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LAPXXX10.1177/0094582X15611124Latin American PerspectivesLavergne and Beserra

The Bolsa Famlia Program


Replacing Politics with Biopolitics
by
Rmi Fernand Lavergne and Bernadete Beserra
Translated by Gregory Duff Morton

The Bolsa Famlia Program is the flagship of Brazils targeted public policies. It exem-
plifies a particular approach to the public management of alterity, an approach that
reveals a state more preoccupied with rationalizing public expenditures and building
social peace than with policies oriented toward income distribution, democratization, and
the expansion of social rights. The program is a form of biopolitics, inscribed in a frame-
work aimed at the normalization, regimentation, and control of the population that
receives the benefit. Lifelong social assistance and education are important instruments
of subjectivation and the production of subjectivities with an eye to influencing the con-
duct of indigent and marginalized populations. The goal is to influence the conduct of
indigent and marginalized populations and, in a movement quite the reverse of the touted
inclusion, to separate them more and more from the citizenship that the program
advertises and promises.

Lder das polticas pblicas focalizadas no Brasil, o Programa Bolsa Famlia exempli-
fica uma forma de gesto pblica da alteridade que revela um Estado mais preocupado com
as questes de racionalizao dos gastos pblicos e construo da paz social do que com
uma poltica de distribuio de renda, democratizao e expanso dos direitos sociais. Esse
programa remete a uma forma de biopoltica e inscreve-se numa perspectiva de normaliza-
o, regulamentao e controle das populaes beneficirias. A assistncia social e a edu-
cao por toda a vida constituem importantes instrumentos na produo de subjetividades
com vistas a influenciar a conduta das populaes indigentes e marginalizadase, ao con-
trrio da propagada incluso, distanci-las cada vez mais da cidadania que o prprio
programa anuncia.

Keywords: Bolsa Famlia Program, Public management of alterity, Biopolitics, Social


work, Subjectivation

Rmi Fernand Lavergne holds a doctorate in science education from the Universit Lumire Lyon
2 and in Brazilian education from the Universidade Federal do Cear. The data for this paper were
collected when he was a regional scientific development grantee of the Conselho Nacional de
Desenvolvimento Cientfico e Tecnolgico/Fundao Cearense de Apoio ao Desenvolvimento
Cientfico e Tecnolgico at the Universidade da Integrao Internacional da Lusofonia Afro-
Brasileira. Bernadete Beserra has a Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of California
Riverside and is a professor at the Universidade Federal do Cear. The authors thank the LAP
reviewers Ariane Dalla Da, Wendy Wolford, Mnica Dias Martins, and Joo Martins Filho for
their valuable comments in response to a preliminary version of this paper. Gregory Duff Morton,
the translator, is an economic anthropologist and a postdoctoral fellow in international studies at
Brown Universitys Watson Institute.

LATIN AMERICAN PERSPECTIVES, Issue 207, Vol. 43 No. 2, March 2016, 96115
DOI: 10.1177/0094582X15611124
2016 Latin American Perspectives

96
Lavergne and Beserra / THE BOLSA FAMLIA PROGRAM 97

Ten years after its launch, the Bolsa Famlia Program has become Brazils
best-known and most celebrated social policy directed toward people in pov-
erty and extreme poverty. Its reputation crosses national borders, and it is
promoted as a best practice, an example to follow, particularly for certain
African nations. In number of families served and size of state investment it is
the largest income transfer program in the world.1 It understandably attracts
the interest of researchers from the most varied disciplines in the social and
human sciences. It has become the object of many studies, but they tend to
privilege statistical and sampling methods, emphasizing the programs general
structural impact, and often present the program as a model to be emulated
internationally (Weissheimer, 2006).
Soares et al. (2010), for example, note the reduction in poverty that can be
attributed to the policys favorable cost/benefit ratio: consuming only 0.46 per-
cent of the gross domestic product (GDP), Bolsa Famlia has produced sizable
economic effects by increasing the income of families in poverty and extreme
poverty. vila (2013) suggests that by eliciting the support of all of the main
candidates in three presidential elections it has ceased to be the policy of a par-
ticular government and become state policy. Dantas (2009), in turn, empha-
sizes its impacts on Brazils economy and identifies its contribution to increased
educational attainment.
Despite its positive aspects, Bolsa Famlia is not exempt from contradictions
and problems. One of its most controversial aspects is the imposition of condi-
tions on beneficiaries.2 It is true that certain of these conditions have the effect
of increasing school attendance among children and adolescents and gradua-
tion rates. This result, however, can be interpreted as an artifact of the need to
maintain ones right to the benefit3 (Brando, Pereira, and Dalt, 2013;
Schwartzman, 2009).
While the foregoing writers criticize the power relations that are established
between Bolsa Famlia and school, scholars such as Mariano and Carloto (2009)
focus their disapproving gaze on the conditionalities association with women.
Others, such as Monnerat et al. (2007), outline the argument over the condition-
alities in a more general light. According to these scholars, people who oppose
them are arguing that they violate the unconditional right to citizenship. The
conditionalities defenders make several arguments in response. Some consider
it important to ask beneficiaries to give something back in exchange for their
welfare benefits, while others think that the programs requirements are an
effective strategy for increasing access to other social programsparticularly
health and educationand thus helping to break the intergenerational cycle of
poverty. This line of reasoning echoes the hegemonic arguments made in the
programs official documents, issued by the Ministry of Social Development
and Combat against Hunger, which present the requirement to give something
back as a main feature of its design. In opposition to this logic, the critics cast the
conditionalities as tools of coercion and hence as interventions quite at variance
with the concept of social inclusion. They argue that to demand something back
from the poorest implies a denial of their right to receive a share of socially pro-
duced wealth (Silva, Yasbek, and Di Giovanni, 2007). In taking this stance, they
ally themselves with Eduardo Suplicys (2002) initial project, which aimed to
create an unconditional basic citizenship income.4
98 LATIN AMERICAN PERSPECTIVES

