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Administrative Theory & Praxis Vol. 28, No. 4, 2006: 501–521 R


Ariston Azevêdo
State University of Maringá

Renata Ovenhausen Albernaz

Federal University of Santa Catarina

Translated by G. G. Candler

Alberto Guerreiro Ramos’s intellectual trajectory is analyzed to
show his permanent concern with the condition of contemporary hu-
manity. Two moments in his trajectory are specifically addressed. In
the first, under the strong influence of Christian intellectual thought,
the category of human person was most important to him. In the
second moment he sought to demonstrate autonomy from those ear-
lier influences, secularized his thought, and coined the expression
Parenthetical Man, which was central to his criticism of the social
sciences and especially of organizational theory. From this he pro-
posed his theory of social system delimitation. From this point of
view, it is possible to affirm that Guerreiro Ramos’s sociology is
predominantly antropocentric, in other words, Ramos takes man as
the main reference in his design of social systems.

The climax of the social scientist’s concern with history is the idea
he comes to hold of the epoch in which he lives. The climax of his
concern with biography is the idea he comes to hold of man’s basic
nature, and of the limits it may set to the transformation of man by
the course of history. (Mills, 1959, p. 165)

It is little known that the social scientist Alberto Guerreiro Ramos

began his career as a poet and literary critic in the 1930s in Salvador, in
the state of Bahia, Brazil. During the years from 1936 to 1942 he was
devoted to realize his desire to become a poet, but was able to publish
only two books, as well as some reviews and criticisms. In his first book,
O Drama do ser Dois [The Drama of Being Two], which was published
in 1937, Ramos, inspired by the Christian anthropology of the Russian

2006, Public Administration Theory Network

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philosopher Nicolas Berdyaev, wrote about his permanent existential

state of discomfort with the secular world. In this book he admitted that
he was living under the tension of strong contradictory sentiments, be-
longing both to the Kingdom of God and to the Kingdom of Caeser, to
heaven and to hell; and that inside himself there existed an incessant
fight between good and bad.
The experience of these tensions was narrated in poems of a pro-
foundly religious tone, which reveal his sensibility with the reality of the
world, his resistance to the unidimensionalization of individual psychol-
ogy, his dialecticity, lyricism and poetic language. This definition of
himself as a man who felt his existence dramatically tensioned between
dualities was made at around 22 years of age. But at the age of 66, a few
years prior to his death, he still admitted that the tension between duali-
ties was a fundamental characteristic of his personality. In truth, to be-
long to two worlds meant belonging to neither, but rather to be
between them. Thus, without abandoning the expression “the drama of
being two” as a definition of his personality, and despite already being
considered one of Brazil’s major sociologists, Ramos adopted Voege-
lin’s expression “in between”1 to explain his existential condition.
Ramos’s second book was Introdução à Cultura [Introduction to Cul-
ture] (1939). Rather than another book of poetry, this was a collection
of studies on culture, humanism, personalism and poetry, in which the
author denounced the decadent modus operandi of the modern world.
In the 1930s, strongly influenced by French Catholic intellectuals [espe-
cially Jacques Maritain (1972) and some personalists allied to French
intellectual groups like Espirit and Ordre Nouveau], as well as by Nico-
las Berdyaev, Ramos’s critique of the modern world was no less severe
than that contained 40 years later in his The New Science of Organiza-
tions (1981). According to Ramos (1939), modern civilization had aban-
doned the possibility of establishing itself on qualitative bases, that is,
spiritual and eternal, and had instead based itself on quantitative bases,
that is, material and transitory. In other words, Ramos believed that the
passage from the Middle Ages to the Modern Age had resulted in a
spiritual transubstantiation of humanity: from “To Be” to “To Have.”
This change had affected both humanism and culture, two fundamental
elements to the operationalization and establishment of any configura-
tion of human associated life. Thus, the young Ramos believed that the
historical moment of his day represented the crowning of this transfor-
mation, of this hierarchical inversion (To Be—To Have), and demon-
strated the abandonment of the philosophical, social and political
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Azevêdo and Ovenhausen Albernaz 503

