Social movements often seek transformation in wider society, but they are also themselves subject to the fluidity and ephemerality of the environments in which they operate. Academic literature has long held the view that social movements inevitably come to be beset by institutionalisation and a loss of relevance, and in Brazil, where socio-economic change has been so dynamic, the future of the Landless Workers’ Movement (Movimento dos Sem Terra (MST)) has been called into question. This article argues that the MST is responding to changes in its membership, and transformation more widely in Brazil, in a measured way, by drawing upon a familiar repertoire of cooperativisation to boost production. The article suggests that decline is not necessarily certain, but as a case study for movements more generally, current MST leadership decisions may be significant in understanding how social movements can best react to unpredictable transformations in wider society.

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Alex Ungprateeb Flynn is an Assistant Professor at the Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance, University of California, Los Angeles. Working as an anthropologist and curator, Alex’s practice explores the intersection of ethnographic and curatorial modes of enquiry. Researching collaboratively with activists, curators and artists in Brazil since 2007, Alex explores the prefigurative potential of art in community contexts, prompting the theorisation of fields such as the production of knowledge, the pluriversal, and the social and aesthetic dimensions of form.