Skip to navigation – Site map

HomeIssues4:3Policy dismantling by capacity ma...

Policy dismantling by capacity manipulation in a context of democratic backsliding: The bureaucracy in disarray in Bolsonaro’s Brazil

Michelle Morais de Sá e Silva
p. 272-292

Abstract

The policy dismantling framework was developed to account for processes involving the reduction or termination of existing policies, especially in the so-called advanced democracies. However, is the model proposed by policy dismantling scholars applicable to contexts of democratic backsliding such as Bolsonaro’s Brazil? Do those contexts offer new elements to their analytical model? This article addresses those questions by analyzing the case of Brazil under President Jair Bolsonaro. Departing from research on policy dismantling recently conducted in Brazil and based on data collected with federal civil servants from 2019 to 2021, it will be argued that the mechanics of policy dismantling in Brazil involve not only the reduction and elimination of past policies but also the manipulation of policy capacities. At the individual policy capacity level, that process has involved mistrust and contempt for career civil servants, fear, and bureaucratic reshuffling, whereby bureaucrats were either removed from their original positions or resorted to exit in fear of persecution. The intimidation and disarrangement of the federal bureaucracy in Brazil appears to be an integral part of capacity manipulation, shedding light into what policy dismantling looks like in contexts of democratic backsliding.

Top of page

Author's notes

This article is the result of a larger research project on the Brazilian federal bureaucracy. Other aspects of the data will be explored in an edited volume to be published in Portuguese by the Institute for Applied Economic Research (IPEA)

Full text

Introduction

1During his first 100 days in office, Jair Bolsonaro issued an executive order that became famously known in Brazil as “revogaço”, the massive cancelation of 250 executive orders issued by his predecessors, dating all the way back to 1901.1 Brazilian and Brazilianist authors have engaged with the policy dismantling framework to characterize these and many other processes of policy change taking place in Brazil (Sabourin et al., 2020; Barrros Soares & Baines, 2021; Niederle et al., 2022). They have embraced the concept of dismantling both for what it means in the public policy literature and for what the term represents in its translation into Portuguese: desmonte, desmantelamento. The term captures the unmaking of what existed before, the taking away of constituent parts, and the disintegration into smaller pieces, hence transmitting both an image of debacle and a feeling of sorrow.

2In public policy, the dismantling literature mostly originates from Pierson (1994), who addressed the dismantling of the welfare state in the 1990s, followed by Bauer and Knill (2012), who coined, defined, and provided a framework for the analysis of policy dismantling processes. They define it as:

  • 2 Author’s emphasis.

A change of direct, indirect, hidden or symbolic nature that either diminishes the number of policies in a particular area, reduces the number of policy instruments used and/or lowers their intensity. It can involve changes to these core elements of policy and/or it can be achieved by manipulating the capacities to implement and supervise them2 (p. 35).

3The policy dismantling framework was developed to account for processes involving “the cutting, reduction, diminution, or even complete removal of existing policies” (Bauer et al., 2012, p. v). A good part of the literature originally addressed policy phenomena taking place in the European context or in “advanced democracies” (Knill et al., 2020). However, is the model proposed by Bauer and colleagues applicable to contexts of democratic backsliding, such as Bolsonaro’s Brazil? Do these contexts offer new elements to their analytical model? It will be argued in this article that not only does their framework remain relevant to such contexts but that an increasing number of illiberal leaders have particularly worked towards policy dismantling through the manipulation — if not erosion — of policy capacities.

4This article will address the above questions by analyzing the case of Brazil under President Jair Bolsonaro, part of a recent wave of illiberal leaders who have changed the political and policy landscapes. Scholars from various disciplines have mobilized efforts to gain a better understanding of the new mechanisms that these leaders have triggered in public policy. This article will contribute to those efforts by unveiling features that help one to have a better understanding of policy change — especially dismantling — in Bolsonaro’s Brazil.

  • 3 The research timeframe corresponds to the first three years of the Bolsonaro administration.

5Departing from a stock of research on policy dismantling recently conducted in Brazil, and based on data collected from federal civil servants from 2019 to 20213, it will be argued that the mechanics of policy dismantling in Brazil involve not only the reduction and elimination of past policies but also the manipulation of policy capacities. At the individual policy capacity level (Wu, Ramesh & Howlett, 2018), this process has involved mistrust of and contempt for career civil servants, as well as fear and bureaucratic reshuffling, whereby bureaucrats were either removed from their original positions or resorted to exit in fear of persecution. The weakening of the federal bureaucracy in Brazil appears to be an integral part of policy dismantling processes. The article hence seeks to bridge the literature on policy dismantling, democratic backsliding, and bureaucratic resistance.

6This is a mixed-methods research project, initiated in the summer of 2019, six months after the inauguration of Jair Bolsonaro into the Brazilian presidency. Data collection spanned two years and involved a snowball survey of 337 former and current federal employees, of whom 129 were part of semi-structured interviews lasting 1 to 1.5 hours. Participants were asked about their personal trajectories and career decisions. They were not asked directly about policy dismantling. Reported data represents information that respondents volunteered to the interviewing research team. Interviews were coded and analyzed with the aid of the NVivo software.

7The article is structured into six sections in addition to this introduction and a conclusion. The first section presents the concepts and characterization of Bolsonaro as an illiberal leader working in a context of — and further deepening — Brazil’s democratic backsliding. Section two addresses the literature on policy dismantling and recent works on policy dismantling in Brazil. The third section discusses the bureaucracy as both a potential target and an autonomous agent in processes of democratic backsliding. Section four presents the methods adopted in data collection and analysis. Section five presents and analyses the collected data, indicating how, at the individual bureaucratic level, policy capacities have been manipulated through processes of intimidation and disarrangement of the federal bureaucracy. Section six articulates the article’s contributions to the dismantling framework, especially for those seeking to understand, and to research, contexts of democratic backsliding. A concluding section summarizes and wraps up the article’s main arguments.

Democratic backsliding in Brazil

8Democracy in Brazil, as well as in other developing countries, had long been recognized for its fragility. Avritzer (2019) characterizes the Brazilian political system as the pendulum of democracy, thereby identifying its inherent instability. With the election of Donald Trump in the US, the analysis of processes of democratic backsliding or, in the words of Levitsky and Ziblatt (2018), of “how democracy dies”, became mainstreamed into comparative and non-comparative political science. Transnational research projects have been dedicated to understanding, for instance, how illiberal populist leaders deal with public administration (Bauer, Becker et al., 2021) and how they manipulate and/or erode legal institutions and the judicial system (de Sa e Silva, 2022).

9The growing body of literature dedicated to analyzing these contemporary processes uses a varied set of concepts and terminology: authoritarian populism (Norris & Inglehart, 2019); right-wing authoritarian populism (Simon & Moltz, 2022); populist authoritarian-inclining regimes (Rockman, 2019); and illiberalism (de Sa e Silva, 2022). In addressing the impact on public administration, Bauer, Peters, et al. (2021) work with the concepts of democratic backsliding, populism, and illiberalism. In responding to the call made by those authors, while also addressing the specifics of the Brazilian context, this article will refer to illiberalism and to democratic backsliding, which are found to better situate and characterize the Bolsonaro government.

