the PEC 241/55, nor does it contain the high school reform; however, the movement pressure managed to maintain some achievements. In the field of high school reform, for example, the conclusion is that there was gain in the maintenance of Philosophy and Sociology subjects in the obligatory curriculum. Reports, on the same way, that there was achievement in obtain infrastructure improvements in some schools that were been scrapped. For the university student U, OM won the “free pass” for the quota benefited of Mata Norte campus and the agenda opening in Pernambuco Legislative Assembly (ALEPE) to deal with the National Plan for Student Assistance (PNAES), among others. Student U continues to clarify that OM: “[...] do not is silent on face of setbacks. This is the moment, in which students should unite in the fight, go to the streets, occupy public spaces and dialogue with society”. Student U also announces that the students movement’s evaluations results in relation to OM on the action, in other state’s universities, resulted in a positive balance, both from the federal universities’ and federal institutes point of view, as well as from the universities individuals’ point of view. The OM expressed by student S:

I think the word Union defines the movement well for me. Education should never been seen as an expense, but as an investment. Chico César recorded a song6 for the students who occupied, so yes, the occupations were incredible [...]

When asked to leave her final consideration on the OM, student S reveals that the movement was able to show its strength. The student asked to conclude with the following phrase: “High school student, your name is people in the street!”. For student S, students movement is synonymous of student in movement. This work experience reminded us of Fonseca’s (2008) observations regarding the students movement, stating that the struggles show that there is predisposition to a world transforming and libertarian ideology. Student U corroborates that in the OM, the students did not act in a disorderly way, nor did they commit vandalism acts to the patrimony: “OM had an agenda: to debate and defend what was conquered. The youth protagonism exercised through mobilization from the OM revealed the need to seek forms of dialogue, expression, negotiation and the need for understanding in public spaces for the collective public educational policies construction, in response to authoritarian government’s projects and actions.

Together with managerial public policy, at different levels of government and with different mobilization strategies in field of claim in the Education sector, OM did not find possibilities for dialogue, but faced the issue in its own way. For this reason, the need to stimulate space for dialogue through the schools, universities and institutes’ occupation was the mechanism found to say and express their demands. If this assertion is true, it is also true that the state field was carrying out actions in the field of systemic rationality quite distant from the dialogue with society - if it were not so, the movement materiality would not been confirmed. This agenda was stimulated to the dialogue implemented by OM in Pernambuco, and we consider that, in the managerial model, there are state of exception7 nuances since it is been configured as a space empty of rights. For Arendt (1993), modernity obfuscates democratic political determinations, because, when politics is not been shaped by violence, it is reduced to the production interests and consumer societies economic reproduction. On Arendt’s (1973) arguments, in federative and participatory principles, power sprouts more horizontally. The intentionality of proliferating a dialogue in the Education fields marks the young students’ position and the disposition for change and transformation.

In the reason for the participatory understanding in Arendt, Habermas (2012) presents the communicative reason in the base of the democratic public spaces construction and emphasizes the dialogue action importance in the promotion of the fundamental right of accessing the justice and the citizenship effectivation.

The Occupy Movement and its Contribution to the Citizen Participation Development: Adverts of Dialogical Rationality in Education?

The rationality produced by the capital globalization effects announces a discursive set of hegemonic actions described in the public / private partnership. In Brazil, the consent to the new standards in Education came from the agreement to the World Declaration of Education for All, held in Jomtien (1990). The Brazilian state is a signatory of the International Document on Education for All (UNESCO, 1990). In these terms, educational policies have worked with the objective of providing effective action in Education.

The power relations are beginning to form under the pillars of a new neoliberal initiative in the educational policies field in Brazil, by seeking legal adjustments in the Constitution texts (Brazil, 1988), in the Law of Guidelines and Bases for Education - LDBEN / 9.394 - (Brazil, 1996) and in the National Education Plan. In accordance with national texts, the State Education Plan - from 2015 to 2024 - (Brazil, 2015) recommends improving the Education quality at all levels and democratizing the public education management. The new international command for Education establishes goals to improve its quality, imprinting the quality concept for which it is been intended, and for such, it regulates the Education index, its institutions and professionals8. The regulation face is evident in the monitoring and evaluation field. To the same extent, the participatory practices and horizontal structures of public decision-making instances have shifted from society to the market in a vertical way. There is no indication of dialogue with society in public managerial administrations.

It is important to recall that in Brazil, the struggle of critical subjects got achievements in the ​​Education area in the period in which the State proposed a participatory model in educational actions. The new model hegemony, in a global context, focuses on education and has contributed to the industry service in the competitive market (Lima, 2005; Freitas, 2016, Adrião, Peroni, 2005, 2009, Cavalcanti, 2015).