The question of targeting effectiveness is also hotly debated. There is no such


thing as perfect targeting, targeting that leaves no vulnerable families unserved
and that suffers from no fraud. Moreover, Soares and Styro (2009), from a
critical perspective, argue that, because the benefit amount is below the pov-
erty line, Bolsa Famlia has a greater impact on measures of inequality (espe-
cially the Gini coefficient) than on the proportion of the population in poverty.
Finally, the use of the program for political, electoral, and clientelist pur-
poses has proven to be a controversial aspect of its expansion. Schwartzman
(2009) refers to its importance as a political and electoral tool, while Nicolau
and Peixoto (2007) emphasize the effects produced by the shifting of the Partido
dos Trabalhadores (Workers PartyPT) electoral base away from the most
developed regions and toward the poorest parts of the countryplaces that are
home to the greatest number of Bolsa Famlia beneficiaries. Some thinkers
(Lanzaro, 2008; Weyland, 2002) observe the perverse effects of policies aimed
at the poorest groups and call these effects neo-populism. Rego and Pinzani
(2013: 28), by contrast, point out that politicians and parties based in clientelism
have suffered serious defeats during recent elections in these very regions.
They do not, however, reflect on the new forms of clientelism that such policies
might make possible.
In a recent special issue dedicated to the Bolsa Famlia Program, the journal
Poltica e Trabalho published a fair number of qualitative studies, primarily con-
ducted using a social anthropology lens, that provide varied perspectives on
the programs sociocultural impact on beneficiary families. The studies pay
particular attention to the role of the woman/mother figure.
Writers such as Pires (2013) view targeting and conditionalities as an
exchange relationship between beneficiaries and the state. By complying with
a sort of contract, these beneficiaries take on the role set out for them in Bolsa
Famlias very design: they become official representatives of the family. But
Pinto (2013), investigating this same aspect, detects a relationship of domina-
tion in which the public sphere subordinates the private. For Ahlert (2013),
Cassal and Ribeiro (2013), and Moreira et al. (2012), what has been at work is a
process of mother empowerment. This process unfolds because mothers have
become the parties responsible for receiving and managing the programs
resources (Rocha, 2013); the process even manages to alter the hierarchy of
power within the family, with all of the attendant consequences. But while the
beneficiaries have gained self-esteem, the program provokes criticism for its
representation of women. Among other writers, Klein (2005a; 2005b) and
Mariano and Carloto (2009) challenge it for its tendency to develop and repro-
duce the traditional link between women and maternity, the home, and the
duties that correspond to classic images of the housewife, now installed as a
strategic pillar of the family.
These have been the most widely studied dimensions of the program. This
article will focus on the tension between universalization and targeting. It aims
to demonstrate that the program is a form of biopolitics, inscribed in a project
of normalizing, regulating, and controlling the beneficiary populations.
Lifelong social work and education are used as crucial tools for subjectivation
and the production of subjectivities. The goal is to influence the conduct of
indigent and marginalized populations and, in a movement quite the reverse
Lavergne and Beserra / THE BOLSA FAMLIA PROGRAM 99

of the touted inclusion, to separate them more and more from the citizenship
that the program advertises and promises.

Universalization Versus Targeting

The 1970s witnessed a significant rupture with the economic model that,
through the welfare state and Keynesian interventions, had previously guided
the public policy of the economically hegemonic countries. International
organizations increasingly questioned the state provision of goods and services
and the recognition of social rights marked with the stamp of universality.
These same institutionsthe World Bank, the International Monetary Fund,
the World Health Organization, the Organization for Economic Cooperation
and Development, the Inter-American Development Bank, and others
actively participated in an effort to redefine the world economy and reconfig-
ure the social and educational public policies over which they held power.
The globalization of the economy imposed a wave of changes in the 1980s.
The states role tended to become smaller, while state functions were increas-
ingly decentralized, public services privatized, markets deregulated, and the
means and agents of production flexibilized. All of this deeply transformed the
relations between state and society. In Brazil, the constitution of 1988 had raised
the prospect of using public policy as an instrument for broadening citizenship
through interventions that aimed to repay the so-called social debt (Theodoro
and Delgado, 2003: 123). Nevertheless, from the Plano Real (an economic
restructuring implemented under the guidance of Fernando Henrique Cardoso
in 1994) on, the logic of macroeconomic adjustment mandated that the govern-
ment replace its universalizing policies with income transfer programs that
ostensibly focused on the poorest and most vulnerable Brazilians. Thus were
drawn the battle lines of governmental structural adjustment: the practically
surgical definition of target populations and, along with it, the accounting
rationalization of social policy functions often denounced as responsible for the
public deficit. These characteristically neoliberal policies, ostentatiously com-
pensatory in nature, had to comply with the imperatives established by multi-
lateral agencies: targeting (an effort to insure that investments and expenditures
are concentrated in high-poverty sectors and to focus government on the effi-
ciency and efficacy of public services, oriented toward increasingly precise
quantitative goals and criteria; decentralization (as a strategy for involving
organizations and local communities in the monitoring of social interventions);
and privatization (as a strategy for transferring the direct provision, mainte-
nance, and management of social programs from the state to the market).
As Nogueira and Simionatto (2001) observe, in the waning years of the 1990s
the World Bank argued for promoting development and increasing the number
of antipoverty programs because the population of the poor was threatening to
generate a social fracture. This moment marked the beginning of a prodi-
gious growth in social assistance programs, with an emphasis on health, basic
education, income creation, and housing. The goal was no longer to universal-
ize access to education or health but rather to use targeted policies as a method
for reducing expenses while, at the same time, obtaining better results,
100 LATIN AMERICAN PERSPECTIVES