10Bolsonaro operates within a framework of illiberal democracy, which Fareed Zakaria identified back in the 1990s (Zakaria, 1997). Zakaria sets apart the idea and practice of free and fair elections from that of constitutional liberalism, where leaders abide by fundamental constitutional rules and the principles of freedom and equality. Hence, electoral processes may be of a competitive nature, but the practice of government challenges the very principles that lay the foundation of a liberal democratic system, such as those of equality before the law and the rights of minorities. Bolsonaro has attacked women’s rights, indigenous rights, and LGBTQ rights, while supporting repressive police forces that perform summary executions (de Abreu, 2022).

11The implementation of an illiberal agenda has occurred within a gradual process of democratic backsliding. Bermeo (2016) defines democratic backsliding as “the state-led debilitation or elimination of the political institutions sustaining an existing democracy” (p. 6). Bolsonaro has continuously challenged the institutional foundations of the Brazilian democracy and republic by confronting the Supreme Court and the work of his own federal institutions — such as those monitoring deforestation or in charge of approving Covid vaccines — and more recently has cast doubt over the Brazilian electoral system. Despite having been brought to power through free and fair elections, Bolsonaro seeks to promote democratic backsliding by further weakening the existing — and fragile — checks and balances of Brazilian democracy, among which are the institutions of the federal administration and their career civil servants. It is in this larger context of illiberalism and democratic backsliding in Brazil that this article will seek to analyze dismantling.

The policy dismantling framework and its application to Bolsonaro’s Brazil

12The policy dismantling literature took root long before illiberal leaders became a notable trend in world politics. The collective work published by Michael Bauer, Andrew Jordan, Christoffer Green-Pendersen, and Adrienne Héritier in 2012 originates in the social policy dismantling processes that began prior to the 2008 financial crisis and which were further magnified by it. Their collective work drew from Paul Pierson’s idea of dismantling, published in the 1990s (Bauer et al., 2012). At that point, policy dismantling mostly referred to the extinction or reduction of policy instruments in a context of fiscal constraints.

13Bauer and colleagues understood that policy dismantling could provide a useful framework for dismantling processes outside of the social policy field. In their 2012 book, they included environmental policy beside social policy to test their proposed framework. The authors propose a distinction between different types of policy dismantling strategies: active dismantling, dismantling by default, symbolic dismantling, and dismantling by arena shifting. Their definition also encompasses two possibilities of policy dismantling: direct changes in the policy per se — in their density or intensity — or indirect changes that affect policy capacities. In other words, it includes the possibility that dismantling may be pursued by a manipulation of the capacities for policy implementation.

14The framework, as originally developed, sought to resolve an apparent contradiction that seemed particularly puzzling: “why might rational, utility maximizing politicians whose ultimate goal is usually to ensure their own re-election, deliberately and consciously engage in something as potentially unpopular as policy dismantling?” (Bauer et al., 2012, p. 31). Such apparent contradiction, although reasonable in discussions of dismantling in liberal democratic contexts, might actually not be present in democratic backsliding. Working around a narrative of the “deep state” (Abramson, 2017) and accusing civil servants of being partisan, illiberal leaders have openly dismantled previously existing policies as part of a deliberate strategy to please their electoral bases.

15The policy dismantling literature has recently expanded to incorporate analysis of policy change that, rather than deriving from fiscal and neoliberal cuts, instead emerges from the dictations of illiberal leaders. Bauer, Peters and Pierre (2021) argue that populist backsliders “engage in molding the administration into new illiberal forms” (p. 2) by employing five strategies: transforming structure, redistributing resources, taming personnel, sowing illiberal norms, and dismantling accountability. As indicated in this article, the taming of personnel and the dismantling of accountability are deeply connected and self-reinforcing processes.

16Bauer and Becker (2020) look at various examples of how populist backsliders have dealt with public administration. They look at the examples of Hungary, Peru, the United States and Switzerland, where they identify the following takes on the public bureaucracy: capture, dismantling, sabotage, and reform. Their work includes a matrix that crosstabs the populist’s view of the state (positive or negative) with the administrative order in the country (fragile or robust). When the populist holds a negative view of a state that carries a fragile administrative order, dismantling ensues. The authors find this to be the case with Peru under Fujimori. This article will present data indicating that it is also the case with Brazil under Bolsonaro.

17There is a burgeoning literature on policy dismantling in Brazil. Sabourin et al. (2020) were among the first to use the policy dismantling framework to analyze the dismantling of family farming policies, taking note of how such processes have taken root since the impeachment of President Rousseff. Their work has been followed by other scholars who have embraced the concept of policy dismantling to signify the phenomena they were observing in their fields of expertise. Recent research on policy dismantling in Brazil under Bolsonaro has spanned the fields of environmental policy (Barbosa et al., 2021), agroecology (Niederle et al., 2022), indigenous policy (Barros Soares & Grant Baines, 2021), and higher education (Florencio de Aguiar, 2022), to mention only a few. A forthcoming edited volume gathers the works of more than a dozen authors who have collected data and analyzed processes of policy dismantling in fields as diverse as innovation policies (Cavalcante, 2023), health policies (Palotti et al., 2023), women’s policies (Tokarski et al., 2023), and poverty-reduction policies (Tomazini, 2023; Direito et al., 2023), among others.

18Scholars have embraced the policy dismantling framework proposed by Bauer and colleagues and have applied it to the analysis of recent policy change in Brazil. In all of those works, the policy dismantling framework is applied with the purpose of analyzing the reduction in the density and/or intensity of the policy and its instruments. Of lesser prominence in this growing body of literature is the analysis of how policy dismantling has been accomplished through manipulation of policy capacities. Wu, Ramesh and Howlett (2015) propose that policy capacities can be found at the individual, organizational, and system levels. The stock of capacity to be found at the individual level in a particular government can best be captured by research on public bureaucracy.

Manipulating policy capacity by targeting the bureaucracy

19The bureaucracy is both an important part of the state administrative structure and an autonomous body of actors in the policy process (Bauer, Peters & Pierre, 2021). However, the conservative discourse built around public service portrays the bureaucracy as producing too little, earning too much, and being averse to change. It is no coincidence that, in the education literature, teachers and their unions are often identified as obstacles to education reform (Moe, 2016). Illiberal populist leaders have particularly bashed the bureaucracy, accusing it of representing “the deep state” (Lofgren, 2016) and of not catering to the will of the people.

20When Bolsonaro took office on January 1st, 2019, he inherited a large, professional, and well-established federal machinery. The Brazilian federal state had been capable of enacting Bolsa Familia, the world’s largest conditional cash transfer program, reaching 14 million poor families (Morais de Sa e Silva, 2017). Brazil also counts on a universal health system, SUS, which makes healthcare available free of charge to every Brazilian citizen, anywhere in the country, including ample immunization. Brazil has a network of 69 federal universities, which offer free and high-quality undergraduate and graduate education. The set of institutions and policies is quite substantial and although no one in Brazil would claim that they are perfect, many of them were successful enough to attract international attention and to serve as the basis for experience-sharing with other countries of the Global South (Porto de Oliveira, 2019).

