You are on page 1of 14

Modern Society and Culture in Brazil: The Sociology of Florestan Fernandes

Author(s): Maria Arminda do Nascimento Arruda and Laurence Hallewell

Source: Latin American Perspectives, Vol. 38, No. 3, INTELLECTUALS, SOCIAL THEORY,
Published by: Sage Publications, Inc.
Stable URL:
Accessed: 19-07-2016 09:11 UTC

Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at

JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted
digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about
JSTOR, please contact

Sage Publications, Inc. is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Latin
American Perspectives

This content downloaded from on Tue, 19 Jul 2016 09:11:05 UTC
All use subject to
Modern Society and Culture in Brazil
The Sociology of Florestan Fernandes
Maria Arminda do Nascimento Arruda
Translated by Laurence Hallewell

The establishment of modern sociology in Brazil was part of a thoroughgoing

modernization of the country that began in the 1930s and the years immediately follow?
ing World War II. The founding of the University of Sao Paulo made possible the sys?
tematic training of scientists devoted to teaching and research and broadened the way
learning was understood. Florestan Fernandes was the outstanding personality among
the first social scientists that the university produced, and the picture of the Brazilian
sociologist today is largely inspired by his career. Enthusiasm and scientific rigor
were the hallmarks of his approach. His early work reflects intellectuals' shared belief
in the power of ideas to regenerate the nation, freeing it from a past that they con?
demned. The mature reflection of his later works retreats from this optimistic view, recog?
nizing the emergence of modern society in Brazil as a complex process with mixed results.

Keywords: Sociology, Florestan Fernandes, Society and culture, Modern Brazil

By 1930 Brazil's traditions had become so outdated that change in every

aspect of the nation's life?economic, political, societal, and cultural?was
inevitable. This transformation fostered new ways of thinking about the country
and led to the appearance of a new generation of intellectuals, the so-called
interpreters of Brazil: Gilberto Freyre, Caio Prado Junior, and Sergio Buarque
de Holanda. Despite their diversity as individuals, they all confronted the theme
of building a modern Brazil and used the language of the modernist movement
in doing so.1 Their contributions extended Brazilian modernism from art and
literature to the essay, the medium they adopted for expressing their ideas. This
avant-garde movement, emphatically national in its origins, was exactly what
was needed at the time. It allowed the construction at last of a positive idea of
Brazil?not necessarily one with an automatically optimistic outlook but one
distinguished by its rejection of the received account of Brazilian history as
incomplete, based as it was on that of other countries. These critical essays
influenced by modernism introduced novel ideas, rejecting the Portuguese

Maria Arminda do Nascimento Arruda is a professor of sociology at the University of S?o Paulo
and a senior researcher of the National Research Council of Brazil. She is the author of A etnbalagem
do sistema: A publicidade no capitalismo brasileiro (2004 [1985]), Mitologia da mineiridade: O imagin?rio
mineiro na vida politica e cultural do Brasil (2000), Metropole e cultura: S?o Paulo no meio seculo XX
(2001) (Honorable Mention, Jabuti Prize 2002), and Florestan Fernandes: Mestre da sociologia
moderna, (with Sylvia Gemignani Garcia) (2003). Laurence Hallewell was, until his retirement,
Latin Americanist librarian at Columbia University's Lehman Library.
LATIN AMERICAN PERSPECTIVES, Issue 178, Vol. 38 No. 3, May 2011 99-111
DOI: 10.1177/0094582X10391068
? 2011 Latin American Perspectives


This content downloaded from on Tue, 19 Jul 2016 09:11:05 UTC
All use subject to

intellectual tradition and providing a portrayal of Brazil based on the country's

overall development. The narrative style of these essayists of the 1930s and
their reflections laid the bases for a modern approach to the social sciences
in Brazil.
In fact, the establishment of modern sociology in Brazil was part of a thor?
oughgoing modernization of the country, a modernization that became particu?
larly apparent during the 1930s and in the years immediately following World
War II with the crisis in traditional social relationships and the beginning of
change in the sources of national wealth, especially the rise of manufacturing
industry. But despite the extent of these changes, the old ways remained impor?
tant, contributing to the mixture of past and present that characterized the Brazil
of that time. Brazilian society was, moreover, moving in a direction exactly
opposite to that of Europe; whereas there the dominance of traditional values
was being challenged, here we had the downfall of the Fascist Estado Novo and
the creation of democratic institutions accompanied by the start of a program of
quite unparalleled development. With regard to culture, the decade of the 1930s
was "a catalyzing axis that managed to gather scattered elements together around
it into a new pattern_This was largely because it made national a movement
toward cultural unity that had until then had been happening only at the regional
level" (Candido, 2000:181-182).
Antonio Candido has spoken of what he calls the "transformation of mod?
ernism into a routine" as it became the dominant style of expression for Brazilian
artists and members of the elite. The sociological essay of the 1930s lies between
the traditional culture, representing a style of intellectual life firmly anchored
in first-person narrative, and one developed in an institutional framework.2
The writers of these essays in fact stood at the dawn of the social sciences in
Brazil broadly understood (Araujo, 2005:17), and they concentrated on building
a modern society of Portuguese heritage in tropical Brazil. This aim took shape
just as the backwardness of Portugal and the reordering of power in the world
were at last being openly acknowledged.
It was right in the middle of this transformation, in 1934, that the University
of Sao Paulo (Universidade de S?o Paulo?USP) was founded and its Faculty
of Philosophy, Science and Letters began offering a course in the social sciences.
While this took place in the context of the spread of new ideas among those
urging the establishment of cultural institutions, it did not mean a complete
abandonment of traditional values. The creation of the USP resulted from a
combination of advanced educational initiatives with the political projects of
an erudite elite shaped by the past (Cardoso, 1982). The modern institutions
that began to appear in the 1930s grew and diversified in the subsequent years
(Arruda, 2001). The university made possible the systematic training of scientists
devoted to teaching and research; it also broadened the way learning was under?
stood as new fields of specialization provided scientific careers. Introducing
the systematic training of professionals was a fundamental departure from the
institutionalization of knowledge characteristic of the social sciences that was
part of a distinctive scenario for realizing scientific vocations and a climate of
academic sociability.
In the setting of profound transformation and modernization that constituted
the cradle of modern Brazilian sociology, Florestan Fernandes (1920-1995) was

