Accepted Paper:

From "Hard" to "Soft" affirmative action: racial diversity and the use of global policy metaphors in the Brazilian private sector  


Rocío Alonso Lorenzo (Instituto Brasileiro da Diversidade)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines how "soft" affirmative action intiatives for the "black" population have been introduced into the Brazilian private sector through voluntary, fragmentary, and overlapping global policy frameworks such as human rights, CSR, ILO conventions, and sustainability goals.

Paper long abstract:

This paper examines how a variety of forms of "soft" affirmative action initiatives have made inroads into the Brazilian private sector through voluntary, and sometimes overlapping, global policy frameworks such as human rights action plans, corporate social responsibility indicators, international labor conventions, and sustainability goals. Since the late 1990s, policies and practices endorsing diversity and affirmative action for Afro-descendants have significantly extended from U.S.-based corporations operating in Brazil to non-U.S. corporations, mostly European and large Brazilian enterprises. Yet, in Brazil, despite the constitutional illegality of racism and the Brazilian government recent endorsement of affirmative action, this has not been made legally mandatory, as a U.S.—"hard"—civil rights approach would suggest. At the same time, many Brazilians oppose affirmative action on the grounds that it challenges the so-called myth of "racial democracy," the belief that there is no racial prejudice in Brazil and that the Brazilian national character is a product of the blend of European, Indigenous, and African elements. Based on fieldwork carried out during 2004 and 2005 among an enterprise network located in São Paulo, this paper will discuss how global policy frameworks, albeit limited, fragmentary, and sometimes controversial, may also act as powerful metaphors, or protecting "institutional umbrellas" for specific stakeholders. Thus, policy-relevant groups such as mangers, consultants, advocators, and activists very often use them in order to make their own cases stronger, particularly, in contexts where legally binding—"hard"—public policy frameworks regarding highly controversial issues are either absent, "undiscussable," or do not operate.

Panel W021
'Soft law' practices, anthropologists and legal scholars