defined in terms of security and assistance rather than justice and social inte-
gration, among particular social sectors. In the area of public policy, universal-
ity is, in some sense, linked to the principle of equal treatment for all and to the
guarantee of still-unfulfilled social rights. Targeting, by contrast, is anchored in
the principle of equity as it is owed to different individuals and in the pursuit
of a strong performance by the state. Strong performance generally refers to the
concepts of efficiency and effectiveness applied to a finely differentiated field
of social management oriented toward strictly defined, quantified goals.5
The Bolsa Famlia Program, created by the federal government in 20036 and
linked, since 2004, to the recently created Ministry of Social Development and
Combat against Hunger, is an emblematic example of targeting. Aimed at a
group of people characterized by their need as defined by family income, the
programs goal is to contribute to the overcoming of poverty. It acts along three
primary axes: income transfer to families, support for these families access to
basic services in the areas of health, education, and social work, and integration
with other, complementary programs and interventions. The latter two axes are
reinforced by the programs conditions, and if families fail to comply with these
conditions the monthly payment may be suspended.
Yet, in the words of the sociologist Francisco de Oliveira (2006), Bolsa Famlia,
in its targeting of poor and extremely poor populations, is reminiscent of
Foucault: It is a form of biopolitics. Social relations can no longer bear a policy
that involves choices, options. . . . The substitute is a Foucauldian apparatus.
Domination is generated through the articulation that links the management
apparatus to power, the close interrelationship between social technology and
the production of knowledge about deprivation, the connection established
between the family and the centers of control, and the programs individual-
izing and totalizing dimensions and its propensity to conduct the conduct of oth-
ers (Foucault, 2005). Thus, according to Foucault, in targeting the lives of certain
segments of the population, states exert a positive form of control. In other
words, they define modes of thought and behavior; they norm social groups.
It would be impossible to deny the fact that Bolsa Famlia allows for the
survival of the poorest social segment in Brazil. What one detects here, how-
ever, is precisely a horizon of survivalthe horizon of making live,7 expressed
in the almslike character of the benefit,8 which is handed out monthly to indi-
gent families. And it is just this horizon of survival that suggests that the pro-
gram is a form of biopolitical governance, as enunciated by Machado (1990:
xxiii): a form of biopolitical governmentality that takes population as its object,
economy as its most important area of knowledge, and security apparatus as
its basic mechanism. What we have here is state control of life, considered
biologically (Castro, 2009: 57). Inverting the logic of the sovereignto make
die and to let livethis state control is associated with disciplinary political
anatomy. At the center of its concerns is the socioeconomic regulation of society.9
In raising this issue it obsessively fabricates the foundation of a social technol-
ogy. This technology becomes ever more discriminating in selecting the target
populations that it attempts to control. It becomes ever more atomizing in the
modes of subjectivation that it strives to impose on certain strategic unitsin
this case, the familyand attempts to modify the familys conduct, above all,
by rendering it responsible for its own destiny.
Lavergne and Beserra / THE BOLSA FAMLIA PROGRAM 101

The Indigent and the Marginalized: Targets of the


Public Management of Alterity

If recent political-economic strategies have made a notable contribution to


changing the shape of the demographic pyramid by expanding the lower mid-
dle class, then, in tandem with these strategies, an already endemic national
phenomenon has become chronic: the persistence of extreme poverty, a condi-
tion that affects a not negligible portion of the Brazilian population. Thus, in the
words of Nardi (2003: 46),

We live in a society with an incomplete wage structure, built on the project of


a modernity that has not reduced inequality and has also not resolved the basic
social problems connected with deprivation, hunger, epidemics, education,
transport, housing, sanitationthese from among a innumerable series of
social problems that, structurally, make up the great ravine dividing Brazilian
society.

The new social problematic is centered around the extremely serious conse-
quences of the states disengagement, of the deregulation of labor relations (as
encouraged by international agencies), and of the transformation of social rights
into social assistance packages in the name of the equitable redistribution of
income, destined for ever more strictly delimited populations. This problematic
corresponds, according to Castel (2003), to the exclusion of a significant portion
of the active population. The number of temporary employees increases. A
larger and larger contingent of redundant or disposable people, what the
sociologist of liquid society calls human waste (Bauman, 2005), must be
managed. The technical indices of discrimination for this population are orga-
nized around the marginalized10 the various humans, considered failed
and naturalized, who make up the subcategories poor and extremely
poor. This group of people is more and more visible because of the discursive
effects that give them life and situate them within the reach of the socially man-
ageable norm. Ultimately, their presence worries us, since we all know that any
of us might join them if we fail to comply with the injunctions of the market.
In this connection, Castel emphasizes that unemployment serves as only the
most visible manifestation of a profound transformation that has taken place in
the employment sector. As waged activities become precarious, the situation
increasingly turns into a structural reality, a new form of normality. Its norma-
tive corollarythe productive flexibilization of the individual, of society, and
of the relations of production/consumptionis already being taken up by a
section of the active population and even more so by the new generations enter-
ing the labor market. But a sizable number of people do not fit within the norms
of flexibility and adaptability that the new situation imposes. These people fall
under other forms of normality, both those planned by the theorists of the mar-
ket and those accounted for by legislators or statistical specialists. They are the
unintegrated, the vulnerable groups, those who cannot be integrated, or
the marginal. Thus they come to make up the statistical population in (seri-
ous) poverty or extreme poverty that Brazil must eradicate through tar-
geted and compensatory social policies in order to make real the governments
slogan Brazil: A Rich Country Is a Country Without Poverty.
102 LATIN AMERICAN PERSPECTIVES

What might pass for abnormalthe incapacity to reach a minimum stan-


dard of living (World Bank, 1990: 27)is ultimately inscribed as a new form
of normality. It is perfectly integrated into a neoliberal logic characterized,
among other things, by the shrinking of the political realm (Telles, 2006). This
realm gets replaced by a discourse that identifies individuals and social/ethnic
groups as the responsible parties. Their alterity becomes domesticated by the
rhetoric of essentialization and atomization (the poor, the marginal, the
vulnerable, people suffering from disabilities, blacks, gays, quilombo-
las [inhabitants of a quilombo, a community founded by people resisting or
running away from slavery], etc.). According to Ug (2004: 60), What once
made up a social class (composed of employed and unemployed workers)
now appears as a set of atomized individuals: the competitive and the inca-
pable (poor). Invoking neoliberal governmentality as outlined by Foucault,
Lazzarato (2011: 76) explains that

it takes us beyond disciplines, because it implements policies for the gover-


nance of conduct that get exercised through the differential management of
disparities in situation, in income, in status, in training, etc. Seen from the point
of view of its modernity, the problem addressed by the security govern-
ment is no longer the normalization of heterogeneity but rather the manage-
ment of differences.