This content downloaded from on Tue, 19 Jul 2016 09:11:05 UTC
All use subject to

clearly the outstanding personality among the first social scientists that the
university produced.3 None of his contemporaries was as closely identified as
he was with establishing the scientific bases of sociology in Brazil, nor can so
prominent a role be attributed to anyone else of his generation in the fields of
theory, sociological research, institutional performance, or professionalism. For
this reason, the picture we have of the Brazilian sociologist today is largely
inspired by his career. This picture, which had begun to form by at least the
mid-twentieth century as a consequence of the establishment of the University
of Sao Paulo, the research model introduced by the 1933 Free School of Sociology
and Politics of Sao Paulo (Escola Livre de Sociologia e Politica de S?o Paulo), and
the Brazilian tradition of the public intellectual, combined teaching according
to a scientific pattern with involvement in the public concerns of the country.
In fact, Fernandes and his contemporaries saw Brazil as embarking on an era
of hope, full of promise, revealing its ability to "forge in the tropics the founda?
tions of a modern civilization" (Fernandes, 1965: 394). In brief, it was a period
of enormously energetic enthusiasm, in which the emergence of infinite possi?
bilities for cultural development was linked with a belief in the economic, politi?
cal, and social modernization of the nation with industrialization and urbanization
as its dynamic pole. Every Brazilian aware of these transformations was?let us
admit it?seduced by the aspiration to a civilized future. S?o Paulo was the
epicenter of the energetic convergence of economic and political power with the
"world of the spirit." Wealth and intellect found a common purpose in full-blown
modernization. As Georg Simmel (1978: 437) had pointed out, "Alongside the
impersonal objectivity inherent in the content of intelligence there exists an
extremely close relationship between intelligence and individuality.... The dual
role played by brains and money becomes intelligible if one distinguishes their
essentially objective content from their function or, in other words, from the uses
to which they are put." The increasing differentiation of culture and democrati?
zation of access to cultural life, combined with economic dynamism and great
social mobility (that is, the objective and the subjective dimensions of wealth),
provided the necessary conditions for a formal equalizing of these two spheres.
Along with these changes went the building of democratic institutions and
agencies that would finance the developmentalist policy of the Brazilian state
in the 1946-1964 period. Openly modernizing governments introduced measures
to overcome Brazil's backwardness and the traditional forms they had inherited.
Sociology in Brazil drank from the font of that modernization, taking as its
fundamental challenge the opportunities opened up by the shaping of a modern
society and the tensions, frustrations, and dilemmas created by the consequent
transformations. Social change became the central question that mobilized the
country's intellectuals. Concern about modernization was not new: it had occu?
pied the hearts and minds of educated Brazilians at least since Independence.
What was new was the way they began to think about the question?their ideas
of scientific knowledge based on rigorous research and the way these affected
the tenor of the debate. The novelty was that the new scenario called attention
to the social bases of scientific thought, abstract awareness being typical of
democratic contexts: "It is not things in themselves that lead to abstracting and
analysis. The cause is social: it is due to the size and structure of the group shar?
ing this awareness. We can conclude that a democratic society is better suited

This content downloaded from on Tue, 19 Jul 2016 09:11:05 UTC
All use subject to

to discovering the abstract correlations between things than an aristocratic one"