21Unlike the Peruvian example of dismantling, provided by Bauer and Becker (2020), in which a populist’s negative view of the state meets a weak administrative order, Bolsonaro met an administrative order that was well-established. On the one hand, like Fujimori, he set the country on a course for neoliberal administrative reforms under the guidance of his Minister of the Economy. But beyond pleasing the market, Bolsonaro also adopted an ideological agenda that collided with much of what the Brazilian state had been doing when it came to public policies: environmental protection, social inclusion, racial and gender equality, and science-based public health.

  • 4 Brehm & Gates (1999, p. 21) define work as devoting “extraordinary effort towards accomplishing pol (...)

22In this context of potential conflict between the bureaucracy and an elected but illiberal president, several scholars have attempted to predict or depict the outcome of this relational process. Guedes-Neto and Peters (2021) took on the charge of empirically finding, by means of experimental methods, whether civil servants in Brazil would work, shirk, or use sabotage4 (Brehm & Gates, 1999) when told to carry out undemocratic projects. Their research involved municipal civil servants in two state capitals of Brazil and indicated that, when presented with hypothetical undemocratic projects, bureaucrats at the municipal level would mostly opt for shirking. In a similar fashion, Morais de Sa e Silva (2021) finds that South-South cooperation projects under the Bolsonaro administration were being dismantled at a slower pace than expected due to bureaucratic momentum. Bureaucrats at various agencies continued operating South-South cooperation projects despite the government’s reversal of the previous pro-South foreign policy. Looking at similar questions during the Michel Temer administration (2016-2018), which followed the impeachment process of Dilma Rousseff, Schuster et al. (2021) find that ‘public service motivated’ (PSM) bureaucrats were more likely to resist illegitimate policies. However, the authors hypothesized that, in the long run, PSM bureaucrats would give up resisting and would eventually resort to exit.

23Despite bureaucrats’ willingness to shirk in hypothetical undemocratic situations and to mount resistance during the Temer administration, their experience under Bolsonaro took new, more dramatic contours. Peci (2021), Lotta et al. (2022), and Borges and Morais de Sa e Silva (2022) have published the most recent studies on the bureaucratic experience under Bolsonaro. Lotta and colleagues identify and classify the mechanisms used by the Bolsonaro administration to control and oppress the federal bureaucracy: formal and informal mechanisms exerted individually or collectively on the bureaucracy. Borges and Morais de Sa e Silva (2022) similarly identifies patterns of oppression, highlighting the establishment of a collective climate of fear, resulting from individual cases of moral and institutional harassment. Peci (2021), in turn, identifies how Bolsonarism has entered the federal bureaucracy through the appointment of military and police officers in high government positions. To be fair, Peci provides a reminder that bureaucrats in specific sectors have willingly collaborated with the Bolsonaro administration in exchange for status and higher pay.

24In seeking to understand Bolsonaro’s strategies of policy dismantling by capacity manipulation, this article will present data collected directly from Brazilian federal employees from 2019 to 2021. The section below will introduce the methods used in the research. It will be followed by an analytical section that presents the common patterns identified, allowing for the depiction of how individual policy capacities have been eroded in the Bolsonaro administration through the intimidation and disarrangement of the federal bureaucracy.

Data and methods

  • 5 Research approved on May 14th, 2019, under IRB number 10522.

25As part of a larger, multi-year research project, current and former federal employees participated in an online survey and in a 1-1.5-hour semi-structured interview conducted via Zoom.5 As indicated above, the survey included 337 respondents, of which 129 have been interviewed. Research participants were not part of a representative or purposive sample. The Brazilian government does not facilitate access to databases with contact information for the federal bureaucracy, thereby impeding the design of representative samples for research that is not developed by government research institutions. Consequently, this research project used a snowball sample, based on promotion of the survey via social media. The survey questionnaire was piloted during the summer of 2019 with a small group of federal civil servants at Brazil’s National School of Public Administration (ENAP). The initial questionnaire was also discussed with public policy professors and researchers based in Brazil. After adjustments were made, the survey was widely distributed.

26Even though this was not a representative sample, there was significant diversity in terms of the federal careers and federal institutions represented in survey responses. The following tables give a sense of such representation. In both tables, there is a good number of respondents in the “other” category, which resulted in a long list of institutions and careers that respondents typed into the survey. Among the 337 survey respondents, 240 are career civil servants. About half of these are concentrated in two federal careers: Specialist in Public Policy and Government Management (EPPG) and Technical Analyst of Social Policy (ATPS). The concentration of respondents in those two careers may help to explain, as discussed later in the article, the recourse to exit, as both careers, especially the former, allow their members to move between federal institutions.

  • 6 One or more options could be selected.

Table 1. Respondents’ current and former work institutions6

Answer

%

Count

1

Other

22.61%

135

2

Ministry of the Economy

12.06%

72

3

Ministry of Education

11.89%

71

4

Ministry of Citizenship (formerly Ministry of Social Development)

10.22%

61

5

Ministry of Health

10.22%

61

6

Ministry of Justice

8.54%

51

7

Ministry of Women, Family and Human Rights

8.21%

49

8

Center of Government (Casa Civil)

6.20%

37

9

Presidency’s General Secretariat

3.69%

22

10

Ministry of Foreign Affairs

3.52%

21

11

Ministry of Science, Technology and Communication

2.85%

17

Total

100%

597

Source : The Author

  • 7 Respondents who had worked in the federal government only as political appointees were not asked th (...)

Table 2. Respondents’ federal careers7

Answer

%

Count

1

Others

28.75%

69

2

Technical Analyst of Social Policies

28.33%

68

3

Specialist in Public Policy and Government Management

26.25%

63

4

Diplomat

6.67%

16

5

Finance and Accounting Analyst

3.75%

9

6

Planning and Budget Analyst

2.08%

5

7

Career in the Judiciary

1.67%

4

8

Attorney General’s Office

1.25%

3

9

Career in the Legislature

0.83%

2

10

Foreign commerce analyst

0.42%

1

Total

100%

240

Source : The Author

27Survey respondents were asked to provide their email address if they agreed to be contacted for a follow-up interview. Interviews were conducted during the spring of 2021, therefore more than two years after Bolsonaro had taken office. The interviews were particularly telling for the purpose of the research questions raised in this article. Various interviewees, particularly those still in the federal government, had to be provided with several reassurances that their identities would not be revealed.

28Even though the sample size and the snowball sampling method are limiting factors for possibilities of generalization, participants’ responses were impactful enough to allow for the identification of patterns and structural trends, regardless of the career, institution, or public policy pertaining to the participant.

29Interviews were analyzed using the NVivo software, which allows for coding and text queries. It is important to highlight that the terms used in the text queries and coding process were not the direct subject of specific interview questions. Instead, coded themes were spontaneously volunteered by respondents. The coding process, in turn, generated new codes related to career decisions and interviewees’ perceptions, following a grounded theory approach (Charmaz, 2006). Quotes reported in this article have been translated by the author from Portuguese to English.