In these terms, Lima (2005) reflects that the modernity discursive centrality refers to the learning and knowledge society, Education and citizenship banalization and deproblematization reveals itself devoid of meanings. The author elucidates what truly characterizes globalized Education: the economic science influence and the global capitalist economy on educational policies. The result is a globalized Education adapted to economic rationality, becoming an accounting Education. The author states that it is urgent to rethink Education critically with demoliberal subsidies. He also considers that we live in a model in which formal democracy was been reestablished under the economic and managerial modernization attribute influence in different states and notably in the European Union (EU) and warns that employability became synonymous with educability. In the light of his thinking, formal democracy is an appanage of influential modernity in the Education agendas of states and of the UE9. To Lima (2005: 84):

In any case, the competitive performativity of the utilitarian and mercantilist features is in the limit, an opposite principle to a humanist and critical education, oriented towards solidarity and the common good, putting all the pressure on individual adaptation, adequacy and the adjustment in terms of knowledge, skills and, now, the required ‘skills’.

The author describes the Education modern face by the economic and cultural pedagogy and maintains that the overcoming of this understanding is a critical requirement of a democratic education project, an education that re-signifies the pedagogical conceptualized subject as an active citizen who differs from the citizen homogenized and culturally undifferentiated by globalization.

The citizen participation approach constitutes a sine quanon dimension of the dialogical rationality formation processes, which is essential to lead the being in the world before the life objective conditions, in their lives and in their systems as well. In the context of the formulating process of educational public policies, the determinations are subtles, but they show contradictions. Inclusion is worked at the core of an extremely exclusionary society. It appeals to the dimension and formation skills to attend a competitive market process that potentiates the educational processes for its purposes. It promotes technical-professional knowledge inhibiting the capacity of the knowledge universalization. These characteristics can be identified on the basis of the educational legislation in Brazil and broadened in global proportions in each subjective experience of state administration.

It is in idealized dialogue on Habermas’s theory (2012) that citizen participation is expressed. The dialogue sentenced in the Habermasian theory offers conditions of normatization and legitimacy in governmental actions as it establishes the constituted right on the basis of shared actions based on the subjects who communicate intersubjectivity. From this perspective, ethical-social power is generated under the argumentative bases of citizen participation.

Habermas (2012) develops the communicational paradigm, by conceiving communicative action as alternatives to overcoming the illuminist reason that masks domination. In this way, he proposes to recover the emancipation category in the modern context and to reascend the ideal of democracy with power linked to the ideal of elevation of the capitalist order, by establishing in the subject who acts the overcoming necessary contribution. In the life world lies the production sphere of ethical significations in which language is the element that gives meaning to the symbols and visions of the social world. By this concept, language belongs to the field of communicative action. Cavaco (2008: 32) notes that:

[...] Recognizing that the reflection and the communicational action are inherent aspects of human being, means to admit that all people, regardless of their level of education, are social actors, first and foremost because they are actors in their own lives and in their process of learning.

Communicative action provides a reflective level for validation by aiming at understanding and deliberation for emancipation.

Gugliano (2004) recognizes in the Habermas’ theory a strong contribution of communicative action validation. It emphasizes the limit between the mechanisms of the State’s decision and the collective public opinion formation, concluding that the decision power is in the citizen and not in the state. Reflects the author:

In this sense, the proposition of a participatory democratic model in which citizens deliberate and control public policies together with the State, means an improvement of the discursive democratic model, originally proposed by Jürgen Habermas, according to the communicative channels, represented in the different types of forums of popular participation, lead to an improvement of the public decision-making processes and consequently strengthen the foundations of new bases for the state’s actions legitimation (Gugliano, 2004, 276).

For the author the State’s actions legitimization is been found in the public decision in the forums of popular participation. According to Lima (2005: 79): “A governed democracy, not a governing democracy” is a consumer democracy. By these terms, there will always be the risk of limitation to the collective deliberations execution, unless there is an inversion of the terms and the citizen become the state materiality. For this impasse, the author points to the state’s co-management projects which is still an effect of the participatory process. The convictions manifestation for deliberation does not escape the dialogue principles, understanding, consensus and collective deliberation, expressed in action. Through these discussions, representative and participative democracies must been combined in the decisions improvement in public sphere (Lima, 2005; Gugliano, 2004).

When Habermas (2012) discusses the concept of State, he takes as reference the popular movements that, since the nineteenth century, fought against the structural inequalities produced by economic development: “... the state is necessary as a power of organization, sanction and execution, because rights have to be implanted, as the law’s community needs a jurisdiction “(Habermas, 2012, p 171). However, the form of law guarantees organization and security, but does not guarantee the exercise democratic legitimacy of administrative power.

The discursive theory of Law in Habermas (2012) presupposes that: the principle of popular sovereignty; the principle of the ample subject’s legal guarantee; the principle of administrative legality and the principle of powers separation. For this author, popular sovereignty observes that all political power is deduced from the citizens’ communicative power. Every axiological framework is defined under equal conditions by equal subjects. Instrumental action is treated as colonization in the life world. In the world of a system considered as regulatory, the subjects are submitted to the dimension indicated by the strategic action. In this case, it is clear that the results must permeate unilateral interest in which the communication acts are provided with threats and influences, and that the objective is not the understanding, but the fulfillment of its (systemic) purposes (Habermas, 1993).

