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Sixteen - The Landless Rural Workers’ Movement in Brazil and Its Struggles for Access to Law and Justice

from Part Five - Real Legal Utopias: Interrupting the Law

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 August 2023

Boaventura de Sousa Santos
Affiliation:
University of Wisconsin, Madison
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Summary

This chapter analyses the main legal and political strategies used by the Landless Rural Workers’ Movement (MST) in its struggle for law and justice in Brazil. It explains why these legal and political strategies are pursued jointly, and the extent to which they may contribute towards making the law and legal system more sensitive to the claims and social struggles of these workers, particularly those related to the issue of land. It shows that access to law and justice presupposes a broad political process of social transformation. This includes the creation of more substantial forms of social justice and a developing awareness that the law contains many internal contradictions that may eventually be used in the interests of the socially oppressed classes. Social movements fighting for land reform have only become aware of this fact in recent decades but the knowledge has enabled them to supplement their political strategies (such as mass land occupations) with innovative judicial and legal strategies. The resulting interconnection between legal and political initiatives has momentarily strengthened the movement’s objectives, largely due to the intervention of the people’s lawyers, who have liaised between the state legal system and the social movement. In the course of this process, the hegemonic law currently in force has been put to the test.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2023

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