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Recent trends in infrastructural cooperation and planning, alongside investments and funding mechanisms have heightened the need for understanding the soft power of infrastructure in forging international relations. The formation of strategic narratives that make sense of these coordinated and state-led practices is problematized in this paper.


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There is limited knowledge in the literature about the challenges underpinning strategic narrative alignment on the national and multilateral level. The term strategic narrative alignment refers to the repeating and retelling of strategic narratives or the ideas underpinning them in associated communication.

The foci on Africa and infrastructural development are chosen because the BRICS forum and Brazil are both committed to the development of Africa, they encourage cooperation in infrastructural development, and they promote the democratization of policy-planning. The perception of non-state actors helps clarify whether and how there is a strategic narrative alignment between the two communication practices. The views of non-state actors in Brazil are important in this research because of the increasing role of non-state actors to form and contest strategic narratives, hence validating their effectiveness Miskimmon et al.

These are events where professionals from the member states, including Brazil, share knowledge, seek possibilities for cooperation, and draft recommendations on policy debates. The article proceeds as follows. Secondly, it deals with the research design. Then, it evaluates the alignment between these narratives by presenting the results of the in-depth interviews with non-state actors in Brazil. Lastly, it discusses these findings within the context of strategic narrative alignment. This approach analyzes the structure of narratives in political communication Hanska While the raw materials constitute the ideas, norms and values in a society, it is the narrativity aspect that is at the core and is the strength of strategic narratives.

A narrative cannot do without narrative discourse, but a narrative discourse is never a narrative in itself. Indeed, a narrative assembles these variables so as to shape meaning about an issue area. Understanding whether and how strategic narratives on the national and multilateral level are aligned will help explain their success or failure Oppermann and Spencer Data for this study were collected using a qualitative research design to investigate the challenges of multilateral forums to communicate strategic narratives that are aligned with narratives disseminated by the member states Andrews et al.

A combination of three qualitative approaches was used in the data analysis.

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The description of BRICS issue narrative on infrastructural development was based on existing scholarship. The chosen professionals resulted from the snowball technique and the geographical location near Rio de Janeiro e. For the purpose of this paper, the perceptions of the three groups are not compared with each other. These multinationals pursue activities predominantly in the energy, mining and infrastructure industries and have an extensive portfolio in Africa.

During the semi-structured interviews, the queries ranged from relatively open-ended questions, to more topical questions about BRICS and Brazil and the communicated policies regarding Africa and infrastructural development. The semi-structured approach was of particular use to accommodate the different professions and experiences of the interviewees. The interviews lasted approximately one hour each. The data collection was conducted in Third, these findings were explored using a narrative grammar. The discussion section engages first with the narrative grammar rules that seek to understand whether the strategic narratives communicate a compelling mission purpose, and whether this is justified through procedural and legal practices, and cultural norms Dimitriu and Graaf , 7.

It then relates this analysis to the concept of strategic alignment. This narrative promotes hard infrastructure, including the development of rails, roads, and ports, and soft infrastructure such as technology-cooperation and knowledge-sharing. Indeed, the BRICS forum aims to re-order the world by means of a progressive narrative about innovation and change Gergen and Gergen , Moreover, the issue narrative on infrastructural development embodies solidarity, geostrategic and economic narratives van Noort The BRICS forum advocates for horizontal relations, economic partnerships, and a fairer and more democratic multipolar world order.

A notable example is expressed in the Delhi Declaration of We attach the highest importance to economic growth that supports development and stability in Africa […] We will take our cooperation forward to support their efforts to accelerate the diversification and modernisation of their economies. Sustainable growth is critical in pursuing this infrastructural development objective.

Specifically, cooperation in infrastructural development is considered as a causal factor to advance a fair and more democratic multipolar world order. The current encouragement of dialogue, cooperation, sharing of best-practice, and innovative and supportive frameworks such as the New Development Bank promotes sustainable growth and mutual gain, based on fair processes and the inclusive participation of stakeholders. This then is a clear improvement of the past, given the domination of Western powers in the twentieth century, and it paves the way of a Post Western world Stuenkel There are three objectives supporting this development, according to former Foreign Minister Celso Amorim.

As a strong advocate for multilateralism, Brazil presented itself as a rising star in international organizations Amorim , consistent with its international status-seeking policy Stolte The solidarity-motive is pursued by means of development cooperation, which makes Brazil both a receiver and a donor of development aid Dauvergne and Farias Brazil presents technical cooperation as a more suitable model than North-South donor practices.

However, in practice, domestic challenges restrained her international engagement Freitas Ever since, the country has been faced with a severe economic recession, shaken up by the Lato Jato investigation which is incriminating many top politicians and businessmen Moro , and it has been exposed to the impeachment process that was initiated against President Rousseff at the end of Furthermore, Serra emphasized the importance of bilateral agreements at the expense of soft power balancing in multilateral institutions.

Various Brazilian state incentives have encouraged the internationalization of Brazilian multinationals towards Africa. The latter was significant for Brazilian businesses because the Brazilian Development Bank can only grant investment funds when there are no debts outstanding in foreign countries Renzio et al. Furthermore, specialized government agencies are involved in policy implementation including the Brazilian Cooperation Agency, the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation and the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation.

In other words, there is no single strategic narrative, but rather three. These are independent, and thus may diverge in terms of their political motive to engage with Africa. The document analysis also indicates a changing rhetorical emphasis from solidarity narratives, to geostrategic and economic narratives. This then contextualizes the Africa agenda in relation to the political and economic circumstances in Brazil, it explains whether or not groups such as non-governmental organizations are elicited in the formation of strategic narratives, and it shapes the discussion about how infrastructure plans are envisioned and implemented.

These perceptions are given as overarching themes listed below. This reveals the lack of a narrative alignment between the three narratives on the national and multilateral level. Not even among governmental agencies. So, you have different agencies, in the government doing different things without communication. Spokespersons of Vale and Petrobras — two Brazilian multinationals — described this process as a natural turn of events. In additional to economic growth indicators, the business professionals emphasized the importance of coherent and persuasive political communication and international recognition thereof.

This suggests that BRICS issue narrative on infrastructural development would only be aligned with Brazil if its national identity narrative as a rising power was restored. A key word in the conversations was trust. Moreover, an interviewee of the NGO Ibase wondered who the real beneficiaries of this multilateral forum narrative were.

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Interviewees representing Brazilian multinationals questioned the communicated means and ways. While academics and civil society members highlighted the preferential treatment of the private sector, various business representatives underplayed the role of the Brazilian government and its membership of the BRICS forum to facilitate any favorable conditions. Indeed, the perception of a new scramble for Africa, and Chinese foreign direct investment in Brazil, undermined the persuasiveness of strategic synergy communicated in BRICS issue narrative on infrastructural development.

The present study was designed to explore the challenges of multilateral forums to form coherent strategic narratives that align positively with foreign policy narratives of member states in a multi-stakeholder society. What follows is a discussion of these findings using a narrative grammar approach. It analyzes how the two narratives share a compelling mission purpose, and it considers the legitimate approaches in achieving this.

Subsequently, the challenges that multilateral forums face in communicating strategic narrative alignment are interpreted. Where available, secondary sources were triangulated with observations from the document analysis and the in-depth interviews.

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The solidarity narrative explains this overarching objective, buttressed by geostrategic and economic narratives. What causes tension is the subsequent blurring of geostrategic, economic and solidarity narratives on the national and multilateral level to achieve this fair and democratic multipolar world order. The resemblance therefore makes both narratives discordant with demands for social and environmental justice and ideas of best practice. A fair and more democratic multipolar world order brought about through cooperation in infrastructural development is too ambivalent in its current narrative form.

