About elections, appearances and imagination

Image: Brett Sayles


Voters have gravitated between supporting fallacies and the pantomime of easy changes

Barring a new and deadly variant of Covid-19, or some other planetary emergency situation, the 2024 Brazilian municipal elections tend to be centered on issues relating to cities, their management and the future prospects of society as a whole. Everything is moving towards reaffirming the desire of citizens to identify candidacies and proposals focused on the reality of their municipalities.

This is a historical trend, which will certainly be consolidated in this local claim. There is nothing strange, therefore, in what has been measured for decades by research institutes and confirmed by the results of these elections, with some important exceptions since the beginning.

It is also nothing unusual if we find, in the trends already detected by some research institutes, the presence of a conservation of governments that have been guaranteeing both political-institutional stability and good management, and that innovate in the elaboration and execution of policies and investments aimed at the development and improvement of living conditions, in addition to the provision of universal and excellent public services.

These are the possible appearances that we can capture from the electorate, as they express them, but they may not correspond to their deepest and truest desires and conceptions about the world and life, if the analysis of the topic is properly in-depth. It is the appearances, generally manifested through a narrative that does not conflict with the essence of the entire issue – except in extreme cases, when contradictions explode and bleed – that the electorate wishes to express.

It is their “comfort zone”, in which, increasingly, the risks to the physical integrity and existence of the individual in the context of their society are considered, despite the displeasure that the noises coming from the masses that flee to the imposed sheet music of the litanies. What is complex in nature is what is housed in your true feelings, in your mentality, in your imagination.

This is a swampy dimension, shaped over the centuries based on individual and collective beliefs and perceptions, expressing, albeit silently, what is truly thought and projected from the individual, from subjectivities. And it is from diffuse subjectivities, when living in a society, that the social imaginary is formed and expressed, the central object that needs to be identified and mapped.

By social imaginary, we use the concept of the philosopher Cornelius Castoriadis, who defined it as “the incessant and essentially indeterminate creation (social-historical and psychic) ​​of figures/forms/images, from which it is only possible to speak of “ something". What we call “reality” and “rationality” are its products.”[I]

Therefore, today more than ever, and recent historical experiences are corroborating this urgency of relocating the gaze beyond appearances, almost scanning the innards of thought, what needs to be identified is this deeper instinct of the electorate – these “realities” ” and “rationalities”, based on the nuances of their mentality and the pragmatism that ensures their physical survival and as social beings.

This has always been concealed, leading to brutal errors in recent research, which, because they use incomplete or ineffective methodologies, are unable to detect the concealment. It is a grammar of the imaginary, difficult to decode when faced with paradigms that ignore the multiple and contradictory realities and desires of our people, individually and collectively. It is this grammar that will tell about the desires, frustrations, value judgments, beliefs of an electorate exposed to everyday life in their places of residence and work, the municipality. A truly oppressive daily life for most.

We have observed, throughout this century, that extreme right-wing political groups are being successful in interpreting part of this grammar, especially that which touches on the psychoanalytic field of frustrations and grudges. They use this, as in fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, to encourage the organization of movements, always guided by a leadership that has messianic traits and a questionable, warlike virility. Democratic groups on the right, center and left are notoriously shy in using all the tools for interpreting this grammar, perhaps because they fear deconstructing paradigms that have long been established, perhaps due to incompetence in handling communication and narratives in the context of a society of contemporary mass.

The lack of knowledge of this grammar, its failure to decode, leads to political miscalculations, to the adoption of platforms far from what is really thought on the “ground” of neighborhoods, homes and subjectivities. This grammar is complex, as it involves not only the elements already mentioned, but, especially throughout this century, factors that have been radicalized and elevated to the forefront of politics, such as the so-called moral agenda, religious faith, the hegemonic interests of parastatal organizations, the oppressive omnipresence of a power parallel to that of the State in different territories, the country's own political-ideological division, the creation of crises in those who have always been the pillars of democracy, something that seems to be being normalized as a characteristic of life Brazilian, for example, showing robust signs of resistance to any and all calls for a conciliatory tradition in national politics.

What appears to be a transformation, a rupture, can have a reverse effect, strengthening what is most archaic and distorted may inhabit the Brazilian social imagination. These are the contradictions of the imaginary applied to the factual reality of our society. Let us never forget the traditions on which this imaginary was formed and fed, especially racism, exclusion and oppression of the majority of society by the sectors that were historically dominant.