(Mannheim, 1963: 265).
Fernandes's sociological ideas drew heavily on the sociology of Karl Mannheim.
This is apparent in the importance he gave to the role of intellectuals in the life
of a society. His awareness that Brazil's path to modernization was unique did
not prevent him from maintaining that it was perfectly possible to lay down the
principles of a Brazilian modernization rooted in democratic values. Although
the "transplanting of Western civilization to the tropics" was "a painful process,
full of difficulties and upsets," a modern civilization in his terms could be built
in Brazil provided that certain preconditions were met, notably the expansion of
education and a rational intervention by the social sciences (Fernandes, 1974
[I960]: 311). Working hard in the fields of both education and sociology, he used
his own humble background to help him democratize access to education at all
levels. He had himself benefited from the broadening of educational opportu?
nities and, in particular, the creation of the University of Sao Paulo, in which
Brazilian educational reformers had played a decisive role. One of these reformers
was Fernando de Azevedo, who had invited him to become his assistant in 1944.
The role Fernandes played in laying down the principles of a modern society
varied over the course of his academic career, from his becoming a professor at
USP in 1945 to a retirement in 1969 arbitrarily imposed by the military that had
seized power in 1964. He had begun with a modest and narrowly focused thesis
in which he analyzed the condition of a person on the extreme margins of society.
Newly qualified as a sociologist, he presented his paper "Tiago Marques
Aibopureu: urn Bororo marginal" (Tiago Marques Aibopureu: a Bororo outsider)
(Fernandes, 1946) to the 1945 Seminar on Brazilian Indians organized by Herbert
Baldus.4 His choice of subject here was attractive in itself, but the way he treated
the life story of this Bororo was quite provocative. The dates of publication of
the article also demand our attention: it first appeared when the young social
scientist had just been admitted into academe; it was reprinted in 1960, when
his work had propelled him into an outstanding institutional position, and
again in 1974, after had been expelled from the university. Through all these
stages, he chose to base his reputation on this unpretentious piece in preference
to all his later work. It may also be regarded as marking a midpoint between
his analyses of folklore and popular culture and his later, so-called ethnological,
In his analysis of the story of Tiago Marques Aibopureu, combining micro
and macrosociological approaches in a social psychological account, the par?
ticular and the general illuminate each other. His text, in brief, deals with the
conflict between the individual and society. It shows that personalities are shaped
by tensions that cannot be understood at the level of individual choice; it expresses
the way in which one's birthright is denied and the fulfillment of one's potential
is blocked.
Tiago's tortuous path was similar to Fernandes's own with an essential dif?
ference. The sociologist, finding himself between two worlds, that of ordinary
people and that of the university, was able to develop an "active solution" that
allowed him break out of the "iron ring" of his social origin, the initial estrange?
ment of a socially uprooted person in the elitist environment of the Faculty of
Philosophy in its earliest years.6 Through achievement, dedication, hard work,

This content downloaded from on Tue, 19 Jul 2016 09:11:05 UTC
All use subject to

and self-discipline, he turned the university into a unique space that he had
built himself, embracing it with the urgency of one who dared not yield in the
face of adversity. Beyond his work as a sociologist, as an intellectual involved
in the problems of the day, as a teacher, and as a leader who determined the direc?
tion for theory and research, he achieved something in no way less admirable:
the shaping of his own character (C?ndido, 1996: 63).
Fernandes's life's work shows us the twists and turns of Brazilian history on
its journey toward building a modern capitalist society. In this it was as exem?
plary as that of many other Latin American intellectuals, particularly that of
social scientists such as the Argentine Gino Germani, whose work embodies "the
dilemmas and questions faced by his era" (Blanco, 2006:15). Fernandes's outlook
reflected all the great problems of his lifetime, but it enjoyed one particular
moment that offered manifold opportunities in many different directions: the
decade of the 1950s. Those were the years in which Brazil pursued "an ideal of
the modern world marked by progress, with unlimited possibilities to perfect
both the individual and society and to reshape values, interests, behavior, and
institutions" (Botelho, 2008:15). This was the decade in which his sociology took
shape and in which the creation of the so-called Sao Paulo School of Sociology
introduced a new style of social science to Brazil (Arruda, 2001). It was a period
in which intellectuals of a new, more specialized type directed their attention to
initiating projects in Brazil that might regenerate the nation, freeing it from a
past that they condemned (Bastos, 2008: 27-64). These intellectuals believed
in the power of ideas to produce the changes that were so eagerly anticipated
(Villas Boas, 2006).7 During this period at midcentury, the rate of development
in Brazil surpassed all international indices and was combined with a political
situation of open participation and dissent. In this soil of unlimited promise,
Brazilian sociology flourished.
The Sao Paulo School of Sociology sought, nevertheless, a clear demarcation
between the social scientist's public activity and his commitment to rigorous
research. In this it followed the example of Fernandes, who directed much of his
energy to enforcing this rigor. Among the other social scientists in Latin America
who played a central role in renewing their disciplines was Gino Germani in
Per?n's Argentina (Neiburg, 1997: 157-184). Not by chance, Fernandes and
Germani were typical outsiders: Fernandes because he had sprung from the lower
ranks of society, Germani because he was a recent immigrant, "not known as an
individual... nor having any connection with any visible intellectual movement"
(Blanco, 2006:244). Understanding the potential for innovation required, however,
taking into account the variations in outlook of those involved and the extent to
which they accepted the new approach and identified with their own institutions.
For Fernandes, the university provided new opportunities, both material and
symbolic, that were essential for someone who had nothing in his origins to fall
back on. As he explained in an interview published in 1975, "I could never have
become a sociologist had I not taught sociology at the University of Sao Paulo"
(Fernandes, 1975a: 39). Antonio C?ndido, his companion on his path, described
the role he played: "He revolutionized the situation. ... It was he who made
enthusiasm and scientific preparation the essential prerequisites for the budding
sociologist" (Fernandes, 1978). His concern to affirm sociology as a scientific
discipline made it necessary to identify its research methods rigorously and clearly.