This same writer emphasizes that the optimization of disparities is achieved


through a modulation of rights, of norms, of regulations, which goes along
with and supports the flexible segmentation of the population. Thus, in
contemporary neoliberal society, the management of power is not hegemonic,
but universal, since in such a society the excluded, the marginal is no longer the
other or the external. Rather, these are differences that must be governed in
conjunction with others. If capitalist logic multiplies its modes of intervention,
everywhere sprouting ministries of culture, of women, of blacks, of crazy
people, etc., it is to encourage particularized forms of culture, so that people
feel themselves in some sense located in a sort of territory and do not find
themselves lost in an abstract world (Guattari and Rolnik, 2006: 174). This is
especially true when this abstract world, represented by the modern state, no
longer fulfills the promises that justified its creation (Hobsbawm, 2000).
According to Lazzarato (2011: 79), the governance of society through the
optimization of inequalities and the differential management of minorities
transforms, rewrites, homogenizes, and totalizes the flexible contents into a
hardened gridwork that is no longer the approach of disciplinary confinement
that Foucault described. Rather, it is an approach oriented toward the circula-
tion of differences whose singularity has been neutralized in the open space of
security societies. This gridding of differential normalitiesthis differential
management of minorities, often established from the top down as alteri-
tiesconstitutes what we are here calling the public management of alterity.
Such management includes the varied modes of political, legislative, social,
and economic intervention that public power directs toward particular popula-
tion segments: those segments whose differences (whether physical or intel-
lectual, cultural, ethno-racial, sexual, etc.) render them vulnerable to
manifestations of racism, processes of socioeconomic marginalization, and the
Lavergne and Beserra / THE BOLSA FAMLIA PROGRAM 103

many other side effects of neoliberal governmentality. The notion of alterity


management also harks back to the administration of the diversity cluster,11
intimately associated with the technical and rationalized management of the
risks that a security society must anticipate, evaluate, organize, and contain.
The Bolsa Famlia Program is a particularly emblematic example of the
modes of state intervention directed to those who are considered incapable of
being integrated into the markets the poorfor whom the state must care
through its residual and targeted social policies (Ug, 2004: 58). These margin-
alized people are dextrously led to assimilate the idea of their individual
responsibility for the state of social suspension in which they live. Thus not
only do they remain in the position of debtors-hostages in relation to the social
assistance measures offered to them by a society that is willing to make them
live (a society that makes of them a not insignificant source of guaranteed votes
for the party that uses them politically). They also permit the integrated ones
to consume without limits and without guilt. In this phenomenon, roles and
responsibilities are usurped. To it are added the economically and politically
productive side effects of subjectivation, which induce the marginalized to
accept their own fateful distance from the markets for labor and consumption.
At the same time, the integrated become more and more involved in the
constitution of their own human capital, which, through a mirror effect, con-
firms their efficiency in the race to consume.
This population of redundant or excess beings (Bauman, 2005: 20), the
beneficiaries of Bolsa Famlia, represents a potential threat to social cohesion,
neoliberal democracy, and public security. It is made up of an irregular set of
human groups classified by their distance from the mean in terms of education,
health, employability, and consumption. Their stability on the social horizon
has become the focus of obsessive regulation. To make them live and consume,
what has been selected is not merely an economic toolthe famous redistri-
bution of income but also a strategy capable of effectively influencing their
conduct. And the programs privileged strategy for reaching this population is,
as its name suggests, none other than the family.

The Family: Strategic Unit and Target of Social


Strategies for Subjectivation

With his analysis of the political and economic impasse faced by mercantil-
ism, Michel Foucault (2004) explained how the unblocking of the art of govern-
ance occurred by means of an important shift in the role of the family. Until the
advent of the problematic of population, the art of governance could only be
conceived through the model of the familythrough the economy understood
via the model of family management. But once the problem of population man-
agement could no longer be reduced to the family dimension, this dimension
came to have less importance, now being understood as a privileged instru-
ment for the government of populations rather than a chimerical model for
good government (2004: 141). In various works Foucault shows how the fam-
ily, starting in the eighteenth century, became the instrumental focus of preven-
tion campaigns, vaccines, and public healtha unit to be penetrated by
104 LATIN AMERICAN PERSPECTIVES

medicine, psychiatry, and psychoanalysis in the intimacy of the home, whether


humble or bourgeois.
In Psychiatric Power (2003: 8188), Foucault demonstrates that the family
which conforms to the model of an apparatus of sovereignty, with the head of
the household ordering the other membersitself serves as an essential hinge
for the functioning of disciplinary systems. The family appears as the zero
point from which the different disciplinary systems become linked to each
other. It is the site of intervention that renders possible the passage from one
disciplinary system to another: It is because there is the family, it is because
you have this system of sovereignty operating in society in the form of the fam-
ily, that the obligation to attend school works and children, individuals, these
somatic singularities, are fixed and finally individualized within the school
system (81).
The seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were marked by the spread of
techniques and mechanisms of power centered on the spatial, temporal, and
rational gridding of the individual, and along with these came a full comple-
ment of disciplinary technologies whose goal was to produce useful and doc-
ile beings. But another technology of power slowly became manifest in
modern society. This technology occurred at another level, without removing
the earlier technology but, quite the contrary, articulating itself with it, com-
pleting it, and finding in it the privileged conditions for its own efficacy. This
new technology was dedicated not (or not only) to the body, the body-as-
machine, but to lifethe life of humans, the human-as-species. The older tech-
nology had devoted itself to vigilance, training, and punishment, which
characterized the political anatomy of the body, to monitor and to punish. Now
there was a transition to the control of the mass, the human species, the whole
of the population, which became, from here on, the new datum to be consid-
ered in the exercise of government, and it was from this datum that new, more
and more specialized forms of knowledge were to be produced. The individu-
alizing power of disciplinary society was enriched by a totalizing dimension.
Biopower, this new type of normativity, was asserted and installed, and with it
appeared new concerns articulated around the problematics of population and
security. In the transition away from the previous society described by
Foucaulta society whose microphysics of power was disciplinary and
increasingly concerned with the management of populationsthe family was
not dissolved by discipline; it never lost its instrumental power to affect the
conduct, the regulation, and the control of certain populations that were the
targets of political attention. In the society that Deleuze, several years after the
death of Foucault, would call the society of control, the family still served as a
strategic unit of the first importance.
It is this that Bolsa Famlia recalls. Its logic cannot be aligned with the
expectations of a society organized merely in terms of the disciplining of bodies
and individuals. Disciplinary technology is needed, to be sure, in the chaos of
deprivation, but this sort of assistance program is undergirded by a neoliberal
logic that is nourished by other forms of subjectivation. The indigent, marginal-
ized family serves as the privileged focus of Bolsa Famlia, a program whose
first measure is to make that family live through the direct transfer of minimal
monthly subsidies. As is often the case with such programs, nutritional survival
Lavergne and Beserra / THE BOLSA FAMLIA PROGRAM 105

