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Abstract

We analyze the cultural repertoires mobilized by elites to describe "Brazilian people." We rely on survey and in-depth interview data to capture how political, bureaucratic and business elites in Brazil frame poverty and inequality. Our data suggest that elites acknowledge poverty as a structural problem for the State to solve, but remain skeptical on the odds of actual solutions, indicating fatalistic perceptions that categorize the Brazilian poor as unorganized, passive, ignorant, and irrational. Moreover, in their definition of the poor, elites draw a symbolic boundary, separating an active sector (which includes the elites) and a passive one (the "people"). The paper also addresses the effects of such symbolic boundaries on the overall picture of Brazilian inequality.

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