Data analysis: capacity manipulation by intimidation and disarrangement of the bureaucracy

30Elite Squad is one of the Brazilian movies that made it to international movie theaters in the late 2000s. It presents the story of Captain Nascimento, the leader of an elite squad in Rio de Janeiro, tasked with combating crime at any cost. In an infamous line and scene, Nascimento violently grabs a new recruit who is not able to handle the training and says: “ask me to quit, ask me to quit” (pede pra sair). The scene portrays the actor, Wagner Moura, grabbing the recruit by his collar, shouting, and slapping him on the face multiple times. In Brazil, the scene has become a meme for any situation in which someone is forced to opt out. In theory, it is the individual’s choice. In practice, it was coercion and violence that forced him/her to leave. Violent training methods in military and police academies are one of the many enduring legacies of Brazil’s years of military dictatorship (1964-1985).

31As the data below indicates, the mechanics of capacity manipulation in Brazil have involved the intimidation and disarrangement of the bureaucracy, materialized through three mutually reinforcing processes: bureaucratic reshuffling; mistrust of, and contempt for, civil servants; and fear.

Bureaucratic reshuffling

  • 8 Participant observation.

32When President Rousseff was impeached in 2016 and replaced by her Vice-President, Michel Temer, it was common to hear among the federal bureaucracy that they would resist policy dismantling8. In fact some did do this, possibly with the help of a broader political context that limited Temer’s reach. Having become President under questionable circumstances, Temer focused his 2.5 years in government on two main agendas: labor reform and pension reform. He succeeded in the former and failed in the latter. There was nothing else central to Temer’s commitment to the economic powers that saw him rise to office. The bureaucracy could, in some sectors, continue policy as usual. In human rights, for instance, Temer appointed a highly respected scholar, Flavia Piovesan. She was able, among other achievements, to raise the institutional status of the department of LGBTQ rights at the Ministry of Human Rights. In foreign policy, Temer sustained his predecessor’s foreign policy stances, committed to join the OECD, and even sustained previous levels of South-South cooperation projects (Marcondes & Mawdsley, 2017), as a result of what I have called ‘bureaucratic momentum’ (Morais de Sa e Silva, 2021).

33After the impeachment process, which many have called a coup, various federal employees decided either to leave the federal service or to move to a different institution. The reason given by some was that they were not willing to collaborate with what they perceived to be an illegitimate government. Others conversely decided to remain in their positions in order to ensure that they provided continuity to the policies they were working with. As shown in Table 1, only 29% of all respondents remained in the same position and agency between the impeachment process in 2016 and the 2018 elections.

Table 3. Career decisions between the 2016 impeachment and the 2018 elections

Answer

%

Count

1

I remained in the same position and agency

29.04%

106

2

I moved to another agency

16.99%

62

3

I changed teams but remained in the same agency

16.44%

60

4

Other

11.51%

42

5

I asked to have my appointment terminated

10.68%

39

6

Superiors terminated my appointment

7.67%

28

7

I took a leave to study

7.67%

28

Total

100%

365

Source : The Author

34This was the beginning of a process of ‘bureaucratic reshuffling’, in which the bureaucracy is either purposively moved around or bureaucrats opt to leave their positions. The following quote reflects how this is not simply the result of individual choices and preferences, but also reflects a collective process, a shared perception of how the political context has become dangerous or inappropriate for work.

  • 9 All identifiable information has been removed, including the names of institutions and public polic (...)

Several of our colleagues at the Ministry of A9 did what they could to move a lot of people, right after the [2016] coup, because they knew those people would be persecuted. Many of us threw those ‘life saver floats’ to rescue people (interview 04).

35The feeling of discomfort and uneasiness that led many to leave their original positions after the 2016 impeachment was expressed by several respondents, as reproduced below. The quotes point to an interesting combination of two elements, which also appear connected in processes occurring in the Bolsonaro administration: many of those who seek to leave their original positions and institutions look for new places where they can do invisible work, which is thought to grant them some degree of protection.

I suffered a lot of persecution at that time and I got really upset. They offered me a political appointment at the Ministry of A. I did not want that position. I wanted to be left alone. I do not want to set foot at [Ministry] B, I do not want to monitor any policy anymore (interview 104).

[I moved to a place where] I basically worked with human resources issues that would come up, decisions on the training of civil servants, you know? Very bureaucratic and administrative issues, you know? (interview 9).

36As the table below indicates, the reshuffling continued in the Bolsonaro administration, with only 30.97% of respondents reporting that they had remained in the same position and institution since the 2018 elections. Exit took many forms: for some, it meant moving to a different department, as some careers restrict movement to other institutions. For others, exit took the form of a temporary leave to study. Others took more drastic measures and asked to be transferred to a different agency or a different city. There were also a few extreme cases of individuals asking for unpaid leave to work outside of the public sector or in a different country.

  • 10 Respondents were allowed to choose more than one option.

Table 4. Career decisions after the 2018 elections10

Answer

%

Count

1

I remained in the same position and agency

30.97%

105

2

Other

15.93%

54

3

I moved to another agency

15.04%

51

4

I changed teams but remained in the same agency

13.57%

46

5

I asked to have my appointment terminated

8.85%

30

6

I took a leave to study

8.55%

29

7

Superiors terminated my appointment

7.08%

24

Total

100%

339

Source : The Author

37The search for exit and invisibility is now also strongly related to survival:

All civil servants [from my former department] left and went to other departments. I negotiated my transfer to another area, which did not work with a topic of my personal interest, but that is what was possible at that time. (…) You keep trying to find a place where it is possible to survive, right? This is the feeling that I have. (...) So I think my decision to move had to do with that: a search for a place where it is possible to work with some sense of dignity, that is the bottom line (interview 8).

The simple fact of not being in Brasilia allows me to work in peace. So I am not under all the pressure, but I think those who are in Brasilia, and who work with human rights policies, are suffering much more, because they are tied and they cannot work (interview 21).

Among colleagues of my time there, everyone has left. Everyone has left. Of my former team, only one stayed [in the agency], but he changed programs and went to work with policy A. He left the B program and ran away to the A program. He says: ‘here I am quiet’. So he is a bit distant. My other colleague ran away to the Institute C, another one went to Institute D. So everyone is now scattered around different agencies. But everyone is quiet. Everyone is quiet and doing their countdown to retire, quietly. Nobody says anything (interview 30).

38Various respondents justified their decisions on the basis of dismantling processes that they saw occurring in their agencies and which they could not stand to witness. Interestingly and unfortunately, this created a vicious cycle in which the dismantling of policy instruments led to the bureaucracy exiting, thereby creating conditions for further dismantling.

After a year of organizing activities for the Conference on E, I realized that I had to leave Ministry E, because I was not standing the dismantling of various things we had built in previous years. There was something very depressive happening there (interview 14).

I left the execution, the implementation of public policies, right? In the past, I worked with conceiving, designing F policies. Nowadays I do not see room for that, it is not viable. Someone like myself is out, is not allowed into the Ministry F. (…) It is another kind of approach. So now I do G, which is a backstage kind of work, a field that does not make things happen immediately. It is work in the backstage, taking notes, building memory of the reversals that are happening (interview 16).

In a context in which the agendas for which I used to work are being weakened, the decision to leave [the government and the country] was an easy decision. (…) Nowadays, to return to Brazil is not an option. To return to the government is not an option (interview 23).