is intimately linked to education and health control incentives that are directed,
in particular, to women, children, and adolescents. On top of these two axes of
intervention is superimposed another: the incorporation of family members into
social work projects or programs generally oriented toward income generation
and the improvement of family budget management.
As it places this human unit under the individualizing and investigative
focus of pedagogy, public medicine, and social work, the state transforms the
familyand especially the woman or motherinto its privileged point of
intervention in the cluster that is the population of indigent and marginalized
people. The family is pressured to comply with a set of conditions on pain of
losing the programs monthly benefit, and thus the familys sovereign dimen-
sion is used to incite, stimulate, and control the fixing of its membersboth
within the criteria of monitored poverty and within the disciplinary spheres
that should contribute to their exit from the state of endemic deprivation.
This capillary, political infiltration into the intimacy of families that are in a
situation of social vulnerability is connected to other pillars of normalization:
since the nineteenth century these have been school, preventive medicine, and
the public health and social work networks. Through them, normative strate-
gies are knitted together, strategies whose principal focus is life, with a view to
preventing social risks. Prevention becomes the watchword of experts and
monitors who promote new prescriptions for care and self-governmentren-
dering the government of the family even more efficient, since the programs
conditions require the solidarity of the familys members around scarce
resources. In some sense, disciplinary processes are still at work in the sphere
of contemporary social assistance. But what one might call the social manage-
ment of deprivation is also articulated through new technologies that, in addi-
tion to reconfiguring the practices of assistance, produce new subjectivities and
new modes of subjectivation.

The New Modes of Subjectivation and their


Subjectivity Effects

In the passage from a production society to a consumption society like our


own (Bauman, 2008), an important change occurred both in sociopolitical ori-
entationsin the manner of governing humans and in the modes of subjectiv-
ity and subjectivation with which these humans are supposed to be instilled.
Although the model of the factory persists, more and more the model of the
enterprise is imposed, with its suite of slogans: flexibility, fluctuation, competi-
tion, adaptability, the commercialization of data, forms of knowledge, and
competencies, precarity and vigilance, motivation and entrepreneurialism, and
so forth. The marks of the transition from the production society to the con-
sumption (or control) society also become visible in the modes of subjectivation
and subjectivity with which the individual must deal.
Modalities of thinking, doing, choosingin a word, social practicesare the
result of a historical process. At the origin of this process, a particular set of val-
ues, sociopolitical mechanisms, and implicitly or explicitly articulated injunc-
tionsa particular type of subjectivationfocuses on the conduct of others.
106 LATIN AMERICAN PERSPECTIVES

Individuals, with the illusion of a certain autonomy in thought and action, obey
the type of subjectivation that makes them adapt their symbolic frameworks of
existence to the socioeconomic frames of reference that are subtly suggested by
the institutional models in which they find themselves. Thus, in heavy (or
solid [Bauman, 2008]) modernity, whose model was the factory, the regulatory
representations, values, and mechanisms were all linked to work, and they con-
tributed to the formation of a subjectivity and modes of subjectivation deter-
mined by each persons place in the production chain. By contrast, in the control
societywhose symbolic frame of reference is connected to the market, the firm,
and entrepreneurial libertythe relation with consumption and the capacity for
personal autonomy make up the hegemonic norm that must be incorporated.
With the new configuration, the issue at hand is no longer how to create subjec-
tivities submitted to the laws of production and values of work. These no longer
make sense, for the symbolic frame of reference of the enterprise has its founda-
tion in the doctrine of fluidity, constant adaptability to the volatile laws of the
market, the primacy of ideas and concepts over brute matter, the globalization
of financial, informational, and productive flows, and so forth. Thus, when an
attempt is made to disseminate the consumption societys characteristic mode
of subjectivation, the desire to be stimulated and implanted in the citizen-con-
sumer becomes an even more productive lever. This lever rests on the potential
(natural) equality of all when facing the changes that are presented as ineluc-
table features of market logic or even in terms of the capacity for initiative and
adaptation to market laws or the liberty to use the appropriate means to achieve
the ends pursued by individuals in their effort to achieve social inclusion. The
norm of consumption favors the emergence of a subjectivity based on a form of
desire that links the subjects practice to the right to consume without limits and
also to self-affirmation through the capacity to consume. This desires fulfill-
ment rests on a foundation formed by the practice of a liberty imagined to be
transcendental, exterior to social practices that are themselves increasingly emp-
tied of political content.
As a corollary to this, in the society of control the prevailing mode of subjec-
tivation is articulated through individual responsibility and fear. Various appa-
ratuses of power or ideological state apparatuses in the Althusserian
senseincluding the media and the schoolcarry out the work of disciplining
minds. It is a discipline that orients these minds toward the idea of the instabil-
ity of the market, with its flows, as the principle that renders certain phenom-
ena comprehensiblephenomena such as the increasing scarcity of work
opportunities, the inevitability of competition, and the illusory character of
security. Thus the destiny of the enterprise is presented as if it were closely
linked to the motivation of the individual who is free and equal to all, since all
of us remain at the mercy of the imponderable wishes of the laws of the market.
Individuals responsibility and cooperation, free and voluntary, will determine
not only the growth of the enterprise but also on their capacity to remain in
their jobs.
Individuals personal responsibility, their entrepreneurial capacity, their
ability to constantly invest in the betterment of their professional skills, their
degree of flexibility, their involvement in the enterprise: all of these become the
powerful levers of a technology of control. This technology operates through
Lavergne and Beserra / THE BOLSA FAMLIA PROGRAM 107

the motivations and fear that are instilled in peoples consciousnesses, fear of
losing ones job, of not being able to honor ones commitments, of losing the
ability to consume at the level that corresponds to ones social positionall in
all, of being excluded. Of all of the mechanisms invented for the conduct of
others conduct, perhaps none is as productive as the fear of instability, with its
operational corollary, the process of making the individual responsible, which
aims for the production of flexibilized and co-operating subjectivities (Ruiz
and Bartolom, 2004: 71).

