assessment is made both on the basis of the what interviewees said about their own capacity, as well as on the basis of the way they talked about their work. Simply by indicating a lesser sense of unity with the greater Church and ability to carry out their work without this unity, interviewees suggested that liberation theology, as a concept and social force, no longer holds the power it did in its youth to create broad-based, self-aware, religiously-inspired movements for social change.
This study was designed to get the perspective of leaders involved in social movements, and bases its conclusions primarily on the statements of people interviewed. A next ideal study would use more quantitative standards, such as settlements established and government services won, to examine when and how land movements in Brazil have been most successful, rather than subjective and qualitative standards such as the self-assessment of movement organizers that this study uses. Such a study would help show with more certainty whether the loss of hierarchical Church support has genuinely damaged the greater campaign for human and social rights in Brazil, or if this support has been replaced by consolidation and sophistication in movement organizations and their allies.
Another form of research that this study points toward would look at the same type of question— relevance of liberation theology for social movements today—through the perspective of the agricultural workers and poor people whose lives are affected by the success of those social movements. This study only gets the perspective of leaders of relevant institutions, and does not attempt to speak for all movement participants. But what does the average small farmer in southern Pará think about religious faith and his own life? Does spirituality affect his decision to participate in rural workers’ unions? Where does he get his inspiration for social action today? Where did his parents get their inspiration? These would all be appropriate questions to explore next.
This study suggests also that it has generally been the work of Church leaders—priests, nuns, and other officials—to raise people’s consciousness about sociopolitical issues, whereas organizations like the CPT have done most of the direct action work organizing social movements. Given that progressivism is less widespread amongst Church leaders, and younger Church leaders are no longer being trained in a progressive, liberation theology-oriented milieu, there is presumably less talk about political and social issues (and less consciousness-raising) in Church communities today. This leads to several possible questions for next research: is inspiration for social action still birthed in the Church, or does it come from elsewhere? If it comes from elsewhere, what are these new sources? Do they inspire people to the same kinds of social action as liberation theologians did in the 1970s, or has the nature of social action changed as well? These are all important questions to answer to deepen our understanding of how social movements function and succeed— an understanding which, in turn, is important if we want to social movements to continue improving society in the 21st century.