Tarlau, R. 2015. Not-so-public contention: Movement strategies, regimes, and the transformation of public institutions in Brazil. Mobilization: An International Quarterly 20.1: 101-121.
This article examines how political regimes structure the strategies activists can effectively
utilize to transform public institutions. Drawing on Tilly’s concept of “regime space” as a
combination of capacity and democracy, the author analyzes the Brazilian Landless Workers
Movement’s (MST) attempt to implement alternative pedagogies in public schools in two diverse contexts: the state of Rio Grande do Sul and the municipality of Santa Maria da Boa Vista, Pernambuco. In Rio Grande do Sul’s high-capacity democratic regime, social movement repertories and partisan politics are effective in transforming schools for a decade, until a rightleaning mobilization ends these initiatives. In contrast, in Santa Maria’s low-capacity nondemocratic regime, the MST engages in a Gramscian war of position and transforms public
schools over multiple administrations. This comparison illustrates the relevance of subnational
regimes in shaping contention, the strengths and weaknesses of diverse activist strategies, and
the importance of not-so-public forms of contention in movement outcomes