Conditionalities, Fixing, and Subjectivation as


Strategies for the Conduct of Others Conduct

Since Bolsa Famlias monthly assistance is subject to certain conditions, the


assistance plays with the need, interest, and desire for consumption, thus fixing
(almost in the etymological sense of nailing down and labeling) the popula-
tions that, up until that point, had been defined as those in serious poverty
without any precise profiles having really been sketched.
The first step, for the family, is to register in the Cadastro nico. This regis-
tration allows for a more precise cartography of the indigent and marginalized
population: it documents names, locations, household compositions, resources,
races or ethnicities, and conditions of life. What started as the indefinite
mass of the poor has been transformed into population groups fixed by family,
by space, by time, and by statistical registries. Through families, each munici-
pality can now give deprivation the proper name of each of its component
parts. At least three other points of fixation and normalization participate in the
project of mapping marginalized subjects or, in other words, of tracing the
effects of social assistance programs: the school, the neighborhood health clinic,
and the social work center. First, the basic public school, through the pressure
exercised on both family and child via attendance monitoring, delegates to
itself the power of fixing child and adolescent bodies in space, time, curricu-
lum, and a certain form of subjectivation. Physically fixed in the school through
controls on their attendance, which cannot fall below 85 percent, Bolsa Famlia
students also become prisoner of a sort of naturalization of poverty.12 The social
misfortune that destiny has reserved for them becomes essentialized. They are
urged to solve the problems of life on the margin through personal, voluntary
effort in a school that is far from appealing to them and making sense in their
everyday realityeven from the point of view of the schools own objective,
which is to offer them the tools necessary for entrepreneurialism. Despite
everything, they must understand and assimilate the idea that everyone is row-
ing the same galley and must take responsibility for the construction of a future
full of promise for all or, at least, for the community of belongingclose family
and neighborswith which they share their misfortune.
Secondly, the programs monthly assistance is subjected to a form of medical
tracing of the living forces of the population. A corollary of biopolitical reason,
this social medicine acts to prevent the risk of abnormalities or social degen-
eration most widely expressed in the form of socioeconomic marginality. With
the intervention of specialists, who propagate the notion of political neutrality,
108 LATIN AMERICAN PERSPECTIVES

there is an effort to train, to offer educational activities related to health, the


healthy family, healthy sexuality, and healthy nutrition. The family nucleus
becomes a site for the capillary infiltration of the medico-social norm and for
an investment in the subjectivation power of poor women over their family
members and these family members conduct. Thus the family is infused with
the vision of a healthy, sustainable, and responsible future, a vision inevitably
founded on managerial concerns and on the limitation of social expenditures
in the health arena.
Third, through complementary programs, social work is assigned several
tasks. It must inculcate in Bolsa Famlia beneficiaries the forms of subjectivation
associated with a devotion to lifelong education. It must generate a spirit of fam-
ily and community solidarity. It must instill individual responsibility in the face
of the vicissitudes of a future with no arrival-point. For this purpose, there are
two types of programs: one addressed to children and adolescents up to 17
years old at risk of or rescued from child labor, who must participate in
Services for Socialization and Strengthening of Bonds and achieve a minimum
attendance of 85 percent of the scheduled hours per month13 and one directed
toward adults in which participation, though not strictly required, is strongly
recommended with the principal goal of encouraging income generation.
The first type of program, organized under the Services for Basic Social
Protection, includes a set of collective activities that fix children or adolescents
in exercises complementary to or outside of school, thereby promoting lifelong
education or education for problem solving. Collective games, art education,
citizenship activities, project interventions, and sports and leisure all serve,
in essence, as vectors of socialization, consciousness raising about the problems
that have been discovered. These vectors contribute to the introjection of the
need for constant training, taking responsibility, and approaching ones family
or life community as a possible source of strategic temporary help in overcom-
ing the challenges of a market or a situation in which the community, the mar-
ket, and the future function as a practice of governance (Popkewitz, Olsson,
and Petersson, 2009: 80).
What is at issue, as these writers note, is a future mobilized for the format-
ting of the people of the present. And the future of such a society is that which
is here and now. After all, the goal is a future inclusive society, achieved
through educational reform, which seeks, as Bush (2001) states, to build the
mind and character of every child, from every background.14 For Popkewitz,
Olsson, and Petersson (2009: 80) modern education continually links the indi-
vidual both to narratives of social or economic progress and to the revitaliza-
tion of a democracy that will bring personal improvement. For example, the
suite of youth programs known as Projovem is planned so as to engage with
themes that cut across the structuring axes, referred to as transversal themes,
thereby presenting content that is necessary for the understanding of reality
and for social participation.15 Thus Projovem participates in the strategy of
subjectivation that implants in its participants minds the need for community
revitalizationand, moreover, according to Lopes (2009: 154), provides sets
of practices that make up forms of life, increasingly guided by market princi-
ples and by self-reflection, in which the processes of teaching/learning must be
permanent.
Lavergne and Beserra / THE BOLSA FAMLIA PROGRAM 109