Observing the last municipal elections, which took place in 2020, at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, we can make a very realistic guess about the behavior of the electorate in October 2024: depending on the level of the ideological dispute, and the manifestations of the social imaginary, they should Few changes emerged from the election regarding the leadership of the executive of most Brazilian municipalities, with a vote to maintain “what is working”. But society is not governed by the rules of exact sciences, but rather, driven by feelings. History needs to be understood in its dynamics, which is why electoral elections are not the result of an equation, but rather an expression of the will of the electorate at a given moment.

The Brazilian political class, like that of other countries, always moves in search of “places of comfort”, creating and deepening a dangerous gap between itself and society. A gap in which the bases of legitimacy and representation collapse, which places both in a state of real and immediate danger. The political class tends to be guided more by appearances and deductions typical of the exact sciences, and not by the search for interpretation of the grammar of the social imaginary – an always complex task.

This explains, for example, the electoral failure of certain successful governments, when seeking re-election, or the electoral defeat of parliamentarians whose mandate was of notorious political and social importance. The contemporary world, more than ever, does not forgive mistakes in the interpretation of reality. It punishes, and severely, in the context of political economy, applying the most severe penalty in this ecosystem, electoral defeat.

The political class needs to move away from this comfort zone, “from what is working”, it needs to desacralize this thought that will always appear smiling in the ease of its construction. You need to decode the grammar of the social imaginary, as it contains confusing elements, typical of minds bombarded by multiple and conflicting information, in real time, rich in narratives; it is markedly influenced by bubbles of opinion and thought between identities that recognize and self-legitimize, disregarding difference as a constituent element of any and all social organization. This is the only path capable of capturing not votes, but hearts and minds, authentic legitimacy, the one that promotes great historical changes.

Such differences are seen and treated, more and more, by those who opt for the “comfort zone”, as something undesirable, banishable from the historical context, transforming divergence into a category close to crime, and its followers into “internal enemies”, whom are aimed at exclusion, silencing and suppression of life itself. Ultimately, what “is working” may not necessarily, depending on the political struggle and imagination, be the key to victory, quite the opposite. It can foreshadow tragedy, as history has been abundant in exemplifying.

In the electoral dimension, successes will only be constructed from a perspective that goes beyond appearances, that deeply penetrates the social imagination. We are no longer living in an era where appearances, enhanced by themselves, would express future reality. The citizen wants something beyond what constitutes the classical purposes of the State. This is where we penetrate the social imaginary, and the influence it has on the mood and desires of the electorate, regardless of the successes of political agents.

This imaginary wants “roads”, “entrances”, it wants to walk along paths that lead to the recognition of its demands and subjectivities, individual and collective, and not just a correct and hard-working government – ​​something seen essentially as necessary, and not a benefit of certain political groups taken by “enlightened” values. They go beyond, much beyond, that. And therein lies the entire difficulty of the political class, comfortable in managing its actions based on classic paradigms, which are insufficient or contradictory in the face of history and social mentality. Therefore, the proliferation of questions both about its representation and existence and about Democracy itself – something that always brings the sulfur aroma of totalitarian political experiences.

Since the 1982 elections, the first in which state governors were chosen directly since the beginning of the 1960s, the Brazilian electorate has gravitated, with its vote, between supporting fallacies and the pantomime of easy changes, control inflation, an effort to implement the welfare state, institution-destroying extremism and ultra-neoliberalism, up to the present moment.

This is the moment of recovery of democratic and institutional normality, to previous levels, but always confronted by opposition forces that assume, at every moment, a more aggressive and harmful role. A bloody political struggle, based on social imaginary and the intensification and criminalization of ideological differences, is another element that is materializing and normalizing in Brazilian life, with consequences that are beyond worrying.

Let us not be naive and create a comfortable and illusory narrative about our reality. The political struggle at the national level contaminates all instances of social life. Alongside it, and with it, the social imaginary influences the electorate through the mobilization of their deepest and, most often, reactionary feelings. It will be no different in the 2024 election, despite the desire for continuity of “what is working” and the vain hope of certain social sectors that we will experience a reality closer to some central European countries than to peripheral nations, built on subordination. and the exploitation of man by man, which has marked, since the beginning of these societies, the almost unavoidable social division.

Worsening this scenario, we observe that all levels of government, and not just in Brazil, are taken over by a conception of society and government that the former Greek finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, calls “austericide” – fiscal austerity elevated to the ultimate end of the State, which separates itself from society and ignores its real needs and desires, prioritizing, solely, fiscal stability, something that, at the limit, transforms this institute into a creed absorbed in a slow and deadly way.