This content downloaded from on Tue, 19 Jul 2016 09:11:05 UTC
All use subject to

Fernandes clearly saw the size of the undertaking. "Let us not forget that we
were in the 1940s and 1950s and that the fundamental need at that time was to
build sociology as an empirical science" (1975a: 16). Hence his ready acceptance
of the contributions of a variety of theories and methodologies and the need to
draw the necessary inspiration from different sources. He made no theoretical
assumptions. "We must reject neither the word 'function' nor a causal analysis
of the results of interpretative elaborations of structure and function. They are
instrumental. What we do have to get rid of is a naturalistic conception of the
social sciences: that is the heart of the problem" (1978: 56). Or even: "Marx
should not be seen in terms of the dogma of one political school. Marx emerges
straight out of his texts and of his theoretical impact on sociology" (1978: 14).
In other words, what was fundamental was work on the level of theoretical
constructions, distinguishing the principles of analysis from their wrappings of
practical politics. Even at the end of the decade, when he began to revise some
of his positions, he still showed caution with regard to any unqualified accep?
tance of an awareness of social problems (1958a: 213):

It is undeniable that the impact of the environment in educating the Brazilian

sociologist is, in some ways, very constructive. In particular, it favors the creation
of a more open and innovative attitude in the face of the possibilities of either a
synthesis of theory in sociology or the contribution that the social sciences can make
in the field of their application. However, these possibilities tend to upset the
balance that has to exist, in the world of science, between positive and extrascientific
motives for research.

The scientific project constructed by Fernandes presupposed, as we have seen,

a research program based on rigorous concepts of knowledge scientifically
applied. Specialists would have the opportunity to use the results of their research
to change systems of relationships through new discoveries forged in the con?
frontation with social problems. In the field of sociology, the specialist would be
a professional observer of social phenomena capable of developing rules to
explain them and proposing measures to correct them. In Brazil, the fundamental
problem of sociology, as he saw it, was the need to refine the methods of modern
science and adjust them to less organic and less homogeneous societies such as
that of Brazil. His rejection of forms derived from the dominant social movement
did not spring from any disapproval of initiatives of intervention. On the contrary,
he had great appreciation for the contribution made by the Chicago School of
Sociology: "Given the similarities between Chicago and Sao Paulo and our inten?
tion here to expand sociological research, the idea of converting Sao Paulo into
a laboratory (or a special field of concentrated work by sociologists) appealed
to me as a real challenge to my imagination" (Fernandes, 1980:170).8 The modern
university would be the locus for the development of proposals for social inter?
vention, the privileged site of the routines required to build a scientific sociology
in his country. His understanding of sociology in this situation determined his
research interests, which combined theory and methodology?even his theses
in the field of ethnology (1948; 1970) were, in substance, extended theoretical
exercises?with studies of industrialized civilization and the formation of the
class society, that is, modern bourgeois society, in a context permeated by values
held over from its slave-holding past.

This content downloaded from on Tue, 19 Jul 2016 09:11:05 UTC
All use subject to

A integrag?o do Negro na sociedade de classes (The Integration of the Black in

the Class Society) [translated as The Negro in Brazilian Society, and later retitled
The Black in Brazilian Society?Translator], the thesis he presented in the March
1964 competition for the chair in sociology (a post that he had in fact held since
1954 as chair of the Department of Sociology I, after Roger Bastide returned to
France) represented a change in direction. This exemplary monograph returned
to the concerns with race relations and race prejudice that had begun with the
research promoted by UNESCO in various regions of Brazil between 1949 and
1951, the report on which he and Bastide had written. This work revealed his
mature reflection on the development of modern Brazil, involving a clear retreat
from his former ideas about how the principles of modern civilization might
be introduced into Brazil. Locating the so-called Negro question in the evolution
of the old slave-holding society into the modern class society, he analyzed race
relations in terms of the global dynamic of the modernization of Brazil. The
rapid transformation of Sao Paulo between the end of the nineteenth and the
beginning of the twentieth century had made it impossible to incorporate blacks
and mulattos into the new urban lifestyle, because the former slaves were not
equipped to face competition from European immigrants; to express this using
Fernandes's categories, the differences present in a "caste situation" hindered
the blacks from assimilating the possibilities offered by the "class situation."
The result of this process of "structural maladjustment" was the "social disor?
ganization" typical of the situation of people of African descent, who were left
to live their lives on the margins of society and forbidden to enjoy the achieve?
ments of civilization. Prejudice and other expressions of discrimination served
the purpose of "preserving social distance" and reproducing "sociocultural
isolation" with a view to preserving "outmoded social structures." The very
speed of the historical development of Sao Paulo had created a strong incongru?
ity between the social order (better-synchronized with the changes in the struc?
ture of the economy) and the racial order (adjusting much more slowly to such
changes) retained as a sort of "leftover from the old regime" whose future
elimination would be the result of "indirect effects of the progressive normaliza?
tion of the democratic way of life and its corresponding social order."
An understanding of the emergence of modern society in Brazil as a complex
process with mixed results is made explicit in these passages; the transformation
suffers from a sort of congenital weakness that compromises the whole of its
later development. Analyzing the legacy of slavery is therefore part of the attempt
to understand how the bases of Brazilian society served as obstacles to capitalist
modernity. The project of researching the role of the relationships created by
slavery in the building of Brazilian society is further developed in the writings
of Fernandes's disciples, among them Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Oct?vio
Ianni, and Maria Sylvia de Carvalho Franco. Working on these topics led to
intellectual affinities in the group around him, justifying the identity constructed
and synthesized in the term "Sao Paulo School of Sociology," although this
cooperation did not always avoid internal differences.
The skepticism running through the pages of The Black in Brazilian Society
marked the end of Fernandes's systematic reflections on the subject and led
him on to new projects: Economia e sociedade no Brasil: An?lise sociol?gica do
subdesenvolvimento (Economy and Society in Brazil: A Sociological Analysis of