The goal at hand is not only to fix the young beneficiaries of Bolsa Famlia in
socio-educational programs but also to fix them increasingly in their communi-
ties16 of origin. Although these may be areas of violence and tension, it is there
that the beneficiaries must establish links through their citizen participa-
tion and through the encouragement of associative practices. It is with these
communities that the beneficiaries must create bonds of solidarity and help
each other to solve the problems that arise. In referring to the two great rules
of the neoliberal game staying active and including everyoneLopes
(2009: 155) emphasizes the three main conditions of this inclusion: First, to
be guided in the direction of entering the game; second, to stay in the game (to
stay included); third, to want to stay in the game.
The widespread invocation of the word community, especially in the effort
to solve the problems to which problem-solving education is devoted, cre-
ates a double advantage for the mode of liberal governmentality that wisely
uses it. Majoritarian subjects (the subjects of rights, the working class, and so
on) are replaced by minoritarian subjects (Lazzarato, 2008: 45) who, through
the biases of proliferating statistical apparatus, targeted means, can be con-
trolled even better. This ease of control comes about because the new subjects
are localized and increasingly better defined and because they benefit from the
supposed equality and liberty of all in terms of initiative, positioning in the
market, and relation to consumption. Given the starting points of equality and
liberty for potential action, it is expected that members of the community will
accept that they are responsible for the resolution of the problems that the com-
munity encounters. To urge the mobilization of community resources is to
influence the communitys conduct so that people widely accept the idea that
the keys to the communitys destiny can be found in its own pocket. Thus,
according to Popkewitz, Olsson, and Petersson (2009: 8586), the community
inscribes cultural spaces through which both the solution of problems and the
Society of Learning operate as performative qualities of the communitarian.
Once, general narratives explained the miseries of the world through his-
toric struggles over political interests, and these narratives justified organized
collective reactions. Such narratives have increasingly been replaced by dis-
courses from the outside in and from the top down, discourses that affirm the
transcendental character of these same miseries and exhort listeners to forms
of individual reactivity sustained by minimalist assistance systems. School
serves as the first condition for inclusion in the game of the market, but social
technologies of fixation and subjectivation, linked to the community dimen-
sion that is so strongly rooted in Bolsa Famlia, also manage to participate,
according to Lopes (2009: 156), in the encouragement to stay in the game:
Inclusion, via policies of school, social, social work, and work inclusion, oper-
ates as a biopolitical apparatus at the service of the security of populations.
When they are included in groups, in official registries, in the labor market, in
the quotas for welfare programs, in school, and so forth, people become easy
targets for state actions.
The second set of Bolsa Famlia complementary programs features the same
ingredients but, because it is directed toward adults, privileges a form of sub-
jectivation that, as it instills the feeling of individual responsibility for problem
solving, connects this feeling with a desire to emancipate oneself from fate that
110 LATIN AMERICAN PERSPECTIVES

corresponds to its aim of developing capacities and potentials, with the goal
of achieving emancipatory alternatives for confronting social vulnerability 17
or, in the area of inclusion in production, to support and stimulate initiatives
that present alternatives for the generation of work and income.
By granting minimum subsidies to satisfy the desire to consume, thus keep-
ing its beneficiaries in the game of the market, Bolsa Famlia generates the idea
that, for those who have the strength and will for entrepreneurialism, there is
still a possibility of changing ones fate. Most of these programs speak not of
employment but rather of evaluating skills, diagnosing the situation in the
social environment, and undertaking a study of the market to see if there
exists, in ones community, a promising niche for the development of a micro-
entrepreneurial activity. Thus formerly marginalized individuals are trans-
formed into entrepreneurs of themselves, responsible for themselves, part of
the game of consumption and the game of the market if only within the com-
munity to which they belong.

Final Considerations

Through the analysis of Bolsa Famlias mechanisms for functioning, it


becomes clear that the program fits an assistance-oriented strategy that replaces
a set of global payments (universalization) with a cash benefit that will guar-
antee supplementary resources to those, and only those, who either definitively
or provisionally fail to reach a sufficient threshold (Foucault, 2008: 203). Thus
the program is aligned with the logic of public policy targeting. By taking life
as the fixed end of a hinge between survival and flexible, cooperative life, Bolsa
Famlia builds a bridge between bare life (zo) and life in its socioeconomic
dimension (bios) (Agamben, 2007)
If the pressures exercised in the area of basic health guarantee a basically
satisfactory bare life, alongside lifelong and problem-solving education, then
these pressures also generate an important hinge between zo and bios. At the
end of the day, the family, in which investment is made and that is besieged as
a strategic unit, reveals itself to be another essential and efficient hinge, one that
serves to connect the polymorphic mass of indigent and marginalized people
to be placed under the regime of consumption and control with the individuals
to be converted into homo economicusthe flexible partner, the cooperator, the
eternal apprentice of the market. Thus is generated a set of social technologies
of subjectivation and control, a great machinery for normalization through the
law of the market and consumption, one sustained by multiple forms of knowl-
edge about misery and maintained in service of a life that can be considered
both bare and potentially socialized. The generation of this socialized life
will depend on the individuals capacity for self-entrepreneurship, as foreseen
by the program. Indeed, beyond promoting an entrepreneurialism that costs
the security society nothing, these targeted programs function so as to frag-
ment individuals into monads, with each one becoming responsible only for
itself (Gadelha, 2009: 158). Everything has been done to offer these individuals
the tools necessary for acting as problem-solving agents in a future with no
arrival-point.
Lavergne and Beserra / THE BOLSA FAMLIA PROGRAM 111

In conclusion, what are we to expect from monthly subsidies so tiny that


they become reminiscent of alms? What are we to do with complementary
assistance programs that lead one to believe that the only way out is to make
oneself responsible and to incorporate a form of subjectivity that is reduced to
God helps those who help themselves? In other words, how could a bio-
power preeminently preoccupied with the management of miserypower over
lifebe transformed into a different sort of biopolitics, a biopolitics understood
as power of life, the affirmation of the potential of life against the power over
life, which would find in life itself, that is, in the production of affects and
languages, in social cooperation, in bodies and desires, in the invention of new
forms of relationship with oneself and with othersin a word, in politicsthe
ground for the creation of a new subjectivity that would come also as a moment
of desubjectivation (Revel, 2004)? Or, in other words, how are we to govern so
as to fulfill at least the promise of modernity?

