Building up Social Capital. A case study from the community Santa Marta, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Scientific Study, 2013

33 Pages, Grade: 1,4


Table Of Contents


Theoretical approaches guiding the case study

Design of the experiment

Social structures of slums

The community Santa Marta

Public Security in the state Rio de Janeiro from the 1980s to 2014

The Police Pacification Units and the UPP Santa Marta

Testing the hypotheses

Experimental evidence



Abstract: The purpose of this paper is to identify and examine the presence of social capital in a slum of Rio de Janeiro city after the implementation of the public security policy that introduced the Police Pacification Units (UPPs) in 2008. Based on fieldwork conducted in the slum Santa Marta, this research presents an analysis of the informal networks of sociability in this community. It was the first community in the city to receive a UPP, which was created to regain territorial control of the slums. This paper demonstrates how solid social networks in slum areas constitute a form of social capital that encourages public safety and thereby facilitates the social order. The ultimate goal is to provide some recommendations to integrate this unique kind of environment into the formal city.

Keywords: social capital, public policy, slum, UPP


Social cohesion is seen as a critical factor for economic prosperity and sustainable development (Grootaert, 1998). Brazil is a developing country that has been profoundly changing with respect to social aspects. The country offers interesting examples of cooperation within society. Democratic values in the region grow even though social crises and political instability are still present.

Coleman (1988) recognizes the importance of social relations and social structures. But he explains that voluntary cooperation easily manifests where there is trust (Coleman, 1990). If there is no confidence in the rules and no moral devotion of people to honor commitments, emerging democracies will not achieve progress.

Since the 1990s, in the assessment of development projects, the World Bank has distinguished four forms of capital: natural, physical, human, and social, which expresses the ability of a society to establish interpersonal trust and collaborative networks with a view towards the production of collectives goods. The World Bank states its concern to strengthen social ties in poor communities and to support economic development projects that generate social capital (Grootaert, 1998).

The city of Rio de Janeiro has been undergoing a transformation, a “cleaning” to host the 2014 Soccer World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games. The issue of public safety has become a priority. Thus, in December 2008, the first Police Pacification Unit (UPP, Unidade de Polícia Pacificadora) was created. The unit was posted in the community Santa Marta, a slum in a prime area of the city.

Police Pacification Units carry out community policing and intend to regain territorial control of the slums. After the installation of the UPP Santa Marta, insecurity decreased and social order improved in this slum. The community Santa Marta has been integrated into the regular urban structure through some projects that accompany the public security policy.

There is a change that reflects the urgency of a partnership with stronger and closer cooperation between slums and the government. An adequate example of recent state-society cooperation is the trustful relationship that has been built between slum dwellers and the policemen of the Police Pacification Unit in Santa Marta.

Nevertheless, there is no data presenting the challenges and weaknesses about this trust-based cooperation. From the facts stated above, the interest and purpose to write this work arose. It is necessary to do research on the Police Pacification Units for the reason that there was a change of the system (the introduction of community policing through UPPs) that induced a change of social relations (policemen and slum dwellers are in close contact).

This paper studies social capital by emphasizing the importance of informal networks of sociability in a large metropolis (Lüdemann and Peter, 2007). It seeks to demonstrate how solid social networks in slum areas constitute a form of social capital that encourages public safety and thereby facilitates social order and the development of the country (Jacobs, 2000).

The research question is: How do the activities of the Police Pacification Unit create conditions for the community Santa Marta to develop social capital?

The general goal of this work is to identify and examine the presence of social capital in the community Santa Marta, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil after the installation of the Police Pacification Unit.

The specific objectives are: 1) Interviewing people who live in the community Santa Marta and people who work in the UPP Santa Marta; 2) Searching for social capital in general (How are informal networks of sociability formed on the site?); 3) Searching for social capital in the form of trustworthiness (Where is trust? Is it in the institution, in certain policemen or only among slum dwellers?); 4) Investigating and examining whether and how the activities of the police have changed the life of the community Santa Marta; 5) Provide recommendations.

The hypotheses are: 1) Social capital can be built where there is a lack of it; 2) Trust is being built between slum dwellers and the police; 3) Through community policing, the activities of the police have changed the life of the community Santa Marta.

The next section reviews the theoretical approach. Furthermore, the design of the experiment is explained. In the following are presented: social structures of slums and the community Santa Marta in order to understand in which political, economic, cultural and social context the concept of social capital was applied; an overview of the development of public security in Rio de Janeiro; the Police Pacification Units and the UPP Santa Marta. Then this paper proceeds to test the hypotheses, to analyze the results of the experiment, and finally to derive conclusions and recommendations.