legacy of the classic era. The recuperation of this classical legacy would
be one of the principal intellectual activities of his life.
In Introdução à cultura one finds the main ideas of Ramos, articu-
lated in language that asserts the necessity of the installation of a new
culture, of a new humanity and of a new civilization centered in the
notion of the human person and of the community. Ramos’s transform-
ative proposal was very similar to the propositions of the French per-
sonalists. Using a conceptual framework based on pairs of contradictory
concepts—culture versus civilization, person versus individual, organic
versus mechanical, tragic feeling of life versus bourgeois feeling of exis-
tence—the young writer defends the necessity of the installation of a
new social structure that privileges the necessity of human spirit.
In our opinion, these first two of Ramos’s books are very important
for the comprehension of his intellectual trajectory, because in them are
significant elements—that is to say, certain influences, personal posi-
tions, theoretical options, concepts, and themes—that encompass the
totality of his intellectual contribution. One of the elements which re-
main present throughout his career is his commitment to the develop-
ment of an engaged knowledge. For example, he had an aversion to the
idea of art, which left him to criticize harshly what he referred to as a
poeta esteta, a type of poet who writes poetry as a mere fictional con-
struction, an artifice, something alienated from the existential life of the
creator. For Ramos, poetry was a form of spiritualization, of humaniza-
tion of man, a way to access God and the reality of the world, and had
an important social role, because poetry could help men and women
overcome the lack of spirituality in the modern world (1939).
Ramos leveled similar criticisms at some Brazilian sociologists. In-
spired by the difference proposed by Maritan between habit (evqoς) and
habitus (evxiς) (1972, pp. 15-30), Ramos distinguished between a “soci-
ology in habit” and “sociology in act or habitus” to differentiate a real,
applied sociology from a more academic, “literate” sociology. While a
sociology of habit would require specific training, often academic and
repetitive, focused on the exercise of “mere analagic repetition of prac-
tices and studies” (Ramos, 1996, p. 120) that is, focused on a trained
incapacity; a sociology of action required more than this sociological
literacy, because it could only be achieved through the commitment of
the sociologist with the immediate social context, and the development
of a new type of creative knowledge turned to improve individual and
associated human life. This link, this engagement or conscious compro-
mise of sociology with its context, would make it possible to produce an
authentic sociology. Without this kind of commitment, Ramos believed
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504 Administrative Theory & Praxis ❖Vol. 28, No. 4

that sociology would become irrelevant, as little more than a game

(1995, p. 107).
These personal positions emphasize the critical realism that is one of
the fundamental characteristics of Ramos’s thought. “The best way to
do science” is to do it “from life,” or better, “from the necessity to re-
spond to the challenges of reality” (Ramos, 1995, p. 105). It was in this
way that his main works on important Brazilian social problems had
been affected by his own existential circumstance (see Ventriss & Can-
dler, 2005, p. 349), such as those on child development, family budgets,
the pattern of life, poverty, infant mortality, popular medicine and
others developed in 1940s, when Ramos was strongly influenced by the
Chicago School of sociology. The same can be said of his involvement
in the Teatro Experimental do Negro (Black Experimental Theater),
which under the strong influence of Ramos, used the psychodrama and
sociometry methods of J. L. Moreno as therapy to help free Afro-
Brazilians from psychological colonization. This would permit both a
provocative analysis of the social relations resulting from these states of
discrimination and exclusion, and also the elimination of the emotional
difficulties that inhibited the realization of the personality of people of


In 1958, when it was first published, A Redução Sociológica [Socio-
logical Reduction] did not present all of the meanings that Alberto
Guerreiro Ramos would come to attribute to the term sociological re-
duction. The book was written when Ramos was teaching at the Supe-
rior Institute of Brazilian Studies, in the School of Public
Administration of the Fundação Getúlio Vargas, and beginning his po-
litical career. In other words, he was extremely busy, and as a result the
edition of 1958 was not consistent with the original project as conceived
by the author, but was only an incipient research project about the
meaning of sociological reduction. His desire was to develop a method
that could help sociologists understand the sociological truth2 of their
immediate reality, principally of their national reality; and that would
permit them to do this in a critical-assimilative fashion, in the face of
different forms of foreign knowledge and experience of this reality. This
desire led Ramos to concentrate overmuch in the first edition on only
one of the conceptual facets of sociological reduction, which was reduc-
tion as a critical assimilation of the foreign sociological literature (see
Ventriss & Candler 2005, pp. 349-352).
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Azevêdo and Ovenhausen Albernaz 505