Notes

1. According to IBGE (2010), in 2013 13.8 million families were projected to participate in the
Bolsa Famlia Programin other words, approximately 50 million people, more than one-quarter
of Brazils population.
2. Conditionality is a neologism crafted by the Ministry of Social Development and Combat
against Hunger to refer to the commitments undertaken by both the families that receive the
program and the government. On the governments side, these include the increase in the fami-
lies access to basic social rights: public services in the areas of health, education, and social work.
See details at http://www.mds.gov.br/bolsafamilia/condicionalidades. [In order to receive Bolsa
Famlia, families with children must have them vaccinated and keep them in school, complying
with a minimum attendance rate.Translators note.]
3. Mandatory school attendance by itself is not enough to establish an effective relationship
between school and the populations that receive Bolsa Famlia (Brando, Pereira, and Dalt, 2013).
School attendance and dropping out are linked to problems that arise not directly from family
poverty but from the schools capacity or incapacity to meet these populations needs. From this
point of view, school quality, curriculum content, the organization of school systems, and teacher
training have much greater power as factors drawing people to school or repelling them from it
(Schwartzman, 2009).
4. [Eduardo Suplicy, a venerable PT lawmaker, crusaded for many years to establish a universal
basic income grant in Brazil; he succeeded in passing a 2004 law that identified Bolsa Famlia as the
first step in this project, but other universalizing steps have thus far not occurred.Translators note.]
5. Investment in the Bolsa Famlia Program corresponds to nearly 0.4 percent of GDP.
According to Tiago Falco, national secretary for citizen income at the Ministry of Social
Development and Combat against Hunger, each R$1 invested increases Brazils GDP by R$1.44.
This is a cheap program that distributes income, develops the economy, and reduces the coun-
trys social and regional inequalities, with a direct impact on a fourth of the Brazilian population
(http://blog.planalto.gov.br/bolsa-familia-tera-reajuste-de-ate-455-%E2%80%9Cpara-atacar-
pobreza%E2%80%9D/[accessed November 3, 2012]).
6. It replaces four earlier programs: Bolsa-Escola (Scholarship), Auxlio-Gas (Gas Assistance),
Bolsa Alimentao (Food Scholarship), and Carto Alimentao (Food Card). The merging of the
four programs aimed to improve managmeent and increase the effectiveness of social spending
through optimization and rationalization (Brasil, 2006).
7. In the words of Foucault (2003: 247), Beneath that great absolute power, beneath the dra-
matic and somber power that was the power of sovereignty, and which consisted in the power to
take life, we now have the emergence, with this technology of biopower, of this technology of
power over the population as such, over men insofar as they are living beings. It is continuous,
scientific, and it is the power to make live.
112 LATIN AMERICAN PERSPECTIVES

8. Beneficiary families fit one of two categories: extreme poverty (per capita income up to
R$70 per person per month) and poverty (between R$70 and R$140 per person per month).
Moreover, they must include pregnant women, children, or adolescents between 0 and 17 years
old. [Households earning under R$77 per person per month can receive the benefit even if
there are no pregnant women, children, or adolescents in the household. http://www.mds.gov.
br/falemds/perguntas-frequentes/bolsa-familia/bolsa-familia/beneficiario/institucional-
bolsa-familia (accessed November 6, 2014). In practice, however, childless households can find
themselves at the end of a lengthy waiting listTranslators note.] On Mothers Day, 2012,
President Dilma Rousseff created the Nurturing Brazil Program (Programa Brasil Carinhoso)
to increase the benefit amount received by families in poverty who have children up to six
years of age. These families began receiving a minimum benefit of R$70 per month per member
of the family (http://www.mundodastribos.com/portal-bolsa-familia.html [accessed
November 3, 2012]). It is worth noting the paternalist element suggested by the programs
name itself: Nurturing Brazil.
9. Foucault (2005: 298299) offers a synthetic explanation of these phases. According to him,
there was much that escaped the old mechanics of sovereign power, both on top and on the bot-
tom, both at the level of detail and at the level of the mass. In order to recover the details, a first
adjustment occurred: an adjustment of the mechanisms of power over the individual body, with
vigilance and trainingthis was discipline (and it was related to political anatomy, an initial
seizure of power over the body that occurred in accordance with the mode of individualization).
Afterward, at the end of the eighteenth century, another adjustment took place in the area of
global phenomenaphenomena of population, with the biological or bio-sociological processes
of the human masses.
10. The nebulous realm of the marginalized is made up of the following social segments:
the indigent, people in a situation of social vulnerability or of extreme poverty or who live
in areas vulnerable to poverty, citizens in a situation of homelessness, the low-income
group, traditional peoples and communities, rural women, street children, people
affected by a disability, and so on. No matter how distant they may be from the labor market and
from consumption, they are integrated, even if just at the margins, into the Gaussian curve of the
social norm.
11. Lavergne (2009) raises the question of the management of diversity in his doctoral thesis,
in which he investigates the problematic surrounding the inclusion of children with disabilities in
the regular school system. There, the different student/disabled student cluster appears as a
mode of alterity, similarly to the poor, black people, women of the countryside, and so
forth. This cluster is referenced, administered, managed, and statistically evaluated through laws,
decrees, and other procedures for control and treatment. These multiple figures of school normal-
ity come to fit under the rubric of diversity. They make up a new population, diverse, prom-
inently polymorphic, unstable, composed of people outside of the meanexactly that
population that diversity will welcome as those who belong to the extremes of the norm. In this
way no one escapes the norm and its power to discriminate, aggregate, and attribute in the terms
of subjectivity (Lavergne, 2009: 112).
12. [By Bolsa Famlias requirements, students from ages 6 through 15 must attend school 85
percent of the time; students ages 16 and 17 must attend school 75 percent of the time. http://
www.mds.gov.br/falemds/preguntas-frequentes/bolsa-familia/bolsa-familia/beneficiario/
institucional-bolsa-familia (accessed November 8, 2014).Translators note.]
13. http://www.ansocorro.se.gov.br/temp/informacoes_int.asp?codigo=2511201013201855746
(accessed November 8, 2014).
14. http://www2.ed.gov/nclb/overview/intro/execsumm.html (accessed November 8,
2014).
15. http://www.mds.gov.br/assistenciasocial/protecaobasica/servicos/projovem (accessed
November 8, 2014).
16. The word community has known increasing success because of its euphemizing effect on
social classification and on the illusion of security.
17. http://www.mds.gov.br/falemds/perguntas-frequentes/assistencia-social/peti-programa-
de-erradicacao-do-trabalho-infantil/gestor/peti-2013-servico-socioeducativo (accessed
November 8, 2014).
Lavergne and Beserra / THE BOLSA FAMLIA PROGRAM 113

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