Between 2004 and 2013, an array of social policies converted Brazil into an international showcase of economic growth and income redistribution. Economists, policymakers, politicians and marketers heralded the end of endemic poverty and the incorporation of millions into a newly defined “middle class.” This article unpacks this story of inclusionary development by considering the controversies surrounding the production and circulation of large numbers, and how such controversies sustained the technopolitics of Brazil’s “new middle class.” I draw on multisited ethnography conducted in Washington, DC, Brasilia, and São Paulo among think tanks, governmental sectors, the World Bank, and market research institutes. By foregrounding the workings of a transnational network of experts, I chronicle how the middle-class language traversed circuits of science, policymaking, and market research. The article contends that methodological breakthroughs—including microeconometric counterfactuals and market ethnography—become salient fixtures in the public appraisal of inequality and in the creation of national political futures.
Moisés Kopper; Measuring the Middle: Technopolitics and the Making of Brazil’s New Middle Class. History of Political Economy 1 June 2020; 52 (3): 561–587. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00182702-8304867
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