It is on this issue that we must also turn our attention, given that its strength retracts public investments, takes away from the State the ability to act as an element that induces development, passing it into the condition of a zealous treasurer in the face of the tragedy that, under his eyes, and out of inappetence, he unwinds. There is no society that remains cohesive and preserves civilizing principles when exposed to abandonment and invisibility. But this is the neoliberal project, and its litany continues to be recited, not even by groups and people who say they oppose it.

Let ill-intentioned minds not say that we are defending fiscal anarchy. On the contrary. Stability can only exist as a function of society, the provision of universal and quality services, and the promotion of development that generates employment, income, wealth and foreign exchange. “Austericide” has been taking the form of metastasis, equating projects and political groups that, at root, present profound and necessary distinctions regarding the visions of society, the State and the organization of capital. We must always seek what President Lula has already defined as the marriage between fiscal and social responsibilities, not allowing the former to impose itself as the ultimate end of the State and institutions, generating chaos to obtain more power and more profits.

It is not public investments that generate a reckless scenario for the treasury, as the neoliberal litany, recited by its “priests and altar boys”, wishes to consecrate. Far from it, the temerity originates from the directing of huge resources to pay debt expenditure, in a dimension that unbalances any and all policies that intend to meet the State's primary purposes. In reality, it makes the State a source from which resources incessantly flow to feed the voracious appetite of financial capital, always distant from what a society is and the subjectivities that make it up.

The brutal weight of paying expenses (interest and services) on the country's debt must be translated, in a pedagogical way, into numbers, opening the “black box”. In August 2023, to use data collected by researcher Paulo Kliass, the Union spent R$84 billion as “payment of interest on public debt”. Going further, Kliass found that, between October 2022 and 2023, R$690 billion was spent paying these expenses (interest and services).

These values ​​are of an overwhelming dimension, sequestering from the Union the resources necessary for the efficient and universal functioning of the public structure. By way of comparison, for the 2023 financial year, the total resources budgeted for Health is R$183 billion, and for Education, R$147 billion. Values ​​that are insignificant compared to the needs and, worse, when compared to those destined to feed the appetite of financial and parasitic capital.

How can the Brazilian State fulfill its duties given this discrepancy in the distribution of resources in its budget? In fact, a discrepancy purposely hidden, normalized by the litany of the neoliberal creed. This discrepancy in values ​​explicitly indicates the vision of the State that the neoliberal creed desires. Its objectives, always repeated in a boring and false litany, are, in essence, to serve financial capital, which is predatory and devoid of any concerns with humanity and with the generation of wealth itself from work and investments, public and private, in production.

But these objectives have the power to justify the neoliberal narrative, with a malicious matrix, of dissolution, extinction or incompetence of the State. Such data are hidden, made invisible, from the eyes of the population, as they can reveal the nakedness of the very model of financial capitalism that neoliberalism has imposed as a standard over the last four decades, at least. A model that is not based on the person, on production, on employment, on development, but rather on the structuring of a way of life guided and under the fierce dominance of financial and parasitic capital. In it, the human subsumed in the aggressive pursuit of profit.

Fiscal surplus and good assessment of public accounts by the National Treasury were elevated to the ungrateful status of “fetishes”, praised at parties, sung in verse. Oh God, how foolish! The result of this shines brightly. Brazil stagnated, deindustrialized, formal jobs declined, replaced by the fallacious manipulation of entrepreneurship, the misery of the largest portion of our people grew and, along with all this, parastatal groups proliferated, occupying spaces and territories, subjugating the population to their criminal will. .

This could affect, as is already happening, the minds of the electorate in 2024, increasingly exposed to the anxieties of their time and the structures in which they find themselves inserted as a society. This narrative demonstrates a frightening permanence, embraced by different political and ideological groups. This trend needs to be reversed, so that the State can, once again, equip itself with the means capable of meeting the demands of a mass society, increasingly demanding and thirsty for quality services, for effective actions of change, for creativity and mobilization around public interests of a republican nature. Also so that capitalism, with all its contradictions, returns to being a mode of production based on production and work, something that is far from being achieved today.

We must have the courage to face this fallacious narrative, but firmly based on political and economic interests that, ultimately, brutally concentrate income and wealth, separating nationals from their homeland, which neither recognizes them nor assists them in their activities. demands.

*Marcelo Siano Lima is a doctoral student in Fundamental Rights and Guarantees at the Faculty of Law of Vitória (FDV).


[I] CASTORIADIS, Cornelius. The imaginary institution of society. Translated by Guy Reynaud; technical review by Luis Roberto Salinas Fortes. Rio de Janeiro: Paz e Terra, 1982. p. 13

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