In the second edition of the book, published in 1965, Guerreiro Ra-

mos presented two additional meanings of the term sociological reduc-
tion: as parenthetical attitude; and as a proposal for a new social science
of a markedly pluralistic character (Ramos, 1996, p. 11). Much later, in
1981, when he published the last book of his life, The New Science of
Organizations (1981), written in English and translated into Portuguese,
one of Ramos’s preoccupations was to furnish to his compatriots, in a
preface to the Brazilian edition, his intellectual development in light of
the three meanings furnished in 1965. The first sense of the term was
presented in his 1958 book. The second was presented in his 1963 Mito e
Realidade de Revolução Brasileiro [Myth and Reality of the Brazilian
Revolution] and in a 1972(a) Public Administration Review article
“Models of Man and Administrative Theory.” The third meaning of so-
ciological reduction was presented in an appendix to the second edition
of A Redução Sociológica (1965), in Administração e Estratégia do
Desenvolvimento (1966), in a book chapter titled “Modernization: To-
wards a Possibility Model,” and in The New Science of Organizations
With the purpose of better conceptualizing the second meaning of
sociological reduction, Ramos elaborated the category of the Parenthet-
ical Man, which is the synthesis of his humanism. As a result, we can
consider Ramos’s studies of the parenthetical man as being his more
substantive reflections about the relationship between humanism and
social theory exactly because those studies enlarged his point of view on
the theme. Ramos’s youthful work on humanism was strongly influ-
enced by intellectuals from France, like Jacques Maritain, Léon Bloy,
Charles Péguy, Nicolas Berdyaev, Emmanuel Mounier, and centered in
the Christian category of human person. This conceptual change in Ra-
mos’s intellectual trajectory—from the category of human person to
parenthetical man—was a consequence of a purpose that accompanied
him from his youth: to contribute to the elaboration of a new humanism
(Ramos, 1939). The category of parenthetical man represented his final
reflection regarding the important relation between humanism, social
theory and organizational theory, as articulated in his book The New
Science of Organizations. Despite this, Ramos’s anthropology is a to-
tally unexplored facet of his thought. The main objective of this paper is
to show the importance of Ramos’s reflections on the parenthetical
man for his theory of social systems delimitation and, by extension, for
the development of a truly new science of organizations.
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In Mito e Verdade da Revolução Brasileira (1963) [Myth and Reality
of the Brazilian Revolution], specifically in the chapter titled “organiza-
tional man and parenthetical man,” Ramos tried to systematize his own
conception of man. It is important to note that the author had started to
write this book during his election campaign for the Brazilian Congress,
during which he observed that all formal organizations (political par-
ties, in this case) superimpose operational and epistemological con-
straints that inhibit human development, and consequently human
autonomy. From this observation Ramos created, as a contrast to orga-
nizational man, the category of parenthetical man, a type of man resis-
tant to the effects of bureaucratic organization on human conduct and
Ramos believed that it was very important to understand the new
social fact of the formal organization. Although some people were
aware of the role of formal organizations in modern society, Ramos
argued that systematic reflections on this role were still recent and dis-
persed, and so an appropriate analysis of it, and its implications for con-
temporary man, were necessary. Ramos believed that formal
organizations had assumed a fundamental and unprecedented role in
the course of human history, and this fact was meaningful to social
scientists, as there were human aspects that only became clear if seen
from an organizational point of view. In other words, it would be diffi-
cult to comprehend the “essentials of collective life” without an organi-
zational perspective (Ramos, 1963, p. 147). As a result, an analytical
formulation of human praxis would be incomplete if it omitted this new
social domain.
Perhaps the consciousness of this fact had stimulated Ramos to as-
sert that, even though humanity had been condemned to act and to
interact with organizations, this would not necessarily mean that the
human was condemned to be molded into the image of the organiza-
tion, or to be transformed into a typical Whytean organizational-man.
According to Ramos, the modern human would need to resist the or-
ganization’s influence on his psyche, but this could only happen through
consciousness of the effects organizations produce on human life. Thus,
an understanding of the nature of organization would make possible a
human existence liberated from a good part of the serfdom that organi-
zations caused for humans, both individually and collectively.
The development of a collective critical consciousness of the nature
of organization would permit, in Ramos’s eyes, the entrance of human-
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Azevêdo and Ovenhausen Albernaz 507

ity into a new phase of the process of structuring human associated life.
This new stage of human critical consciousness was especially important
because men and women would learn much about how to cope in the
face of the growth of organizations. This would add to human con-
sciousness a quality still absent, or at the least not yet dominant: the
parenthetical attitude (p. 145). This concept was inspired by Edmund
Husserl’s (1967) distinction between natural attitude and critical atti-
tude. Ramos’s parenthetical attitude was defined “by the psychological
capacity of the individual to separate their internal and external” cir-
cumstances (1972a, p. 243), that is, the capacity of putting between pa-
rentheses the Self and the World and the existence of the Self as such.
When doing this, men and women would acquire critical consciousness
of the Self and of their Circumstances and thus, they would conquer
“the plane of self-conscious existence,” of self-determination, indicated
in this sense by the conquest of a “superior mode of human existence,”
or a type of “learned and transcendent existence” (Ramos, 1966, pp. 10-
11). Without adoption of the parenthetical attitude, humanity would
not be able to overcome the state of “brute existence” (p. 46), would be
unable to humanize itself, would lack “power over itself and over its
circumstances” (Ramos, 1963, p. 145), and therefore would be unable to
promote its active adjustment “to society and to the universe” (p. 145).
The parenthetical attitude would have, in Ramos’s thought, a funda-
mental role in the process of human emancipation. It is important to
note that the parenthetical attitude put reason and freedom in the
center of human articulation with the world, not in metaphysical terms
but as a concrete question, as práxis, once it implied the “discovery and
instauration of new organization forms,” making possible “superior
possibilities” of human existence (1963, p. 169).


After “Organization-Man and Parenthetical-Man,” during the period
from 1969 to 1972 Ramos would refocus his attention more intensely on
his studies of the parenthetical man. It was his intent to publish a book
that he would title The Parenthetical Man, in which he would present,
beyond his “parenthetical approach,” “the main images of man as-
sumed in different historical stages of the evolution of social sciences”:
the operational man, the reactive man, and the parenthetical man (Ra-
mos, 1969, p. 13). Though he did not carry out the book project, he did
write a series of works dedicated to examining the theme: “The Paren-
thetical Trip (I)” (1969), “The Parenthetical Trip (II)” (1970a), “The
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Parenthetical Trip (III)” (1970b), “The Parenthetical Man (An Anthro-

