Open Letter from 10,000 U.S. and Global Sociologists in Support of Brazilian Sociology Departments

On April 25th, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, along with his Minister of Education, Abraham Weintraub, declared the government’s intent to “decentralize investments in philosophy and sociology” within public universities, and to shift financial support to “areas that give immediate returns to taxpayers, such as veterinary science, engineering, and medicine.”

As professors, lecturers, graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, and other scholars in sociology and related disciplines at colleges and universities in the United States and worldwide, we write to declare our unwavering support for continued funding for sociology programs at Brazilian universities. We oppose President Bolsonaro’s attempt to disinvest in sociology, or any other program in the humanities or social sciences.

As historical and contemporary sociologists, we understand that the decades-long marketization of higher education has convinced many politicians – in Brazil, in the United States, and globally – that a university education is valuable only insofar as it is immediately profitable. We reject this premise.

The purpose of higher education is not to produce “immediate returns” on investments. The purpose of higher education must always be to produce an educated, enriched society that benefits from the collective endeavor to create human knowledge. Higher education is a purpose in and of itself.

An education in the full range of the arts and sciences is the cornerstone of a liberal arts education. This is as true in Brazil as it is in the United States as it is in any country in the world.

Brazilian sociology departments produce socially engaged and critical thinkers, both in Brazil and worldwide. Brazilian sociologists contribute to the global production of sociological knowledge. They are our colleagues within the discipline and within our shared departments and institutions. When sociologists from abroad conduct research or other academic work in Brazil, we are welcomed by Brazilian sociologists and by their departments. Many of our own students receive world-class training in sociology at Brazilian universities.

President Bolsonaro’s intent to defund sociology programs is an affront to the discipline, to the academy, and, most broadly, to the human pursuit of knowledge. This proposal is ill-conceived, and violates principles of academic freedom that ought to be integral to systems of higher education in Brazil, in the United States, and across the globe. We urge the Brazilian government to reconsider its proposition.

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