This content downloaded from on Tue, 19 Jul 2016 09:11:05 UTC
All use subject to

Underdevelopment) (1962) and a research project on industry in Sao Paulo that

he developed with Fernando Henrique Cardoso to orient research to be under?
taken by the Centro de Sociologia Industrial e do Trabalho (Industry and Labor
Sociology Center?CESIT), established in 1962 with both public and private
funding. During its nine-year existence, the CESIT produced an outstanding
body of research on the direction of Brazil's modernization and especially that
of its "industrial civilization." The establishment of the CESIT, located at USP,
marked the definitive entry of Sao Paulo sociologists into the debate on the
country's development and added their voices to the chorus of social scientists
demanding projects centered on it, among them those of the government
sponsored Instituto Superior de Estudos Brasileiros (Higher Institute of Brazilian
Studies?ISEB) in Rio de Janeiro. Its founding, alongside the proverbially vital
ISEB and the innovative sociology-and-politics curriculum of the economics
faculty of the University of Minas Gerais, showed the vigor and relevance
acquired by the social sciences in Brazil in the years following the traumatic
events of the immediate post-World War II period. Development in Latin America
posed a real challenge that is exemplified by the contentious history of the United
Nations' Economic Commission for Latin America. With his The Black in Brazilian
Society, Fernandes emphasized that stalemate was inherent in a modernization
process that was too weak to overcome the legacy of the past and thereby breathed
new life into outmoded traditions by combining with them. These ideas gave
direction to his A revolug?o burguesa no Brasil: Ensaio de interpretag?o sociol?gica
(The Bourgeois Revolution in Brazil: An Attempt at a Sociological Interpretation)
(1975b), leading him to develop categories useful in treating the problems and
limitations typical of societies that fail to develop the more advanced forms of
modern civilization.
A revolug?o burguesa no Brasil seeks to analyze the development of a bour?
geois society in Brazil from Independence in 1822 to the consequences of the
army coup d'etat of 1964. Its nuanced text reveals a clear split between
Fernandes's thinking and what is apparent from his analysis. Written between
1966 and 1974, it suffered from an interruption in composition of about three
years, when he was in exile, teaching at the University of Toronto. At the end
of the book he explains how he perceives his undertaking (1975b: 9-10):

Readers must understand that I was not trying to write a work of "academic
sociology." On the contrary, I was seeking to sum up, in the simplest possible
language, the main lines of the evolution of capitalism and the class society in
Brazil. This is a free-standing essay such as only a sociologist could have written,
but it is one that has brought into the foreground the frustrations and hopes of a
militant socialist.

Despite the author's stated intention, the book is in fact an academic exercise
in interpretation in which the stylistic peculiarities of academe are all too obvious.
When he examines the meaning in the Brazilian context of the notions of "bour?
geois," "bourgeoisie," and "bourgeois revolution," he is trying "to establish in
a preliminary way certain questions of heuristic approach" (1975b: 15). The
decisive problem posed in this work is the creation of a class-based society and
a bourgeois revolution in Brazil, seen through the prism of the formation of a
bourgeois mentality, an ethic of "gain," "profit," and "calculated risk" (16).9

This content downloaded from on Tue, 19 Jul 2016 09:11:05 UTC
All use subject to

The first part examines the process of independence and the launching of the
bourgeois revolution. In dealing with this formative period, Fernandes discusses
the values introduced by the agents involved and the orientation they gave to
society and points out that economic thought during the colonial period "was
subject to an unavoidable distortion" (25). His analysis reveals the psychosocial
dimensions of the "bourgeois spirit." It is therefore crucial to understand the
building of the Brazilian nation, based on independence and liberalism, as the
work of the "native elites" before we can begin to understand how the new doctrines
emerged and determined policy. Liberalism produces "specific forms of power,
organized for profit making," which for a section of society requires "free com?
petition" (48). There emerges, then, "an area in which, despite inevitable clashes,
the 'competitive system' can co-exist with the 'system of fixed hierarchies'" (48).
Liberalism underlies the emergence and structuring of our national society but
is adulterated by components of our earlier history not all of which it manages
to overcome (39).10 It is here that the specificity of Brazil's historical develop?
ment achieves salience, allowing him to discuss the problem of our bourgeois
revolution (20):