pological Approach to Organization Design)” (1971a), “Beyond Alien-
ation (Work and the Psychohistory of the Future)” (1971b), “The
Parenthetical Man” (1971c), “Models of Man and Administrative The-
ory” (1972a) and “The Parenthetical Diagraph” (1972b).
Given what he had written in Mito e Verdade da Revolução
Brasileira, the degree of elaboration that Ramos put into developing
the concept of the parenthetical man is worth noting. It is also worth
noting yet another dramatic change in the author’s life during this pe-
riod. While the book was written Ramos passed through a series of per-
sonal tribulations in Brazil: his political activity, the termination of his
mandate as Member of Congress by the military government after the
1964 coup, and his restriction to a small office in the Getúlio Vargas
Foundation in Rio de Janeiro, under constant threat of prison and tor-
ture. The other works were written in an academic environment more
appropriate to intellectual exercise, at the University of Southern Cali-
fornia, which he considered “the ideal context to develop” his insights,
as the university was “extremely supportive” of his research project
(1970a, p. 13), and located in a country passing through a singular mo-
ment in history. In general, one can affirm that the texts mentioned
above demonstrated a deep preoccupation regarding what sociology, or
more broadly the social sciences, were contributing to emphasizing men
and women as autonomous beings.
For Ramos, the elaboration of an anthropological approach was im-
perative. The principal aims of this approach would be, first, to serve as
an evaluative parameter for the design of social systems and of organi-
zations operating in the social structure, and second, it would contribute
to the development of new social systems and social organizations. He
was attempting nothing less than the elaboration of a “normative model
of man” (1971a, p. 29), in which the assumptions regarding human na-
ture would appear explicitly, and be legitimated by actual human neces-
sities. This position dramatically contradicted the then-existing practice
in social science more broadly, and contradicted the theory of organiza-
tions and administration specifically, in dealing with the central issue of
exposing the psychological bases on which both were founded.
Ramos was especially clear on this fact. It was precisely his evalua-
tion of these psychological presuppositions that would lead him to af-
firm, in 1971, that the “image of man” that the social sciences had
assumed was more ideological disguise than science.3 According to the
Brazilian sociologist, this false image of man in the social sciences had
been cultivated from the end of the eighteenth century, when the social
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Azevêdo and Ovenhausen Albernaz 509

sciences decided to take “as standards of individual normality the

norms or prescriptions imminent in the social systems” (1971a, p. 17).
In this way, through the intermediary of an acritical inductive process,
the social sciences assumed as normal whatever type of individual con-
formed to the psychological norms of the prevalent social system. Any
individual who deviated from these norms would be tagged as abnor-
mal, or declared a pathological case. In the economy, for example,
homo economicus was taken as the model of man by the classical econ-
omists, precisely because this model represented the human quality
most appropriate to the psychological and operational norms of a mar-
ket economy: “the systematic master reference of classical economics is
the market. Any human behavior that does not go along with the lines
of the psychological prescriptions of the market is considered abnor-
mal” (p. 18).
Worse, it was not solely in the economics discipline that these mar-
ket-centered notions of normality and pathology were used to distin-
guish “normal” human behavior from the “pathological.” For Ramos, it
was possible to find the same attitudes in the discipline of sociology,
and he tried to prove this through analyzing Durkheim’s works. This
analysis was important because Durkheim sketched a conception of
man that represented the point of view assumed by social science
schools, “mainly in the United States of America” (1971a, p. 19). In this
sense Durkheim was, more than other sociologists, a canon, and Ramos
believed that analyzing the French sociologist’s thought would be the
best way to demonstrate that the social sciences had become deformed
by a sort of pathology of normality.
According to Ramos, the normal human, the healthy human de-
fended by Durkheim was, in essence, an “adjusted man,” a man who
had adapted perfectly to the social environment in which he lived. De-
fenseless in the face of social forces, the Durkhemian man would be
subject to the tyranny of society, exposed to social coercion, unable to
act in a way that, from his point of view, would appear legitimate, under
pain of suffering social incomprehension or to be taken as someone ab-
normal. Ramos also pointed out that, in Durkheim, “the coercive char-
acter of society is ethically justified and the individual reaches the
highest level of ethical development when he fully conforms to the pre-
scriptions of the social system” (1971a, p. 19). This would lead Ramos
to affirm that the criterion of morality in the work of Durkheim was
derived from the social system. Durkheim failed to perceive that “the
problem of morality could be seen from the standpoint of the individ-
ual’s self-actualization” (p. 21), or that the social environment could be
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evaluated in light of human necessities of actualization of human poten-

tial, which would leave the social analyst to conclude that the social
environment represented, to humanity, something unhealthy, that is, an
enormous obstacle to human aspirations of personal development. In
other words, Durkheim failed to consider “that the speculation about
the unhealthy character of the environment itself would have room in
sociology” (p. 19).
Obviously Ramos was aware of the existence of another current of
sociology that moved significantly from these propositions of Durk-
heim. These would include those derived from the works of George
Simmel, Max Weber and Herbert Mead, where Ramos observed a ma-
jor emphasis on the individual as an active being, that is, constantly
preoccupied with the meaning of actions and seeking to satisfy the ne-
cessities of his or her ego. In general, these authors showed an interest
in incorporating these preoccupations of the individual into the body of
social theory. However, Ramos objected even to these propositions of
the individual as a being focused on meaning, as they failed to put into
focus the more urgent question of the epoch: “the pathology of social
conformity” (1971a, p. 21). Both Talcott Parsons, who enjoyed a strong
reputation in North American sociology during this period and had
written Social Structure and Personality, and Ralf Dahrendorf, with his
notion of homo sociologicus; followed the parameters delineated by
Durkheim at the beginning of the twentieth century. Thus, according to
Ramos’s point of view, both failed to escape from a sociology focused
on the legitimizing processes of the normative patterns of institutions.
In spite of this, it was clear to Ramos that sociology could assume
another direction: that associated with an anthropological approach.
The introduction of the notion of conflict in sociology, for example, in-
dicated to him new paths. Conflict could not presuppose the necessity
of adaptation of man to the social system, as assumed in the idea of
social equilibrium, at the same time that it could serve to decree that
certain organizational paradigms needed to be overcome, demanding,
on the part of social planners and of people in general, the focusing of
their creative forces to the elaboration of new social forms, to new
spaces related to the exercise of an authentic existence. As he put it:

