The great historic dropout and the end of industrial society

Image: Lucio Fontana


Commentary on the recently released book by Marcio Pochmann

Many economists prefer looking at the numbers to looking at history. These economists and their choices for mathematics have an undeniable advantage: they are in the field of precision. A low GDP or high inflation does not change in the temporal interpretation, it will remain so inexorably. Changing variables such as the interest rate, exchange rate and wages have calculable consequences and contagion mechanisms identifiable by models.

Economists who choose to look at history to develop their analyzes may not have the great tools for regression and indicator control; but they have another advantage that an econometrician will never have: they can reflect and evaluate the past, through the ability to weave relationships, propose the future as a future, discussing civilizing advances and setbacks. For this second professional profile, numbers are just a means (secondary to historical movements and political decisions) of looking at national construction.

Marcio Pochmann, who would obviously fit the second profile of a researcher in the economic area, is looking to the recent past to think about the next steps for the future. It would be redundant to say that he is discussing the national question, in the precise sense of the term: about the direction of a nation that has the size and capacity of sovereignty.

Elected by the Alper-Doger scientific index (AD-2022) as the 4th most important Brazilian economist and the 11th Latin American,[1] Pochmann has just released his 62nd book: The historic dropout grid and the end of industrial society. Work that circulates in an essayistic way through previous historical moments, to focus on the New Republic as a central period of its civilizing questions. The question that instigates the reader is whether or not we will have political space for national construction that requires certain conditions?

Already in the introduction to the work, Pochmann argues that that national bourgeoisie that was constituted with a national development project, insisted on an industrial, urban, modern and developed country was exceptional in the sense of historical exception. And even this one, which opposed the oligarchic profile of the associated and dependent bourgeoisie, gave up. Finally, this bourgeoisie, or this fraction of the bourgeoisie, ends up overcome by the fatigue of this country of the future, sovereign and with development indexes, and accepts the position bequeathed by neoliberalism and its national cliques in the subordinate position that the other part of the elite begged and prevailed.

What makes the debate instigating is the role of the State questioned in the essay. What nation do we propose to have begs the question of what state is needed? Within an elite subordinated and dependent on international capital, averse to the risk of highly competitive capitalist enterprise, the perspective of a neoliberal, oligopolistic State dominates – which provides security to international capital while defending local interests from aversion to competition.

We know that in order to establish a bourgeois state it is necessary to act against intuition. There is no room for a liberal state for a bourgeois state. This is where econometric economists go wrong and historical economists have more instruments: any look at the development of developed countries observes that the State is highly intervening and acts in the construction of development. We know it from Rostow to Myrdall, from McNamara to Mandel, from Dani Rodrick or Stiglitz to Joo Chang. Therefore, for Brazil to develop its national development project, it would need a strong, active and modernizing State. The problem is not economic, but political. Because if part of the elite did not want to, or if the result of the elite political forces was the withdrawal of investment in a State that could help in the construction of the Industrial State, without a working class that intends capital relations, this will not happen.

Without intending to make a mechanistic reading of the periods explored by Pochmann, but benefiting from a condensation strategy to express questions that are contextualized in the book, we can assume that an interesting relationship is established between capitalism as an international mode of production, the version of capitalism that is inserted in the international division of labor and the State necessary or resulting from the contradictions of the material structure of production. That is, in the conditions caused by the international division of labor, accompanied by national capitalism and its endogenous correlations, configures by extension a figure of State almost as a result of the material needs of international and national capital and political forces.

There are three moments used and compared in the book; having as a focus the Republic: (a) The First Republic, with the gendarme liberal, agrarian, exporting State and still with a strong link to slavery linked to the international division of labor, where Brazil places itself in the position of an agrarian-exporting monoculture and from that the result is a liberal state that respects and strengthens oligarchies; (b) The subsequent period of industrialization that goes from Getúlio Vargas to the military regime, where the forces of industrialization find, both in the international environment and in the national project, space to act in the process of Brazilian repositioning in the international division of labor, demanding an Industrial State; (c) And the period of the New Republic, where neoliberalism once again attacked the 1988 constitution to restore Brazil to the condition of subordination that was previously established, and the neoliberal version of a weak and subordinate state provoked the withdrawal of part of civil society from fighting by an industrial state.

If history repeats itself, or if history is cyclical, these are subjectivities that do not interfere with the fact that there was a historical withdrawal of Brazil from consolidating itself as non-sovereign and autonomous in the face of the international division of labor.

As someone who wants to discuss the future, Cazuza's question fits: which country is this? But it would be better to ask ourselves what country do we want it to be? For this second question, the answer necessarily involves the necessary State that will manage public policies that will guide the project. The wait (or hope) remains for an elite that discusses national directions and redefines the necessary State, like the USA of independence that established its pact for the sovereignty of the colonies in the union. And, in the absence of this elite, it is the popular classes that must assume the mission of raising awareness of the issue of development and public policies, as they did in the old Europe of the XNUMXth century. In the abandonment of decisive collective historical characters (or in the insufficiency of these actors), Brazilian history has been repeated between liberal subordination and neoliberal subordination to the interests of large international corporations.

*Luis Fernando Vitagliano political scientist and university professor.



Marcio Pochmann. The great historic dropout and the end of industrial society. São Paulo, Ideias & Letras, 2022, 152 pages.



[1] The Alper-Doger Scientific Index (AD-2022) is available at

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