39A counter-argument might be made that personnel turnover is inherent to the Brazilian federal administration and that the careers most represented in the article’s sample give individuals the possibility of moving between agencies. Lopez and Silva (2020) present data indicating what they call the bureaucratic carrousel in political appointments. But even if some turnover had been identified prior to 2016, it will be argued here — especially in political appointments — that the reasons behind bureaucrats choosing to exit are now of a different nature. In addition to seeking invisibility and trying to escape contexts of potential persecution, research participants expressed the perception that the Bolsonaro government nurtured mistrust of, and contempt for, civil servants.

Mistrust of, and contempt for, civil servants

40When a democratic pluralist leader takes office, changes in high cabinet positions are natural and expected. Changes in mid-level positions may also occur and some institutional reforms may be undertaken in order to realize the vision of the elected leadership. In the case of Bolsonaro’s Brazil, that vision did not include appreciation of the federal civil bureaucracy, which was considered “leftist”, “communist”, or “petista” (supportive of PT, the Workers Party). Bolsonaro promised to “despetizar” the federal government, which meant that he would get rid of those in the government he thought to be Workers Party affiliates. As a matter of fact, during a 2018 campaign rally, Bolsonaro promised to shoot all PT supporters.

41On his third day in office, 3,500 people were dismissed from their federal appointments (Batista, 2019). For those who were not civil servants, this meant having to leave the government. For civil servants, the termination of their appointments meant that they were no longer in senior positions. Interestingly, by the time Bolsonaro took office in 2019, it had been two-and-a-half years since the PT government had ended and a lot of bureaucratic reshuffling had already occurred, as indicated above.

  • 11 Author’s translation.

42On January 3rd, 2019, Onyx Lorenzoni, who had just taken office as Minister of the Center of Government (Casa Civil), tweeted: “We will fire all political appointments working at Casa Civil. We have to have people who are committed to what we represent”11. The mass lay-offs on the third day of the administration were symptomatic of the assumption that no one previously working at the federal government might possibly be committed to ‘what the new administration represented’. The message was one of distrust of everyone who had worked for previous governments, even those who were tenured civil servants.

43On the same day, the Presidency’s official Twitter account (@planalto) tagged Lorenzoni and announced: “We will review issues related to [participatory] Councils. On the executive order, Conselhão [Economic and Social Development Council] has already been extinguished. We will do a detailed review (pente fino) of all the councils within federal administration”. In Brazilian Portuguese, the image of “pente fino”, a thin comb, signifies a strict process of scrutiny meant to detect parasites. In April 2019, Paulo Guedes, Minister of the Economy, alluded to civil servants as ‘the enemy’ in a cabinet meeting.

44The removal process did not stop in the early months of the Bolsonaro government. As explained by an interviewee, every new appointment goes through a ‘background check’ at the presidency, which is meant to verify not only if an individual is a PT supporter, but also if he/she had a political appointment during any of the previous governments. Interviewees expressed perceptions of an environment of generalized mistrust of, and contempt for, civil servants.

My view, which proved to be wrong, was that the Bolsonaro government would slam the door and chop off heads right away. This did not happen, my forecast was wrong. In fact, they did the opposite, they slowly controlled the state machinery, it was a gradual and slow process which resulted in the fact that, nowadays, I do not have a single colleague who occupies a political appointment position in this government. They were removed, one by one, from where they were, because of the positions they had occupied in previous governments. (…) There are military officers at the Cabinet for Institutional Security (GSI) who investigate people’s social network accounts. If anyone says anything that seems left-leaning, they do not approve their appointments (interview 04).

There was some nasty political persecution at the Ministry of I, of civil servants who were ostracized because they were thought to be linked to political parties. All these changes happened because all civil servants were seen with distrust. I had to earn the trust of those who arrived, to convince them I wanted to do a good job and that I was not there to sabotage what was being done (interview 47).

45The rationale for new appointments has not been technical, nor less political, despite the President’s claims about him representing a new era in the federal government.

In fact, there was much dismantling there [the Institute for K] during the Bolsonaro administration. I should not say there was, because it is still occurring. They started replacing superintendents that had been very important, people with 30, 40 years of dedication to policy K, high-level individuals. They have been replaced by movie-makers, friends of members of Congress, etc. Various directors have been fired in recent months (…) It is widespread and objective dismantling and it is not just my opinion, people are being replaced by anyone, you see? At all levels. (…) It is a kind of change without any project, that is what bothers me the most. If you have a project that indeed won the elections and you have control of the situation, that is normal, there is no problem. This is politics, let’s discuss it. But no, there is no project, the project is to dismantle what has been done and this is very evident in what has been happening at Institute K (interview 35).

46As expressed in the quote above, there is a clear connection between the removal of civil servants from certain positions and the intended policy dismantling processes. The idea of purposeful dismantling is present in other interviews, indicating that dismantling in not a means to the enactment of new policies, but is rather the goal in and of itself.

I think there is an explicit project to destroy the state, which is compatible with the authoritarian state that is intended. (…) In some fields, the laws are not being formally struck down, but there is an internal destruction of processes that, in turn, is destroying rights in a way that we do not know how to reverse (interview 41).

We see a lot of paralysis. The Minister is a church pastor. A pastor who had no past career in the field of I. He was supposedly linked to a university, but he was just a professor there, he was not part of the university’s administration. He was a church pastor. (…) So it is a policy of dismantling, of not doing anything (interview 58).

I worked in this sector until the beginning of 2019. Precisely until January 2019, when Secretariat H was extinguished. The General Coordination where I worked from 2006 to 2016 — and, in fact, the whole Department — were extinguished at that time. There have been no policies for H at the Ministry of I since then. The entire department for J policies was also extinguished. Those policies were in a limbo for a long time, for the entire year of 2019. They were in a limbo! They formally still existed, but in practice there was no specific sector responsible for them (interview 47).

47Contempt for career civil servants went hand-in-hand with praise for military officers, who replaced civil personnel in key government positions. At the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, Bolsonaro appointed an Army General, Eduardo Pazuello, as the country’s Minister of Health. Nozaki (2021, p. 10) notes the substantial increase in the number of military officers occupying political appointments in the Bolsonaro government, from 2,765 in the last year of the Temer administration to 6,157 in 2020 under Bolsonaro. At the time of the study, there were ten military Ministers. Nozaki (2021) calls it “the militarization of public administration in Brazil”. Peci (2021) also identified the replacement of professional bureaucracies by military officers, noting that the latter were part of structural coalitions that sustained Bolsonarism.

Fear

48The table below represents the frequency of some terms when interviewees were asked about their current career paths. The numbers are illustrative of how present some issues have been in the experience of some civil servants, including dismantling, fear, persecution, suffering, leaves of absence, and firings (“exonerações”).

Table 5. Text queries of interviews

Transcribed interviews (41)

All interview notes (129)

Codes

Number of times term is used in interviews

Number of interviews in which term is mentioned

Number of times term is used in interviews

Number of interviews in which term is mentioned

Leave of absence

77

21

94

50

Fear

49

19

70

41

To fire

41

12

58

28

Dismantling

39

13

44

25

To suffer

39

17

50

31

Persecute/persecution

34

33

50

39

Harassment

20

8

26

14

Tough_Heavy (pesado)

17

10

16

10

Destruction

13

7

13

8

To embarrass

12

9

11

6

Worry

10

5

12

8

Authoritarian

3

3

12

12

Discomfort

3

2

5

5

PAD (disciplinary inquiry)

3

2

11

7

Source : The Author

49Fear and worry are common elements in many interviews. They are expressed either as a direct consequence of an experience of the research participant or as a reflection of cases of persecution and intimidation experienced by colleagues. In general, there seems to be an overall institutional climate of worry, retraction, and self-censorship.

