Magalhães R. Enfrentando a pobreza, reconstruindo vínculos sociais: as lições da Ação da Cidadania contra a Fome, a Miséria e pela Vida. [Confronting poverty, reconstructing social ties: lessons of Citizens’ Action Against Hunger, Against Misery, and for Life.] Cadernos de Saúde Pública [Public Health Notebooks] (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) 2002; 18 (Suppl):121-137.

Objectives: Based on an analysis of the project, Citizens’ Action Against Hunger, Against Misery, and for Life that was developed through voluntary actions in Rio de Janeiro the author explores questions concerning misery, social exclusion, and the process of constructing new outlines for public intervention and civic participation.

Methodology:Qualitative. Individual and group interviews.

Results: Citizens’ Action is a movement that proposes an alternative against misery in Brazil, through organization of voluntary committees. This movement intends to develop wider networks than those of more traditional organizations such as the state and political parties: stronger, open, and non-bureaucratic networks. This movement has developed commitments in relation to diverse demands: housing, maintenance of childcare facilities, and creation of work posts. This situation implies development of a new political culture that involves functionaries of the state, housewives, students, retired people, and unemployed people.

The struggle is oriented to breaking down committed voluntary action in order to reclaim responsibility of the state with citizens and to constitute personal linkages between volunteers and beneficiaries as well as between organizations and social groups in a situation of precariousness and need. The program intends to develop a wider solidarity, independent from the state and the market. In this form, a peculiar institutional and societal agreement emerges in the movement of Citizens’ Action, which seeks to consolidate an alternative of intervention against poverty and misery. The army movement, in an implicit manner, puts forth a criticism of those social movements that the opposition characterized as the state by the opposition and the valuation of popular participation as an end in itself, as is also the vision of the welfare state.

Conclusions:In this sense, seeking to overcome dualities and opposition between the state and society, as between those included and excluded, Citizens’ Action contributes to reversing social isolation, consolidating new associative networks, and reviving the concept of public space.

Copyright 2007 University of New Mexico