Sociology today is increasingly expanding its horizon. Instead of a

view of human behavior from the standpoint of the requirements of
social equilibrium, it is developing a view to which nothing human
is extraneous, including the individual’s resistance to conformity
with episodical social frameworks of social equilibrium. Conflict is
ubiquitous in all social systems and sometimes must be considered
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Azevêdo and Ovenhausen Albernaz 511

as an indication that an established social order is losing legitimacy.

Sociology does not have a systematic commitment with any estab-
lished social order. (1971a, pp. 22-23)

In this way, Ramos agreed with Peter Berger (1963) in the claim that
sociology had insisted, from its origin, in the total equalization of man
with determined types of socially validated identities; and also with
Karen Horney (1964), who positioned herself against the super-social-
ized normality and defended the necessity of studying society under the
perspective of the psychic difficulties that social arrangements and
structures created for individuals. Thus, the social sciences could not
remain immune to the criticisms being made regarding the “pathology
of conformity or social normality” (Ramos, 1971a, p. 25-6). Psychologi-
cal works such as those of Eric Fromm (1967), Abraham Maslow
(1968), Chris Argyris (1964), Douglas McGregor (1968), Frederick
Herzberg (1969), along with Horney, had pointed to the need to articu-
late a science of man that emphasized the fundamental requirements of
human development, reinforcing this plea through an anthropological
approach to the social sciences.
Also relevant to the development of these ideas was that in the 1960s
humanity was experiencing the passage from a period of shortage of
material goods and elementary services, to one of abundance. This
point was important to Ramos, because past “fundamental lacks” that
prevented people from engaging in substantive pursuits and pursuing
personal development could now be overcome (Ramos, 1973, p. 393).
At the same time, that transformation would lead people to question
the legitimacy of some social systems and existent organizations, if they
failed to correspond to the new demand for human and social develop-
ment (p. 402). Instead, formal organizations and the social systems they
constituted seemed, in Ramos’s view, true “prisons,” or “a refinement
of the master-slave relationship” (p. 396). The “repressive socialization”
of organizations was causing “high psychological costs” at both the per-
sonal and social level. For Ramos, the:

Present organizations and public bureaucracies were designed to be

effective in scarcity complexes. And they have proved to be very
successful, but the very moment when they have accomplished
their goals, because of such efficiency, they are no longer needed.
The emerging values of affluence make them intolerable, and if
they do not change or are not replaced by more expendable soci-
otechnical structures, present human problems will reach a threat-
ening criticality. (pp. 395-396)
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Both the social sciences and especially organization theory “must be

subsumed under a theory of human development, with the healthy per-
sonality as one of its paramount concerns” (p. 398). In this way, the
main task of social scientists would be to design “counter-systems ac-
cording to new images of the future” (p. 399). In other words, it was
fundamental to elaborate normative criteria that could serve as an ana-
lytical instrument of social and organizational systems. These criteria
could not, because of the transitional period that humanity was passing
through, be encountered in the precarious and questionable social sys-
tems of the day, as these were totally without legitimacy (p. 402).
In agreement with all of these observations, Ramos sought to explain
the postulates of his anthropological approach in the following terms:

1. a systematic understanding of human nature or of humanity’s

basic needs is a condition sine qua non of a meaningful critique
of social systems at the macro and micro levels;
2. the ultimate objective of systems design in macro and micro
levels is the actualization of human potentialities;
3. human development never ends;
4. the legitimacy of any social system from the standpoint of
human development is always precarious;
5. any social system is unviable when its functioning requires the
sacrifice of human creativity; and
6. if a science of man is possible, this science has necessarily to
transcend the immanent normative criteria of existing social sys-
tems. (1971a, pp. 9-10)


As a model, the parenthetical man would be the heart of Ramos’s

anthropological framework. Before, however, the establishment of the
parenthetical man as an analytical model of the stage of development of
the social and administrative sciences, Ramos reviewed various studies
that also attempted to present his models of humanity. With the aim of
organizing these studies, Ramos (1971a; 1971c) categorized them as:

1. Models derived from the author’s concern with the pathological

conditions of contemporary man, among which were the psycho-
logical types of David Riesman (tradition-orientedness, inner-
orientedness, other-orientedness), the already cited organiza-
tional man of William Whyte, the three types of man of Robert
Presthus (Upward mobiles, Ambivalents and Indifferents), the
unidimensional-man of Herbert Marcuse, and the relative man
of Hurbert Bonner, the encapsulated man proposed by Joseph
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Azevêdo and Ovenhausen Albernaz 513

Royce and Charles Reich’s types of man (man of consciousness I

and man of consciousness II);
2. models of man derived from a descriptive viewpoint, such as the
cases of homo sociologicus of Ralf Dahrendorf, the technologi-
cal man of Victor Ferkiss, the histrionic man proposed by
Goffman, the fallible man of Paul Ricoeur, the global man of
Marshall McLuhan, the modular man of Alvin Toffler, among
others; and
3. normative models, among which are the proposals of the psy-
chological man of Philip Rieff, the non-adjustable man of Vier-
eck, the autonomous man of Reisman, the transparent man of
Jourard, the self-actualized man of Maslow, the phenomenologi-
cal man of Garfinkel, the transcendent man of Victor Frankel,
again among others.

