Article written by 2009 DPDF Revitalizing Development Studies Fellow Rebecca Tarlau.
The Landless Workers’ Movement (MST) has been the principal protagonist developing an alternative educational proposal for rural public schools in Brazil. This article analyzes the MST’s differential success implementing this proposal in municipal and state public schools. The process is both participatory—activists working with government officials to implement MST goals—and contentious—the movement mobilizing support for its education initiatives through various forms of protest. In some locations, the MST has succeeded in institutionalizing a participatory relationship with government actors, while in other regions the MST has a more limited presence in the schools or has been completely banned from participating. Drawing on the concept of coproduction—the active participation of civil society actors in the provision of public goods—the author argues that coproduction is a joint product of high levels of social mobilization and government orientation. The former is necessary in all cases, while the latter can take the form of either a left-leaning or clientelistic government.