It is a question ... of discovering how the absorption of a structural and dynamic

pattern of the organization of the economy, society, and culture was processed.
How were we going to organize a market economy on monetary and capitalist
bases if we were not going to make universal either wage labor or the expansion
of the competitive social order? It is from this perspective that bourgeois and revolu?
tion appear on the skyline of sociological analysis. Our past is not completely that
of Europe, but we did reproduce that continent's more recent past, albeit in our
own peculiar way, because this was part of the very process of implanting and
developing modern Western civilization here in Brazil. Speaking of a bourgeois
revolution, in this sense, consists in seeking out the human agents of the great
historic social transformations that lie behind the break-up of the slave-holding
regime and the formation of a class society in Brazil.

Reflecting on the social dynamic of these agents, Fernandes seeks to under?

stand "the formation of so-called modern Brazil, the cultural flowering of the
silent socioeconomic revolution, in which that political revolution would gradu?
ally unfold" (1975b: 71). In short, his analysis endeavors to trace the genesis of
this problematic identity at the heart of Brazilian history, whose combination
of disparate elements accounts for the country's peculiar fate.
In the second part of the book, Fernandes attempts to understand how com?
petitive social orders come about in countries like Brazil that have a colonial
background: "In dependent 'national societies' with a colonial origin, capitalism
has been introduced before the creation of a competitive social order. I find myself
faced with economic, social, and political structures, fashioned under a colonial
regime, that have undergone only a partial and superficial adjustment to the
capitalist norms of economic life" (Fernandes, 1975b: 149). Once again, he iden?
tifies the problem of our history in the incapacity or impossibility of overcoming
the principles inherent in the earlier social order. The notions of dependent
capitalism and the competitive social order shape his analysis, allowing him to
understand the limits of "the competitive style of social life" and "the rational
economic mentality." The problem posed is that of divining the social agent
that best embodies the bourgeois lifestyle.

This content downloaded from on Tue, 19 Jul 2016 09:11:05 UTC
All use subject to

An urban mercantile bourgeoisie, called the "intermediating social condi?

tion" (160), expressed the new social values but nevertheless could not or did
not know how to break the powerful circle that had come from the past

At this point, it is necessary to emphasize, especially, the close ties established,

genetically, between substantially conservative (or in other terms: particularist
and elitist) interests and social values and the makeup of the competitive social
order. Brazil's historic, economic, and political roots have tied its present to its
past as if with chains of iron. If, at one historic moment, competitiveness helped to
speed up the decline and fall of a society of castes and hierarchies, at another it tied
the expansion of capitalism to a rough set of private interests, rigidly particularist
and fundamentally autocratic, as if the "modern bourgeois" had arisen from the
ashes of the "old landlord."

Since those engaged in commercial activities, capitalist in nature and aiming at

the domestic market, could not escape the effects of the situation, they adopted
the hierarchical criteria of the old slave-holding order, choosing a lifestyle like
that of the land-owning aristocracy (183). The final outcome was a society encum?
bered with a legacy hostile to the full emergence of a competitive social order
and its inherent class structure, and this had clear and damaging consequences
for the construction of "superior social relationships" (1975b: 196-197).
In the third part of the work he discusses the origin and nature of dependent
capitalist accumulation. He stresses how the class structure of the bourgeoisie
in Brazil differs from that in the rest of the bourgeois world. Unable to separate
itself from the oligarchy and carry out the typical tasks of the bourgeoisie in
Europe, such as creating the nation and becoming the fundamental agent of
transformation, the Brazilian bourgeoisie has lived the historic dilemma of its
class situation. The state, aligning itself with the forces of social reaction and
failing to introduce liberal democracy, has itself been the backbone of change:
it was the state and not the bourgeoisie that launched the process of industri?
alization. For all this (1975b: 214),

Dependent capitalism is, by its very nature and in general, a type of capitalism
that is difficult to achieve and to practice, one that leaves the bourgeoisie with few
effective alternatives, condemned to being both its partner and its nurse. From
this angle, the historic reduction in the field of action of the bourgeoisie expresses
a specific reality in which the triumph of the bourgeoisie is linked not to a "national,
democratic revolution" but to dependent capitalism and the type of capitalist
transformation that that supposes.