In general, these studies deal with a range of considerations regard-

ing the human condition, and denounce the impotence of contemporary
man to obtain personal realization through the social arrangements typ-
ical of the era. These studies also point to the urgent need to question
the social systems and the organizations that configure society. In the
same way, many of these studies attempt to discover the real human
necessities, beyond those determined by episodic historical circum-
stances. After this review, Ramos formulated his own model of man
(1971c, p. 465).
Though a model, the parenthetical man would be most useful in the
evaluation of the design of organizations and social systems. Therefore
the psychological characteristics of the parenthetical man would help to
identify many of the deficiencies of the social structure that the modern
industrial societies had built. Besides its usefulness as an evaluative cri-
terion, Ramos’s model of man could allow analysts and planners of so-
cial systems to delineate an enormous diversity of new types of
organizations, those more directed to human needs.
Before more fully discussing the parenthetical man, it is first neces-
sary to acknowledge three warnings that were elaborated by the author
with the intention of aiding the understanding of the model. First: the
parenthetical man could not be understood “as an individual psycholog-
ical character,” because no individual in a contemporary society would
entirely represent the personification of the comportamental style of
the parenthetical man, which was a normative model (1971c, p. 466).
Second: the parenthetical man was not an “abstract archtype, but a con-
crete possibility in contemporary societies” (p. 467). And third: the par-
enthetical man was not a “conformity model,” and so could not be
explained according to the canons of a psychology of adjustment, be-
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514 Administrative Theory & Praxis ❖Vol. 28, No. 4

cause the parenthetical man’s autonomy clashes with the excessive regi-
mentation suggested by a behaviorist psychology.
Two fundamental characteristics of the Parenthetical Man reveal
some aspects of the earlier-discussed Christian legacy of Ramos’s work:
first, the parenthetical man as a rational being; and second, the paren-
thetical man as “self-actualized.” Reason is the central category of Ra-
mos’s humanism since his early works. Reason was always presented by
the author in terms of dichotomies, from his first book until his last. In
1939, when addressing the modern dichotomy of reason, he showed two
faces of the term: the utilitarian face and the spiritual face. The first,
utilitarian reason, would be linked with man as individual, the second
would be linked with man as person. Much later, with his deeper knowl-
edge of the works of Max Weber, Karl Mannheim and Eric Voegelin,
the duality of the significance of the term reason would gain more soci-
ological characteristics, and become a key component of Ramos’s social
thought. In a 1946 text, for example, he called the attention of his read-
ers to the difference Weber established, with the intent of elaborating a
comprehensive sociology, “between rationality and irrationality, in
terms of function before that of substance” (1946, pp. 132-133). In other
words, Ramos called attention to the Weberian distinction between
Zweckrationalität (formal rationality) and Wertrationalität (substantive
rationality) and consequently, between rational action referring to ends
and rational action referring to values. In this same 1946 work, he also
observed that Karl Mannheim had made use of this same distinction to
articulate his “theory of social organization” (Ramos, 1946, p. 133).
But it would only be in 1966, with the publication of his last book in
Brazil before he departed into exile, that Ramos would demonstrate the
maturity that the concepts of formal or instrumental rationality and
substantive or substantial rationality would develop in his reflections,
and indicate the direction in which his social thinking would develop, in
the case of the recuperation of the classic meaning of reason and the
implications of this for the articulation of human life in union with the
individual. In Administração e Estrategia do Desenvolvimento (1966),
Ramos firmed his understanding of functional and substantial rational-
ity, saying on the one hand, human acts could be functional “when,
linked with other actions or elements, they contribute to a predeter-
mined objective. It is functional if the predetermined objective that this
kind of rationality could be assessed” (1983, p. 38). On the another
hand, all intrinsically intelligent acts that are based in a lucid under-
standing of the relations among facts are substantially rational. A ra-
tional act is one that attests to the transcendence of the human being,
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Azevêdo and Ovenhausen Albernaz 515