Theoretical approaches guiding the case study

Brazilian society experiences problems of social order which threaten stability, social peace and security. To build a civil society one has to solve the problem of insufficient trust. Trust is a characteristic of social relations and is sustained by actions of at least two actors of a given society (Preisendörfer, 1995). Trust contributes, to economic growth, social integration, cooperation, stability of the democracy and to development. Social trust is a core component of social capital and is normally used as a key indicator of it (Delhey and Newton, 2002). Therefore, in the following, the concepts of trust, social capital and community policing will be shortly reviewed.

The focus here is on the interface between personal trust and trust within society (Schrader, 2004). After 2008 it became interesting to observe this interface in Rio de Janeiro with regard to the fact that there was a change of the system and with this also a change of social relations.

The key issue of transformation and society formation is trust between social actors as well as trust within the social system (Schrader, 2004). Thus, an example of how trust was disturbed in Rio de Janeiro can be given through some initiatives of community policing such as the Policing Groups for Special Areas (GPAE, Grupamento de Policiamento de Áreas Especiais), which did not work well in the past (Soares, 2006; World Bank, 2012). The experience with Policing Groups for Special Areas caused big mistrust and insecurity among the inhabitants of Santa Marta in relation to the public security policy of the Police Pacification Units in the present time. The GPAE was installed for eight months on the hill where the community Santa Marta is located. After this time the unit was withdrawn. In the following some of the worst wars among groups of drug dealers happened (Pandolfi and Grynszpan, 2003). They tried to overtake the place, which the GPAE abandoned.

The role of trust in society is significant. The sociological literature conceptualizes trust as a property of the social system explained with attention to behavior based on actions and orientations at the individual level (Mizstal, 1996). It is possible to show how building trust on the micro-level contributes to the more abstract trust on the macro-level (Luhmann, 2000).

This study is interested in the actions of individual actors. Schrader (2004) states that Bordieu and Coleman consider actor-centered network-relations as a valuable resource: social capital. Bourdieu’s idea of it is ´connections` (Bourdieu, 1993). For Coleman social capital is created when the relations among persons change in ways that facilitate action, and he exemplifies: “a group whose members manifest trustworthiness and place extensive trust in another will be able to accomplish much more than a comparable group lacking that trustworthiness and trust” (Coleman 1990, 304).

But the failure to extend the radius of trust beyond family and friendship circles may be a consequence of bad governments. Transparent laws create a basis for trust among strangers; however, laws cannot be taken for granted. Some countries, for example, have failed to adequately protect property rights or ensure public safety. Under these conditions, the family becomes a kind of safe haven, a restricted sphere in which a person can be relatively confident in the integrity of others (Fukuyama, 2000).

In this sense, Harriss believes that for Bourdieu “it is not enough to establish the existence of a network; it is also essential to examine its natural/ideological content and context” (Harriss, 2001, 20). The idea is that ´connections` play a part in the reproduction of classes. The ´possession` of particular durable social relationships may provide differential access to resources (Hays and Kogl, 2007). In this view, social capital is not an attribute of society as a whole, but it is an aspect of the differentiation of classes and an instrument of power (Harriss, 2001).

Fukuyama (2000) affirms that for the future we have to expect cultural adaptations. Experience manifests itself in informal norms and also in the degree of spontaneous sociability. Thus, norms, values, attitudes and modes of action are passed on to the next generation. But changes in society are slower than changes in the political system because people continue to behave according to their informal norms (Schrader, 2004).

From the standpoint mentioned, one has to view the new public security policy for slums in Rio de Janeiro. The Police Pacification Units were implemented offering a way for the police and the slums to work together. Thus, the system of community policing was set up. It is democracy in action for the reason that it requires the active participation of all community members (U.S. Department of Justice, 1994).

Hays and Kogl (2007) point out that prior research on community policing efforts in Chicago demonstrates how neighborhood-based deliberation has been effective in turns of concrete policy results.

Furthermore, trust is the value that underlies and links the core components of community policing, which are: community partnership and problem solving. Effective policing is impossible without trust between police and citizens. A foundation of trust will permit the police and slum dwellers to form close relationships between them, which will produce solid achievements (U.S. Department of Justice, 1994).

Scholarly interest in the development of social capital is mainly due to the linkage between levels of social capital and collective outcomes (Brehm and Rahn, 1997). In line with this, the concept of social capital was applied in this study to investigate the impact of the Police Pacification Unit in the community Santa Marta.

Design of the experiment

The primary method of data collection consisted of a fieldwork. The city is an excellent laboratory for sociological research (Park, 1915) and hence the research took place in Rio de Janeiro city, from February to April 2013.