The research expressed the different difficulties experienced by the student movement face the repression actions and the fulfillment of the systemic state’s purposes. In Brazil, it will be necessary to redefine the instruments of educational policies management for the school administration. There is a specific question on this issue: the school education democratization has presented several limits and difficulties in the process of participatory practices since the 1980’s (Santos, 2006; Bizerra, 2008; Andrade, 2012; Botler et al., 2012). If at the end of the twentieth century, the ongoing managerialism project did not allow the strengthening and advancement of the participatory state, this prerogative does not condemn the absence of criticism about managerial model. These limits indicate that it is indispensable to analyze citizen participation, its mechanisms and strategies in the systematic construction of opportunities for dialogue in the public space in order to construct autonomous educational policies collectively.

In this context, OM has become an invaded space for ideas and arguments promotion in Education field. In addition, it signaled the need for resistance affirmative actions with aims to developing the dialogue culture. In seeking a negotiating agenda with the government, the OM tries to break obstinately the government instrumental action. It is true that the confrontation form under the occupation bases is far from being a spontaneous, democratic and participatory model in the public policies elaboration. However, paraphrasing the students, it was been configured as a form of fight and expression. Despite the agenda reorganization on educational policies conducted in this globalized agenda, OM, social movements and other social expressions are been found in the forces correlation to confront and reverse this logic.

For Cavalcanti (2016, p.17): “[...] Not everything is market and even is, if we do not take into account the subject’s protagonism”. The OM, as an expression of the students movement, foreshadows the need to develop dialogue public spaces and participation, it also plays a role that, been strengthened within the dialogical rationality framework, will favor criticism and emancipation.

As a Conclusion

The discussion reflects the limits imposed by the participation in the managerialism areas, its results, the institutional interest disputes and the differentiated political projects development (Cavalcanti, 2011; 2015; Dagnino; Olivera; Panfichi, 2006; Tatagiba, 2007).

By citizen participation, we understand its concept in agreement with Cavalcanti (2015), as the democracy dimension that mediates between the State and society. Formal democracy is an attribute of modernity, influencing the state education agendas and serving as a reinforcement of contemporary neoliberal orientations.

The students movement is configured as a non-formal educational space inserted in the process of citizenship building in the social field, by seeking to establish mediation with the government educational proposals. The mediation based on democracy presupposes democratic protagonism in the exercise of popular sovereignty. The state administrative model does not allow propositions of educational policies built collectively, but in the public space, there is the possibility of revalidating social rules and revitalizing society in a perspective of change. OM has stimulated this space. The occupation proposition was an opportune action to establish the dialogue.

Despite the complexity involved in the theme, the ideological differences and divergences of democratic field were present in the occupy movement, aiming to exercise critical action to the projects and to the government intervention. The movement obtained in its evaluation a positive gain regarding the confrontation, the learning and the limits overcoming. Greater achievements may come from such practices if they are incorporated into citizen participation and in our society culture.

Systemic power has gained more force in the game of mediation; however, it may be overcome depending on the mobilization and the correlation of forces. In tune with the critical subject of Freire’s autonomy pedagogy and with Habermas’ communicative action, student movements now seek democratic spaces for dialogue in the public space in the perspective of values inversion. In this sense, the resistance strengthened the movement and participatory culture, as well as got some achievements. The perspective is that society and its organizations incorporate the dialogue conception and corroborate with processes bearers of superation.

1Research developed for fulfillment of postdoctoral studies at the Lisbon University - Institute of Education / Portugal.

2Law No. 13,415 of February 16, 2017 is been sanctioned in Brazil.

3Law Project resulting from the Movimento Brasil Livre (MBL) social movement, which is being presented in legislative chambers in several Brazilian cities and is been debated in the same way in the National Congress. The Public Prosecutor’s Office and Attorney General’s Office points to the project’s unconstitutionality.

4Occupy Estelita was opposed to the Novo Recife Project, which provides residential buildings construction and business towers on Jose Estelita Pier grounds.

5According to reports, the infrastructure activities involved the planning for public agency maintenance and cleaning, food collection, meals preparation, dormitories and coexistence conditions among students who occupied environment.

6We highlight an excerpt from the song Mel da Mocidade that is significant for the reported moment: “The Honey of youth is the gall of the rulers. Better to occupy the city, schools, streets, palaces, gardens, squares, spaces, to make thinking minds” (Chico César, 2017).

7If you need to go deep on the topic ‘state of exception’ read Agamben (2004).

8In order to reach the desired quality indexes, programs such as the Program for International Student Assessment (Pisa) and the IDEB (Basic Education Development Index in Brazil) are planned for students, teachers and education professionals with funding from multilateral agencies and in partnerships with institutes of the private sector.

9The concept of Education for All is present in EU countries, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and countries that accept the principles of representative democracy and market economy.


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Received: March 18, 2018; Accepted: March 01, 2019


Ana Claudia Dantas Cavalcanti holds a post-doctorate in Education from the University of Lisbon. She is currently a professor at the University of Pernambuco. ORCID:

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