the individual’s quality as a creature endowed with reason. Here rea-

son, which presides over the act, is not the positive integration of a sys-
tematic series of other acts, but a tone of intellectual accuracy. An act is
of the dominion of impulses, sentiments, emotions, pre-conceits, and of
other factors that disturb the vision and the intelligent understanding of
reality. Crudely, substantive rationality is preoccupied with protecting
liberty (p. 39).
Here, one can see a preoccupation with the subject of human liberty,
and the substantive dimension of reason that it supports. Eric Voegelin
had drawn on Weber and Mannheim to distinguish between pragmatic
rationality (or instrumental rationality) and noetic (or substantial) ra-
tionality. Voegelin (1963) showed that a society become a good society
if “noetic reason” assumed “the character of creative force” in the pro-
cess of constructing human associated life (Ramos, 1983, p. 39).
Voegelin shared Plato’s opinion that “the polis is man in enlarged
scale” (Voegelin, 1982, p. 54). In other words, the polis represented not
just a microcosm, but also a macroanthropos (p. 55). This was Plato’s
“anthropological principle.” Here it is important to show two aspects:
first, “every city reflects in its order the human type from which it is
composed”; second, the anthropological principle could be one “instru-
ment of critical social analysis” (p. 55). These points have great rele-
vance for understanding Ramos’s thought, and his efforts to elaborate a
model of humanity. In fact, the parenthetical man is par excellence a
bearer of reason in the noetic sense. According to Ramos (1981, p. 28),
“by exercising reason and living according to its ethical imperatives,
man transcends the condition of a purely natural and socially deter-
mined being and becomes a political actor,” and consequently the pres-
ence of the parenthetical man in a society will improve the quality of
political life and freedom.
Besides being a reasoning individual, the parenthetical man is con-
cerned with the personal actualization process. In this way, it is impor-
tant to highlight here that the notions of personal actualization, self-
actualization and personal growth are essential to the comprehension of
Ramos’s model of man, even though presented at times in a confusing
manner, especially in his last book, where he attempts to clarify some of
his concepts. On personal actualization, Ramos writes:

The individual’s deeds as a jobholder are incidental to his genuine

personal actualization. If a person allows the organization to be-
come the primal referent for existence, he loses contact with his
real self and instead adapts himself to a contrived reality. Contrived
systems like formal organizations have goals which, only by acci-
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516 Administrative Theory & Praxis ❖Vol. 28, No. 4

dent and secondarily, bear upon a person’s actualization. True actu-

alizers are the actors able to maneuver in the organizationally
contrived world, serving its objectives with mental reservations and
qualifications, all the while leaving some room for the fulfillment of
their unique project of existence. There is therefore a continuous
tension between contrived organizational systems and actualizers.
To claim that the individual should strive toward the elimination of
such tension, thus arriving at a homeostatic equilibrium between
himself and the organization. . .is to advise the deformation of the
self. Only a defective self can find in contrived systems the ade-
quate milieu for his actualization. (1981, pp. 86-87)

He continues:
Self-actualization moves the individual toward inner tension, to-
ward resisting complete socialization of his psyche. . . . the individ-
ual’s self-actualization is very often than not an unintended
consequence of innumerable courses of action. Paradoxically it is
an after-the-fact verification rather than a guaranteed agenda. The
more the individual is concerned explicitly with self-actualization,
the more trapped he finds himself in the puzzle of existential frus-
tration. (pp. 87-88)

On another note, and still remembering well the ideas of Nicolas

Berdayev, Ramos says “personal growth and personal solitude are in-
separable. Personal growth unfolds from within the individual’s psyche
and most likely is hindered by social or group feedback processes”
(1981, p. 112).
For Ramos, the parenthetical man was as much a reflex as a reaction
to a social environment in which the principal agencies of socialization
were rapidly losing their capacity to furnish individuals the sense of di-
rection that they needed for the era. In this sense, whatever relations
were established between the existing socializing institutions and the
parenthetical man, these were of a very fragile nature, as such institu-
tions had failed to have a lasting impact on the psychological life of
man. The self-direction of the parenthetical man would come from a
strong ego, and not from social arrangements, institutions, or the exte-
rior social world—the parenthetical man definitely was not “a creature
molded by the socialization process” (1971c, p. 474). The parenthetical
man would postulate a vision of post-industrial society, in other words,
would consider the “institutionalized code of ethics a trick or facade
and therefore open to question” (p. 472). As a result society would be-
come “a precarious stage on which roles are played according to rules
whose legitimacy is to be evaluated from the standpoint of human de-
velopment” (p. 473).
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Azevêdo and Ovenhausen Albernaz 517

If there was something relevant in the new scenario that could be

important to the development of the parenthetical man, this something
would be knowledge. The emergence of knowledge as a principal medi-
ator of human socialization would establish: a) requirements, demands,
necessities that social systems should show themselves able to respond
to; and b) have implications in the configuration of organizational
forms and designs more flexible, and adaptive to various exigencies. As
a result of this the parenthetical man would be highly pre-occupied with
the full actualization of personal potential, and would come into conflict
with activities that did not correspond to the necessities of personal ac-
tualization, with this especially relevant in relation to work, and so
would tend to develop tension in organizational spheres (pp. 475-476).
Given how organizations operated in the contemporary era, the paren-
thetical man would see these as serious threats to his values (p. 476).
It is worth noting how Ramos defined the parenthetical man in terms
of individual reaction to failure. In societies where the notion of success
is heavily centered in institutionalized criteria, failure becomes psycho-
logically devastating for the individual. The parenthetical man, in con-
trast, is conceived as a highly ego-centered individual motivated to
develop the ability to master oneself and the environment and, in this
way, is hardly effected by the superego. As a result, the parenthetical
man reacts to failure from the viewpoint of his own criteria of achieve-
ment, that is, “his reaction is a move to reassess himself and the envi-
ronment” (p. 481). The parenthetical man does not submit his psyche to
any institutionalized definition of failure, and this would have implica-
tions on how he would experience sentiments like shame, social embar-
rassments, scandals, etc. His actions, his sentiments, and his experiences
would all be evaluated in light of his own self, rather than by external
social factors (pp. 482-483).