Brazil's bourgeoisie has never had the strength to break the bonds imposed
by the dominant outside centers on a dependent economy and society. The
capitalist order is rocked by outside forces and, given its mixed pattern of devel?
opment, responds with a solidarity made up of opposites. This is why the
analysis of the "bourgeois revolution in Brazil is made up of the present-day
crisis of bourgeois power that emerges as the consequence of the transition from
competitive capitalism to monopoly capitalism" (Fernandes, 1975b: 215). And
it is here that damaging cleavages begin to appear, ruptures that affect the
analysis and the categories that identify it. The last two chapters, "Nature and

This content downloaded from on Tue, 19 Jul 2016 09:11:05 UTC
All use subject to

States of Capitalist Development" and "The Autocratic-Bourgeois Model of

Capitalist Transformation," illustrate these changes.
The breadth of reflection developed in the book, the long period it covers, the
essay format, and, above all, the discussion of the historical development of
Brazilian society permit us to associate the work, paradoxically completed at the
moment when his interpretation forced him out of the university, with the tradi?
tion of basic interpretive texts on Brazil. Even more significant is that this essay
represented a retreat from his earlier intellectual approach. He did not regard
the essay as a legitimate expression of scientific sociology. Indeed, he asserted
the impossibility of comparing scientific sociology with the procedures of his?
torical reconstruction typical of the essay (Fernandes, 1963: 230; see also 1958b:
45-^16). This book does not have the systematic organization of his earlier work
(Arruda, 2001: 315). The recurrence of the historical development of Brazilian
society, "a notion at once descriptive and normative," in Brazilian thought raises
important intellectual questions (Arantes, 1997:12). A kind of avatar of the intel?
lectual on the periphery, this notion allows one to get around a sense of the
artificiality of our culture, its lack of a clear linear evolution, the nonexistence
of "seriation" in its ideas, and our persistent "indifference" (in Silvio Romero's
term) as the result of the constant dominion of imported intellectual ideas over
local tradition.
In adopting the essay form here, Fernandes departed from the discursive
mode of expression he had previously favored without, however, ceasing to
write fundamental sociological analyses, rigorously argued. From his examina?
tion of the makeup of modern society in the tropics and the weakness of the
assimilation of these values in Brazil to his confirmation of the impossibility of
real civilization's being achieved there, Fernandes followed a path in which the
directions of Brazilian history were mixed with his own life and sociology. The
successive reprintings of his "Tiago Marques Aipobureu: urn Bororo marginal"
symbolize how deeply his life story impregnated his work and its development,
showing the degree to which his personal circumstances were mixed up with
the problems of Brazil. In this context it is possible to understand the different
patterns reflected in the country's experience of modernization. Adhering to a
partisan policy, Fernandes redirected his efforts toward making his sociological
analyses reveal the strange and unexpected effects of human action in the world,
something that he considered especially evident in societies such as that of
Brazil. This may be his principal contribution to a new view of the development
of a modern society in Brazil.


1. I have elsewhere explored the relationship between modernism and these essays of the
1930s (Arruda, 2006: 131-141). For an analysis of the differences between modernism and the
essays of Gilberto Freyre, see Ara?jo (2005).
2. "The real name of whoever writes the essay is one of the key elements of the genre: in
adopting the first person, the essayist also undertakes an explicit agreement with the reader that
he is responsible for what he has written" (Saitta, 2004:108). Ara?jo (2005:199) says that Gilberto
Freyre is a character in his own book, presenting himself "both its creator and its creature."

This content downloaded from on Tue, 19 Jul 2016 09:11:05 UTC
All use subject to

3. For an analysis of Fernandes's life and intellectual development, see Garcia (2002). For a
treatment of his pioneering modern sociology, see Arruda and Garcia (2003).
4. In this work Fernandes drew on material gathered by Herbert Baldus, Antonio Colbacchini,
and Cesar Albisetti (Fernandes, 1978: 85).
5. Martins (1996: 14-19) analyzes Fernandes's biographical studies. Besides the text about
Tiago Marques, he mentions research in Sorocaba on the charismatic leader Jo?o de Camargo
and a collection of summarized articles by friends, fellow partisans, and Brazilian and Latin
American intellectuals expressing radical positions, a classic of intellectual history (Fernandes,
Candido, et al., 1995). See also Martins (1998).
6. "I would be, as a human figure, what historians, anthropologists, and sociologists call an
uprooted personality. I am someone who has lost his roots" (Fernandes, 1978: 30).
7. On the project of social intervention in Fernandes's sociology, see Arruda and Garcia
(2003: esp. pt. 2).
8. "The resonances of the Chicago School's reforming agenda, which seeks to require its
researchers to immerse themselves in local life, in the Social Science Department of the University
of S?o Paulo were various" (Vianna, 1997: 190).
9. Here he makes use of Sombart's categories.
10. Fernandes relies for his analysis of the ideological and Utopian dimensions of liberalism
on Mannheim.