Currently, there is a process of curtailing our individual freedom to express as civil servants; there are various agencies in which people are being persecuted for any kind of public statement in opposition to the government. I remember, for instance, that I used to go to street demonstrations, I had my opinions, and I expressed myself on social media, in protests, etc. Nowadays, I do not say anything anymore, because I feel there is monitoring of what we say in private forums. And there is real risk, political persecution is the least that may happen (interview 7).

Today I was shocked by the news that professors at the Federal University of Pelotas will be administratively prosecuted because they criticized the President. It is shocking that we are taking this route (interview 13).

They tried to end policy L. (…) There are groups who are against L books, so I am still working in a landmine. So I started doing work that is more technical and (…). We know there is a political background, so more and more I cannot express myself and I have less influence on what is decided, even though I have been working as an advisor. I do not have any freedom and I need to be careful all the time, with what I say, with how I say it, everything (interview 47).

Things were bad during the Temer administration but nothing compared to Bolsonaro. The ability to make things worse seems endless! Now everything is very fragile. (...) The difference is that now we are afraid. Before we were afraid in relation to our career: ‘well, maybe I will lose my senior position (DAS), maybe I will be stigmatized’ (…). But now we (are) afraid of being really persecuted. I made a presentation about a proposal that existed to amend the Constitution. The person who invited me to make the presentation later called me and said: ‘I was worried about you, because you are very critical to the current fiscal rules. To which I replied: Look, of course we are all afraid, but we also have courage (interview 51).

50The testimonies given by several participants, as reflected in the quotes above, coincide with the high number of cases of harassment reported by ARCA, the National Association of Public Careers for Development. Up to 15 August 2022, 1,334 cases of harassment in the Bolsonaro administration had been reported by federal civil servants to ARCA’s online platform.12

51This oppressive setting and the way it pushes civil servants to exit their positions, to censor their own ideas and to make their professional work invisible, constitute a process of erosion of individual policy capacities which, in turn, contributes to broader and more pervasive processes of policy dismantling.

Discussion: the policy dismantling framework in a context of democratic backsliding

52The policy dismantling literature saw considerable conceptual development in the 2010s, both with the enunciation of a definition of policy dismantling and the introduction of a framework of analysis (Bauer & Knill, 2012). Those works emerged from important research by European-based scholars who had witnessed not only the retrenchment of the welfare state (Pierson, 1994), but also new kinds of policy reductions that followed the 2008 financial crisis. Despite the specific context and historical moment in which this body of policy theory emerged, it has been picked up by scholars working across different policy fields and spaces (Burns & Tobin, 2020; Grisa & Niederle, 2021; O’Neil & Gibbs, 2020). More recently, the policy dismantling literature has been of particular interest and relevance to Brazilian and Brazilianist policy scholars, who have resorted to its concepts to analyze and make sense of policy change taking place since the country’s democracy began backsliding.

53The concept of policy dismantling, as expressed by Bauer and Knill (2012), opens two avenues for the dismantling process: “it can involve changes to these core elements of policy and/or it can be achieved by manipulating the capacities to implement and supervise them” (p. 35). The manipulation of policy capacities at the individual level, following the typology proposed by Wu, Ramesh, and Howlett (2018), can be observed by studies of the bureaucracy.

54In Bolsonaro’s Brazil, many federal bureaucrats are no longer working in their places of expertise as a result of three inter-related and mutually reinforcing processes: bureaucratic reshuffling, mistrust of — and contempt for — civil servants, and fear. As bureaucrats are either actively reshuffled or ‘voluntarily’ choosing to exit, the conditions for policy dismantling become more acute. As recounted earlier by interviewee 47, eventually there is no one left to maintain a public policy. There is no one with the analytical capacity and the institutional memory of how the policy works, what policy instruments are most appropriate, or what stakeholders should be considered. Much is lost, as there is barely anyone left to operate the policy. In an adaptation and further expansion of the concept provided by Bauer & Knill (2012), this process can be depicted in the following analytical scheme:

Figure 1. Capacity manipulation in a context of democratic backsliding

Figure 1. Capacity manipulation in a context of democratic backsliding

Based on Bauer & Knill (2012) and Wu, Ramesh, & Howlett (2018).

55In developing countries such as Brazil, capacity manipulation can have profound and long-term consequences. Capacity-building, in the first place, had always been a challenging and costly process, often involving development cooperation with multilateral and bilateral donors. The construction of policy capacities in countries such as Brazil is still an ongoing process in most — if not all — policy areas. Therefore, the manipulation of policy capacities in a direction that provokes their weakening and disarrangement represents the reversal of capacity-building processes that were difficult to achieve and are still very much incomplete. In Brazil, it was not until the early 2000s that the federal government was able to build a professional bureaucracy across various federal agencies (Gaetani, 2022).

56Also, unlike the rationale used by Bauer and Knill (2012, p. 33), policy dismantling is not simply the antonym of policy expansion in a context of democratic backsliding. Rather, it both embodies and constitutes a deeper process of erosion of capacity, of institutions, and ultimately of the democratic state. Charging the bureaucracy with ‘deep state’ accusations goes hand in hand with not respecting long-established institutions and their rules. The choice of policy dismantling carries greater meaning and encapsulates processes that might not be found in the so-called advanced democracies.

Concluding remarks

57Building on a burgeoning literature on policy dismantling in Brazil, and based on data collected from federal civil servants in the country, this article sought to explore whether the policy dismantling concept and framework were relevant and applicable to contexts of democratic backsliding. It also sought to identify whether those contexts provided new analytical elements that could help one to understand policy dismantling taking place beyond advanced democracies.

58This research project began in the summer of 2019, six months after the inauguration of Jair Bolsonaro in the Brazilian presidency. Data collection covered two years and involved a snowball survey of 337 former and current federal employees, of whom 129 took part in semi-structured interviews. Interviews were coded and analyzed with the aid of the NVivo software.

59Based on the concept of policy dismantling, as expressed by Bauer and Knill (2012), which defines capacity manipulation as one of the avenues for policy dismantling, it is argued that capacity manipulation at the individual level can be observed in studies of the bureaucracy. In the case of Brazil under Bolsonaro, collected data indicates that capacity manipulation at the individual level has involved three processes: bureaucratic reshuffling, mistrust of and contempt for civil servants, and fear (see Figure 1). These inter-related and mutually reinforcing processes have moved bureaucrats away from their policies of expertise, hence depleting the stock of individual policy capacity available to operate these policies and further contributing to their dismantling.

60Looking beyond Brazil, and considering the larger framework of policy analysis, this article seeks to bring together three broad academic fields: comparative politics, policy, and public administration. As difficult as the crossing of interdisciplinary boundaries may be, this is a necessary conversation for those attempting to make sense of the disruptions brought about by democratic backsliding in various countries.