The methodology used for the paper is qualitative research (Bailey, 2008; Flick et al, 2008; Goldenberg, 2009). However, data derived from quantitative research (Baquero, 2009) conducted by two Brazilian public agencies (Institute of Public Security of Rio de Janeiro and Ministry of Health) (Governo do Rio de Janeiro, 2013; Governo Federal, 2013) were analyzed too. Semi-structured interviews were undertaken. The persons interviewed live or work in the community Santa Marta (table I).

Table I: Profile of the interviewed inhabitants of the community Santa Marta and of the UPP police officer

illustration not visible in this excerpt

The aim of the research is to examine the presence of social capital in the referred community. The author developed an interview guide, which was scheduled for the purpose of searching social capital in the form of trustworthiness. It was examined where trust is. Is there trust in the police? The objective was to investigate whether trust was built up between slum dwellers and the police and whether it increased over time facilitating cooperation. The responses helped to test the hypotheses (Bailey, 2008).

To measure social capital on this research, trust was placed into the center of the analysis. Measuring trust is a way of measuring cognitive social capital (Bailey, 2008). Thus, due to the difficulties to define the concept and to measure the level of trust between slum dwellers of Santa Marta and the police officers who work there, first it is necessary to clarify what the meaning of the word ´trust` in the present study is. Coleman`s (1990) concept will follow here. In his concept, trust is considered to be a form of behavior rather than a personal characteristic or personal trait (Naef and Schupp, 2009).

Additionally, trust in the police will be defined. It is assumed that trust in the police is ´the belief among members of the public that the police have the right intentions and are competent in the tasks assigned to them` (Jackson et al, 2013, 64). It is presupposed that trust extends beyond assessments that the police perform their duties effectively (including that the police understands the needs of the community), that they treat members of the community fairly and with dignity and that they give them information and also the opportunity to state the issues they are facing in their neighborhood (Jackson et al, 2013).

Therefore, the three contributing factors to overall trust which were investigated are: 1) trust in the police effectiveness, 2) trust in the police fairness and 3) trust in intentions and shared interests (Jackson et al, 2013). In this framework of measuring trust it is assumed that trust towards the Police Pacification Units always increases as long as one or more of the three factors increase and none of them decreases. If one or more of those factors decrease, trust is assumed to decrease as long as no factor increases. If one increases and another decreases it becomes very hard to say which one has a greater effect on trust (because it is not possible to measure trust or even the 3 factors on an interval scale like for example the temperature).

The three factors of trust were measured by an interview guide used in the qualitative interviews. The changes of the level of trust were assessed from the beginning of the Police Pacification Unit until April, 2013 by using interviewees` answers to build up a picture from their explicit statements.

To analyze the data the method of topical units was chosen. This method gathers content from the interviews that belong to similar topics and follows the procedure: transcription, paraphrase, coding, thematic comparison and theoretical comparison (Bogner et al, 2009).

Social structures of slums

The current slum issue is best understood through examining its historical development. The history of Rio de Janeiro is associated with the surge of the slums. Since its beginning the city was characterized by a paradox. The destruction of ghettos resulted in the relocation and growth of the poor population in the hills and empty fields. But, over the years, the urban disorganization also fostered cultural creativity, political diversity and the ability of slum dwellers to fight and to organize (Zaluar and Alvito, 2006).

In November 1900 one police officer wrote a letter to the police chief describing the formation of the first slum in the city. This letter is the first official Brazilian document mentioning this newest form of dwelling of the poor population. It is also the first document that sees slums as a twofold problem: sanitarian and security related (Zaluar and Alvito, 2006).

The slum problem was mapped for the first time in 1948 through the census in the slums of Rio de Janeiro. It was found that blacks and mulattos prevailed (Zaluar and Alvito, 2006). The problem came largely from the housing crisis in the nineteenth century and the political crises of inner boarder guerrillas. The government ordered the occupation of the hills in the city to shelter soldiers returning from these guerrillas (Carvalho and Silva, 2012).

Rio de Janeiro is described by its residents as the ´ Broken City` (Ventura, 1994). The landscape of beautiful beaches, lagoons and the Atlantic forest is mixed with slums that are spread over the hills. The separation between slums and paved affluent areas is very much evident, which found its colloquial expression in the everyday language of Rio de Janeiro`s inhabitants in the words hill in contrast to asphalt, words that everyone understands and uses to differentiate slums from the remaining areas of the city.

The separation of the hill/ asphalt is deeply connected with the urbanization process, which kept slums separated from the rest of the city and marginalized them (Jovchelovitch and Priego-Hérnandez, 2012). The classification favela (slum) is more used to describe social and cultural representations. The term favela is a derogatory term. The currently used and friendlier term is community.