In synthesis: the affirmation of the self, of liberty, of self-realization,
and the exercise of noetic rationality emerge as the principal engage-
ments of the parenthetical man. In Ramos’s understanding, these are
human characteristics that must be systematically articulated into social
science theory, if we want to remove ourselves from the gregarious con-
dition that was launched with the advent of secular modernity. We can-
not deny that the categorical types that qualify or that delimit the
contours of Ramos’s anthropological presupposition suffered some al-
terations over time, from his youth to his maturity. Initially, the author
was influenced by Catholic thought and linked with the category of the
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518 Administrative Theory & Praxis ❖Vol. 28, No. 4

human person. After his Catholic phase, Ramos developed the category
of the parenthetical man: a being of substantive or noetic reason, with
the possibility of transcending the world in which he was put and of
acting in a manner consistent with his own subjectivity and meaning,
despite the challenges of a society of modern organizations.
The parenthetical man would aspire to autonomy, even while contin-
uing to participate actively in organizations; would possess a highly crit-
ical conscience developed on the premises of value latently evident in
daily life; would be a response to the present time, a reaction to the
circumstances felt most intensely in the most advanced industrial socie-
ties, and that are rapidly being spread to others; would possess a capac-
ity to “suspend his internal and external circumstances,” able in this
way to examine his circumstances with a critical vision; he would man-
age to separate himself, to abstract himself, to transcend the flux of
daily life, so as to examine and evaluate it in the quality of a spectator, a
foreigner; and the parenthetical man would be concerned with values
that would put noetic or substantive reason in a place of primary impor-
tance (Ramos, 1972a, p. 8).
By not treating man as a “preformed, predesigned, preconstituted”
being, but instead essentially as an “epic being,” a being who could al-
ways “form, design, constitute himself by exploring the range of pos-
sibilities available at each moment” (Ramos, 1970a, p. 11), Ramos
managed to make clear that this necessity of personal actualization that
the parenthetical man possessed does not imply a fluid character but,
on the contrary, it imples actualization. Here it would signify “the re-
tention of character through change; it is victory over fluidity” (1981, p.
171). Put this way, the implications of studies of the parenthetical man
would be enormous, and the first sketch of a typology of social systems
and their respective types of man was written in “The Parenthetical Di-
agraph” (Ramos, 1972b), in which one encounters the notion of organi-
zational delimitation in statu nacenti.
Finally, sociological reduction would be, for Ramos, a fundamental
instrument which humanity could make use of to achieve success in a
mission of self-realization and of emancipation because, through its in-
termediary, men and women—common people—through the adoption
of the parenthetical attitude as part of their daily conduct, could enter
into a process of true humanization. It is through this lens that we can
interpret the fact that sociology came to substitute, for Guerreiro Ra-
mos, a vocation that in his youth he attributed to poetry, which is to
become a knowledge of salvation.
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1. Eric Voegelin, recuperating the Platonic notion of metaxy, affirmed that
human existence occupied an intermediate (in-between) structure, in which
human consciousness could develop. People would experience this intermediate
structure of existence as a tension between contrary poles, such as life and
death, perfection and imperfection, time and eternity, mortality and immortal-
ity, etc. Man did not exist in either of the poles of these tensions, but rather
among them. It would be an error, according to Ramos, to consider the poles
objectively. They should be treated, instead, as meaning or indices, among
which people move existentially. In Ramos’s interpretation, individual exis-
tence was in-between structures, in other words, “the tension between the po-
tential and the actual.” In this resided the difficulty of existence explained “by
mechanomorphic categories such as those which plague the prevailing model of
social science” (Ramos, 1981, p. 111).
2. The subtitle of A Redução Sociológica was “introduction to the study of
sociological reason.” The term “sociological reason” was inspired by the ideas
of historical reason (Dilthey) and vital reason (Ortega y Gasset). For Ramos,
sociological reason was a kind of framework of meanings, that is, “the basic
reference to sociologists to understand the meaning of all social facts or events
that happen in a certain society” (Ramos, 1965, p. 138).
3. In The New Science of Organizations, Ramos broached the behavioral
syndrome of formal social theory. According to Ramos, “the behavioral syn-
drome is a socially conditioned mood affecting individuals’s lives when they
confuse the rules and norms of operation peculiar to episodical social systems
with rules and norms of their conduct at large” (1981, p. 46). Implicit to him
were four principal traits at the basis of the formal theory of organization: the
fluidity of the self, perspectivism, formalism, and operationalism.

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Maritain, J. (1972). Arte y escolástica [Art and scholarship]. Buenos Aires: Club
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Professor Ariston Azevêdo teaches at the State University of Maringá, in the

state of Paraná, Brazil. He has published a range of articles in Brazilian journals
on Alberto Guerreiro Ramos, and on Brazilian intellectual history. Email:

Renata Ovenhausen Albernaz is pursuing a Doctorate in Law at the Federal

University of Santa Catarina. Her research focuses on juridical pluralism and
social systems delimitation. Email: