this text is part of the research entitled "the education of the productive citizen" (a forma？？o do cidad？o produtivo), the objective of which is to analyse the 1980s' policies on technical secondary teaching as well as the educational reforms that occurred in the 1990s. it is noted that, although many notions and concepts - such as work, productive worker, citizenship, productive citizen and emancipation - may have a specific meaning in the ideological debates on globalisation or on the 'mondialization du capital' they can be used in alternative societal forms if rescued in their historicity. the notion of citizenship, if we see it as part of an emancipating project, presents some obstacles in relation to democracy and to the liberal conception of work. both in the liberal meaning of citizenship as an individual's civil, political and social rights, and in the marxian meaning, as collective citizenship, the term involves certain demands that, in brazil, were not fulfilled by the historically restrictive form of insertion of the brazilian citizens into the political community. they are also far from being fulfilled by the present educational reforms in the technical secondary teaching with their short modular courses and a reduction of knowledge and of skills to mere operational issues, to values guided by individualism and by the competitiveness demanded by the business world.