61As the policy dismantling literature continues to grow in Brazil, and in other contexts of democratic backsliding, there is a need to develop a conceptual toolbox that may help researchers and practitioners to make sense of policy changes. For instance, could policy dismantling take place in fields where the administration has not enunciated or clearly articulated intended policy changes? Might policy dismantling be the “natural” result of institutional and state erosion? How can research measure these silent forms of policy dismantling? These are among the many important questions to be tackled by policy researchers who, like myself, have found, in the policy dismantling framework, a useful reference for analysis.

62In Brazil, the concept of policy dismantling has been embraced by scholars for what it means, academically and literally. There is an undeniable normative aspect in this line of research, which captures a sense of mourning for what has been lost as a result of dismantling. While other scholars have looked at the policies that have been reduced or terminated, this article has highlighted the people who have lived with dismantling in the administration. Their experiences and viewpoints allow us to picture a dimension of dismantling which is not as salient in the literature but which is just as relevant if capacity rebuilding and “democratic front-sliding” (Ginsburg & Huq, 2022) are again to be on the horizon.

Top of page

Bibliography

Cavalcante, P. (2023). Dirigindo na Contramão: expansão e desmonte da política de inovação no Brasil. In A. Gomide, M. A. Leopoldi & M. Morais (Eds.), Desmontes e reconfigurações das políticas públicas no Brasil (2016-2022). Ipea.

Abramson, A. (2017; March 8). Trump’s Allies Keep Talking About the “Deep State”. What’s That? Time.
https://time.com/4692178/donald-trump-deep-state-breitbart-barack-obama/

Avritzer, L. (2019). O pêndulo da democracia. Todavia.

Barbosa, L. G., Alves, M. A. S., & Grelle, C. E. V. (2021). Actions against sustainability: Dismantling of the environmental policies in Brazil. Land Use Policy, 104, 105384.

Barros Soares, L., & Grant Baines, S. (2021). “They are almost humans like us”: Indigenous politics and policy dismantling under Bolsonaro’s government. Revista Videre, 13(28).

Batista, V., Valenç, L., & Silva Pinto, P. (2019, January 4). Governo Bolsonaro exonera mais de 3.500 servidores nos primeiros dias. Correio Braziliense.
https://
www.correiobraziliense.com.br/app/noticia/politica/2019/01/04/interna_politica,728856/governo-bolsonaro-exonera-mais-de-3-500-servidores-nos-primeiros-dias.shtml

Bauer, M., Peters, G., & Pierre, J. (2021). Pathways to administrative resilience: Public bureaucracies ruled by democratic backsliders as a transnational challenge. Publications Office.
https://data.europa.eu/doi/10.2870/752884

Bauer, M. W., & Becker, S. (2020). Democratic Backsliding, Populism, and Public Administration. Perspectives on Public Management and Governance, 3(1), 19-31.

Bauer, M. W., Becker, S., Peters, G., Pierre, J., & Yesilkagit, K. (Eds.). (2021). Democratic backsliding and public administration: How populists in government transform state bureaucracies. Cambridge University Press.

Bauer, M. W., Green-Pedersen, C., Héritier, A., & Jordan, A. (2012). Dismantling public policy: Preferences, strategies, and effects. Oxford University Press.

Bauer, M. W., & Knill, C. (2012). Understanding Policy Dismantling: An Analytical Framework. In M. W. Bauer, A. Jordan, C. Green-Pedersen & A. Héritier (Eds.), Dismantling Public Policy (pp. 30–51). Oxford University Press.

Bauer, M. W., Peters, B. G., Pierre, J., Yesilkagit, K., & Becker, S. (2021). Introduction: Populists, Democratic Backsliding, and Public Administration. In M. W. Bauer, B. G. Peters, J. Pierre, K. Yesilkagit & S. Becker (Eds.), Democratic Backsliding and Public Administration (1st ed., pp. 1-21). Cambridge University Press.

Bermeo, N. (2016). On Democratic Backsliding. Journal of Democracy, 27(1), 5-19.

Borges, C.; Morais de Sa e Silva, M. (2022). Clima de medo em plena democracia: Percepções da burocracia federal [Fear in a context of democracy: Perceptions of the federal bureaucracy]. In J. C. Cardoso Jr., F. Barbosa da Silva, M. Florencio de Aguiar & T. Lemos Sandim (Eds.), Assédio Institucional no Brasil: Avanço do autoritarismo e desconstrução do Estado (pp. 431-478). Afipea and Edupub.

Brehm, J. O., & Gates, S. (1999). Working, shirking, and sabotage: Bureaucratic response to a democratic public. University of Michigan Press.

Burns, C., & Tobin, P. (2020). Crisis, Climate Change and Comitology: Policy Dismantling Via the Backdoor? JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies, 58(3), 527–544.

Charmaz, K. (2006). Constructing grounded theory: A practical guide through qualitative analysis. Sage.

de Abreu, A. (2022). O instrumento: A bolsonarização da Polícia Rodoviária Federal, Revista Piauí, 191.
https://piaui.folha.uol.com.br/materia/o-instrumento/

de Sa e Silva, F. (2022). Law and Illiberalism: A Sociolegal Review and Research Road Map. Annual Review of Law and Social Science, 18(1), 193-209.

Direito, D., Koga, N. M., & Licio, E. C. (2023). (Des)mobilização de capacidades na instrumentação de políticas: o caso do Cadastro Único para programas sociais. In A. Gomide, M. A. Leopoldi & M. Morais (Eds.), Desmontes e reconfigurações das políticas públicas no Brasil (2016-2022). Ipea.

Florencio de Aguiar, M. (2022). "Sem norte" e "destruída por dentro": A CAPES rumo ao "Estado zero". In J. C. Cardoso Jr., F. Barbosa da Silva, M. Florencio de Aguiar & T. Lemos Sandim (Eds.), Assédio Institucional no Brasil: Avanço do autoritarismo e desconstrução do Estado (pp. 580-627). Afipea and Edupub.

Gaetani, F. (2022, August 16). A reforma administrativa de Lula. Congresso em Foco.
https://congressoemfoco.uol.com.br/blogs-e-opiniao/forum/a-reforma-administrativa-de-lula/

Ginsburg, T., & Huq, A. Z. (2022, April 27). The Pragmatics of Democratic “Front-Sliding”. University of Chicago, Public Law Working Paper N° 804. SSRN Electronic Journal.

Grisa, C., & Niederle, P. A. (2021). Paradigms, Institutional Changes and Policy Dismantling in the Mercosur Specialized Meeting of Family Farming. Lua Nova: Revista de Cultura e Política, 112, 251-282.

Guedes-Neto, J., & Peters, B. G. (2021). Working, Shirking or Sabotage in Times of Democratic Backsliding: An Experimental Study in Brazil. In M. W Bauer, S. Becker, B. G Peters, J. Pierre & K. Yesilkagit (Eds.), Democratic Backsliding and Public Administration: How Populists in Government Transform State Bureaucracies (pp. 221-245). Cambridge University Press.

Knill, C., Steinebach, Y., Adam, C., & Hurka, S. (2020). Policy dismantling, accumulation and performance. In G. Capano & M. Howlett, A Modern Guide to Public Policy. (pp. 242-264). Edward Elgar.

Levitsky, S., & Ziblatt, D. (2018). How democracies die. Broadway Books.