Though the solidarity and geostrategic narratives are mostly reinforcing, the subsequent communication of the economic narrative problematizes this congruence. This political agenda encouraged the inclusiveness of non-state actors, while in practice, it favored some actors over others Pomeroy et al. In terms of cultural and public norms and values, Brazil tries to distinguish itself from the other BRICS members by highlighting its historical and cultural ties with Africa. The blurring of the three narratives, solidarity, economic and geostrategic, jeopardizes this favorable relationship.

Inconsistent values and ideas underpinning the foreign policy agenda towards Africa by President Lula, Rousseff and Temer explained narrative contestation in the recorded interviews. However, recent years are marked with skepticism, as the interviewees stressed multiple times. Narrative contestation observed in the interviews dealt with the degree of ambiguity in the strategic narratives, its relation to actual events and the formation processes echoing the three aspects producing narrative contestation, see Miskimmon et al.

Narrative contestation of one or both strategic narratives was not necessarily considered an indication of weakness or failure of political communication. This engagement suggested that the interviewees deliberated the meaning, while revealing a spectrum of narrative persuasion. The repeating and retelling of strategic narratives on a national and multilateral level seeks to normalize this partnership. However, the blurring of solidarity, economic and geostrategic narratives on both levels perpetuate narrative contestation.

Additionally, counter-narratives evolve from the antagonistic and cooperating relations between Brazil and China, and the new scramble for Africa Ayers The intensification of BRICS activities in Africa is arguably nothing new, but just a shift in global political and economic power. In fact, the non-state actors questioned who the beneficiaries of infrastructure are, when development is achieved, and how cooperation on the national and multilateral level would look like.

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Despite all the attention to solidarity and geostrategic narratives, the emphasized economic narrative seems to best explain current affairs according to Brazilian civil society and academia. In comparison, multinational representatives were hesitant about a multilateral approach to infrastructural development, due to the competing nature of the business.

Third, in terms of the formation of strategic narratives, the BRICS forum have engaged the multi-stakeholder society in Brazil. A narrative approach for moral formation must take the shortcomings of abstract reason seriously. Two specific attempts to a narrative approach, narrative as a means to an end and the supra-narrative approach, do not address these shortcomings and are inadequate approaches for moral formation. An open ended narrative approach considers reason as an important phenomenon for moral formation.

The shortcomings of using abstract reason such as the neglect of tradition, community and the particular finds relevance in the way reason is used in an open ended narrative approach. Reason is not rejected, but it is used in a more holistic way that includes critical reflection.


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Keywords: Narrative; Moral formation; Theology. Trefwoorde: Narratief; Morele vorming; Teologie. Moral judgments are embedded in modernity. Modernity is characterised by the use of reason, the understanding of the self as autonomous, and rules that can be applied universally. The problems of modernity include the reduction of the self into different parts, the neglect of the past, and the social nature of the self.

The weakness of modernity, according to Alasdair MacIntyre, is the compartmentalisation of the self.

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He claims that any attempt to view human life as a whole has social and philosophical problems:. The social obstacles derive from the way in which modernity partitions each human life into a variety of segments, each with its own norms and modes of behaviour The philosophical obstacles derive from two distinct tendencies, one chiefly, though not only, domesticated in analytical philosophy and one at home in both sociological theory and in existentialism.

The former is the tendency to think atomistically about human action and to analyse complex actions and transactions in terms of simple components Equally the unity of a human life becomes invisible to us when a sharp separation is made either between the individual and the roles that he or she plays Maclntyre The second weakness relates to actions or decisions that are taken outside of the historical contexts in which the action has its origins or the decision its initiation.

An action does not happen in absolute independence, but has a tradition in which the object and subject contribute to meaning. Any decision is a reaction to an action and leads to further reaction. A decision then involves the past and considers the future.

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An action or decision in adulthood does not necessarily stand independent from early adulthood. An individual cannot be separated from the profession exercised or vocation lived out.