Arantes, Paulo Eduardo

1997 "Providencias de um critico liter?rio na periferia do capitalismo," in Otflia Beatriz Fiori
Arantes and Paulo Eduardo Arantes, Sentido da formag?o: Pres estudos sobre Antonio C?ndido,
Gilda de Melo e Souza e Lucio Costa. S?o Paulo: Paz e Terra.
Ara?jo, Ricardo Benzaquen de
2005 Guerra e paz: "Casa Grande e Senzala" e a obra de Gilberto Freyre nos anos 30. S?o Paulo:
Editora 34.
Arruda, Maria Arminda do Nascimento
2001 Metropole e cultura: S?o Paulo no meio seculo XX. Bauru: EDUSC.
2006 "Pensamento brasileiro e sociologia da cultura: quest?es de interpretag?o." Clio: Revista
do Centro de Hist?ria da Universidade de Lisboa 14:131-141.
Arruda, Maria Arminda do Nascimento and Sylvia Gemignani Garcia
2003 Florestan Fernandes: Mestre da sociologia moderna. Brasilia: Paralelo 15.
Bastos, Elide Rugai
2008 "O outro Brasil de Luis Amaral," in Andre Botelho, Elide Rugai Bastos, and Gl?ucia Villas
Boas (eds.), O moderno em quest?o: A decada de 1950 no Brasil. Rio de Janeiro: Topbooks.
Blanco, Alejandro
2006 Raz?n y modernidad: Gino Germani y la sociologia em la Argentina. Buenos Aires: Siglo XXI.
Botelho, Andre
2008 "Uma sociedade em movimento e sua intelligentsia: apresentag?o," in Andre Botelho,
Elide Rugai Bastos, and Gl?ucia Villas Boas (eds.), O moderno em quest?o: A decada de 1950 no
Brasil. Rio de Janeiro: Topbooks.
C?ndido, Antonio
1996 "Nota final," in Lembrando Florestan Fernandes. S?o Paulo: n.p.
2000 A educag?o pela noite e outros ensaios. S?o Paulo: Atica.
Cardoso, Irene de Arruda Ribeiro
1982 A universidade da comunh?o paulista. S?o Paulo: Cortez.
Fernandes, Florestan
1946 "Tiago Marques Aibopureu: urn Bororo Marginal." Revista do Arquivo Municipal 57.
1948 A organizag?o social dos Tupinamb?. S?o Paulo: Instituto Progresso Editorial.
1958a A etnologia e a sociologia no Brasil. S?o Paulo: Anhembi.
1958b O padr?o do trabalho cientifico dos soci?logos brasileiros. Rio de Janeiro: Edi^?o da Revista
Brasileira de Estudos Politicos.
1962 Economia e sociedade no Brasil: An?lise sociologica do subdesenvolvimento. S?o Paulo: CESIT.

This content downloaded from on Tue, 19 Jul 2016 09:11:05 UTC
All use subject to

1963 A sociologia numa era de revolug?o social. S?o Paulo: Nacional.

1965 A integrag?o do negro na sociedade de classes: No limiar de uma nova era. S?o Paulo: Dominus.
1970 Afung?o social da guerra na sociedade Tupinamb?. 2d edition. S?o Paulo: Pioneira.
1974 (1960) Mudangas sociais no Brasil. 2d edition. S?o Paulo: Difus?o Europeia do Livro.
1975a A investigag?o etnol?gica no Brasil e outros ensaios. Petr?polis: Vozes.
1975b A revolug?o burguesa no Brasil: Ensaio de interpretag?o sociol?gica. Rio de Janeiro: Zahar.
1978 A condig?o de soci?logo. S?o Paulo: HUCITEC.
1980 A sociologia no Brasil. Petr?polis: Vozes.
Fernandes, Florestan, Antonio C?ndido, et al.
1995 A contestag?o necess?ria: Retratos intelectuais de inconformistas e revolcion?rios. S?o Paulo: ?tica.
Garcia, Sylvia Gemignani
2002 Destino impar: sobre aformag?o de Florestan Fernandes. S?o Paulo: Editora 34.
Mannheim, Karl
1963 Ensayos de sociologia de la cultura: Hacia una sociologia del espiritu, el problema de la "inteli
gentsia," la democratizaci?n en la cultura. Madrid: Aguillar.
Martins, Jose de Souza
1996 "Vida e hist?ria na sociologia de Florestan Fernandes: reflex?es sobre o metodo da hist?ria.,,
Revista USP 29 (March-May): 14-19.
1998 Florestan: Sociologia e consciencia social no Brasil. S?o Paulo: EDUSP.
Neiburg, Federico Guilhermo
1997 Os intelectuais e a inveng?o do peronismo. S?o Paulo: EDUSP.
Saitta, Sylvia
2004 "Modos de pensar lo social: ensayo y la sociedad en la Argentina, 1930-1965/' in Federico
Guilhermo Neiburg and Mariano Plotkin (eds.), Intelectuales y expertos: La constituci?n del
conocimiento social en la Argentina. Buenos Aires: Paid?s.
Simmel, Georg
1978 The Philosophy of Money. Trans. Tom Bottomore and David Frisby. London: Routledge.
Vianna, Luiz Werneck
1997 A revolug?o passiva: Iberismo e americanismo no Brasil. Rio de Janeiro: Revan.
Villas Boas, Gl?ucia
2006 Mudanga provocada: Passado e futuro no pensamento sociol?gico brasileiro. Rio de Janeiro:
Fundac,?o Get?lio Vargas.

This content downloaded from on Tue, 19 Jul 2016 09:11:05 UTC
All use subject to