G affirms: “So, the concept of a ´Broken City`, of favela and neighborhood, is broken up. Nowadays Santa Marta is part of the neighborhood of Botafogo. The society in general can come here and public and private organs can operate” (Interview G).

Life in the slums has never been easy, but the growth of the drug trade has further complicated the situation of those who have been living there. During the 1980s cocaine arrived in Rio de Janeiro and from that time onwards slums were extremely desirable territories to the drug trade seeking to build a business because they were places where the presence of the state had never been well established. Since this period, the dominion, which the drug trade has exercised in the slums, has been affecting the living conditions, the access to services, the social capital and how the slum dwellers are viewed by those who live outside (World Bank, 2012).

In 2011, Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (2013) identified 763 slums in Rio de Janeiro city. The current revaluation of the slum problem by the government is being enforced more by the overflow of the consequences of violence, which now reaches the city as a whole, rather than by the presence of a political actor, defender of the interests of the excluded (Soares, 2006). It is from the angle of public security from which the slum problem reappears.

The community Santa Marta

The community Santa Marta, located on the Dona Marta hill, lies in the quarter Botafogo, in the southern zone of Rio de Janeiro. As indicated by data from the last census (Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics, 2014), the community has 3.913 inhabitants living on an area of 54.692 square meters.

The emergence of the community Santa Marta occurred in the first half of the twentieth century when the region was still composed of a dense forest. At that time the hill belonged to the Jesuit priests of the Saint Ignacio College. In 1924, the priests allowed some workers to live there. Many of these early residents were from the north, northeastern and rural regions of the country. After about 20 years the hill already had 1,632 inhabitants, whereas 728 people of them were illiterate (Cunha and Mello, 2011).

According to the slum dwellers the community name originated in the 1920s when a picture of Marta Saint was brought by a person who placed it on the hill. The community name generated a controversy, as some call it Santa Marta and others Dona Marta. However, a former head of the local drug traffic once explained that Dona Marta is the name of the hill and the favela is called Santa Marta (Barcellos, 2012).

In the sequence some elements, which are necessary to identify the social capital in the community Santa Marta, will be observed. They are:

a) association initiatives (Coffé and Geys, 2005; Putnam, 2006)
b) trust among slum dwellers
c) cooperation through horizontal participation among slums dwellers
d) solidarity among slum dwellers
e) formation of strong social networks

Cooperation and solidarity have been demonstrated over the years. In 1960 a mutirão (a common practice in slums of the city, which means organizing a group to execute an activity of bigger scale) for the construction of a water reservoir was carried out. When the reservoir was constructed, slum dwellers formed a new mutirão to build a network for water distribution (Barcellos, 2012).

In 1964 occurred a mutirão to get electricity. Along with this mutirão the neighborhood association of Santa Marta was created, which currently delivers letters (Cunha and Mello, 2011). Another association initiative is the samba school Mocidade Unida do Santa Marta (Santa Marta United Youth).

Trust, cooperation and solidarity can be perceived through the history of Child`s World Community Childcare that began in 1977. The childcare center had its origin in the need of the families to have some place where they could let their children when they went to work. The initiative came from a group of five mothers, who got together and decided that their children should be in a single home under the care of other women of the slum, who did not work outside home. These women began to sell food and crafts to raise funds to buy a house that would serve as the childcare center. The childcare has partnerships with non-governmental organizations, state government, and the German School (Casa da Árvore, 2013).

In 2010 slum dwellers attended a course on human rights in the slum promoted by the state government in partnership with NGOs. After the course, some of them associated and wrote a booklet with the support of Eco Group, an NGO with its headquarters on the hill. The booklet teaches other slum dwellers how the police have to approach them (O Globo, 2010).

Formation of strong social networks were also identified in the community: childcare centers, which partner with churches, schools and NGOs, Telecurso (distance learning course) of the Roberto Marinho Foundation, which is held in the library, in the Baptist Church and in the neighborhood association, Cetec/Faetec (center for technological and vocational training) held by the state government, the health care center maintained by the municipal government and the free medical care held on Sundays at a childcare center which is maintained by a Catholic school.


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Building up Social Capital. A case study from the community Santa Marta, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Otto-von-Guericke-University Magdeburg  (Politcal Science)
Peace and Conflict Studies
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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social capital, public policy, slum, UPP, police pacification unit, rio de janeiro, informal networks, public safety, social order
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Juliana Vianna da Nobrega (Author), 2013, Building up Social Capital. A case study from the community Santa Marta, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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