Lofgren, M. (2016). The deep state: The fall of the constitution and the rise of a shadow government. Viking.

Lopez, F., & Silva, T. (2020). O Carrossel Burocrático nos Cargos de Confiança: Análise de sobrevivência dos cargos de direção e assessoramento superior do Executivo federal brasileiro (1999-2017). Texto para Discussão.

Lotta, G. S., Lima, I. A., Pedote, J. P., Silveira, M. P., Fernandez, M., Guaranha, O. L. C., (2022). Burocracia na mira do governo: os mecanismos de opressão operados para moldar a burocracia. In J. C. Cardoso Jr., F. Barbosa da Silva, M. Florencio de Aguiar & T. Lemos Sandim (Eds.), Assédio Institucional no Brasil: Avanço do autoritarismo e desconstrução do Estado (pp. 457-483). Afipea and Edupub.

Marcondes, D., & Mawdsley, E. (2017). South–South in retreat? The transitions from Lula to Rousseff to Temer and Brazilian development cooperation. International Affairs, 93(3), 681-699.

Moe, T. M. (2016). Teachers Unions in the United States: The Politics of Blocking. In S. Wiborg & T. M. Moe (Eds.), The Comparative Politics of Education: Teachers Unions and Education Systems around the World (pp. 24-55). Cambridge University Press.

Morais de Sa e Silva, M. (2021). South–South cooperation resilience in Brazil: presidential leadership, institutions and bureaucracies. Third World Quarterly, 42(10), 1-19.

Morais de Sa e Silva, M. (2017). Poverty Reduction, Education, and the Global Diffusion of Conditional Cash Transfers.Palgrave Macmillan.

Niederle, P., Petersen, P., Coudel, E., Grisa, C., Schmitt, C., Sabourin, E., Schneider, E., Brandenburg, A., & Lamine, C. (2022). Ruptures in the agroecological transitions: Institutional change and policy dismantling in Brazil. The Journal of Peasant Studies, 1-23.

Norris, P., & Inglehart, R. (2019). Cultural Backlash: Trump, Brexit, and Authoritarian Populism (1st ed.). Cambridge University Press.

Nozaki, W. (2021). A militarização da administração pública no Brasil: projeto de nação ou projeto de poder?. Caderno da reforma administrativa, 20.

O’Neil, K., & Gibbs, D. (2020). Sustainability transitions and policy dismantling_ Zero carbon housing in the UK. Elsevier Enhanced Reader. Geoforum, 108, 119-129.

Palotti, P. , Filgueiras, F., Testa, G. (2023). Desmobilização institucional e estilos de governança multinível: o caso da CIT da saúde no governo federal brasileiro. In A. Gomide, M. A. Leopoldi & M. Morais (Eds.), Desmontes e reconfigurações das políticas públicas no Brasil (2016-2022). Ipea.

Peci, A. (2021). Populism and Bureaucratic Frictions: Lessons From Bolsonarism. The Korean Journal of Policy Studies, 36(4), 27-35.

Pierson, P. (1994). Dismantling the welfare state? Reagan, Thatcher, and the politics of retrenchment. Cambridge University Press.

Porto de Oliveira, O. (2019). Brazil Exporting Social Policies: From Local Innovation to a Global Model. Journal of Politics in Latin America, 11(3), 249-271.

Rockman, B. A. (2019). Bureaucracy Between Populism and Technocracy. Administration & Society, 51(10), 1546-1575.

Sabourin, E., Craviotti, C., & Milhorance, C. (2020). The dismantling of family farming policies in Brazil and Argentina. International Review of Public Policy, 2(1).

Schuster, C., Mikkelsen, K. S., Correa, I., & Meyer-Sahling, J.-H. (2021). Exit, Voice, and Sabotage: Public Service Motivation and Guerrilla Bureaucracy in Times of Unprincipled Political Principals. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory.

Simon, C. A., & Moltz, M. C. (2022). Confidence in Merit-Based Public Administration in the Context of Right-Wing Authoritarian Populism. Administration & Society, 54(6), 995-1018.

Tokarski, C. P., Matias, K. A., Pinheiro, L. S., Correa, R. M. S. (2023). De política pública à ideologia de gênero: O processo de (des)institucionalização das políticas para as mulheres de 2003 a 2020. In A. Gomide, M. A. Leopoldi, M. Morais (Eds.), Desmontes e reconfigurações das políticas públicas no Brasil (2016-2022). Ipea.

Tomazini, C. (2023). Adeus Bolsa Família? Ambiguidades e (des)continuidades de uma política à deriva. In A. Gomide, M. A. Leopoldi & M. Morais (Eds.), Desmontes e reconfigurações das políticas públicas no Brasil (2016-2022). Ipea.

Wu, X., Ramesh, M., & Howlett, M. (2015). Policy capacity: A conceptual framework for understanding policy competences and capabilities. Policy and Society34(3-4), 165-171.

Zakaria, F. (1997). The Rise of Illiberal Democracy. Foreign Affairs, 76(6), 22-43.

Top of page

Notes

1 See http://www.planalto.gov.br/ccivil_03/_ato2019-2022/2019/decreto/D9757.htm

2 Author’s emphasis.

3 The research timeframe corresponds to the first three years of the Bolsonaro administration.

4 Brehm & Gates (1999, p. 21) define work as devoting “extraordinary effort towards accomplishing policy”, sabotage as expending “as much effort deliberately undermining the policy objectives of their superiors”, and shirking as “directing effort towards non-policy goals”.

5 Research approved on May 14th, 2019, under IRB number 10522.

6 One or more options could be selected.

7 Respondents who had worked in the federal government only as political appointees were not asked this question.

8 Participant observation.

9 All identifiable information has been removed, including the names of institutions and public policies.

10 Respondents were allowed to choose more than one option.

11 Author’s translation.

12 See http://arcadesenvolvimento.org/assediometro/

Top of page

List of illustrations

Title Figure 1. Capacity manipulation in a context of democratic backsliding
Credits Based on Bauer & Knill (2012) and Wu, Ramesh, & Howlett (2018).
URL http://journals.openedition.org/irpp/docannexe/image/3001/img-1.png
File image/png, 42k
Top of page

References

Bibliographical reference

Michelle Morais de Sá e Silva, Policy dismantling by capacity manipulation in a context of democratic backsliding: The bureaucracy in disarray in Bolsonaro’s BrazilInternational Review of Public Policy, 4:3 | 2022, 272-292.

Electronic reference

Michelle Morais de Sá e Silva, Policy dismantling by capacity manipulation in a context of democratic backsliding: The bureaucracy in disarray in Bolsonaro’s BrazilInternational Review of Public Policy [Online], 4:3 | 2022, Online since 31 December 2022, connection on 12 June 2024. URL: http://journals.openedition.org/irpp/3001; DOI: https://doi.org/10.4000/irpp.3001

Top of page

About the author

Michelle Morais de Sá e Silva

The University of Oklahoma, USA
michelle.morais@ou.edu

Top of page

Copyright

CC-BY-4.0

The text only may be used under licence CC BY 4.0. All other elements (illustrations, imported files) are “All rights reserved”, unless otherwise stated.

Top of page
Search OpenEdition Search

You will be redirected to OpenEdition Search