the new hegemony

Image: Hamilton Grimaldi

the new hegemony


Essay on the associated bourgeoisie in Brazil

Research on the so-called Brazilian business community, or the Brazilian bourgeoisie, is already traditional in the country and constitutes a vast and complex area of ​​study. Such research has a variety of objects, among them we highlight those on sectors or fractions of the ruling class in Brazil, as is the case of studies by Bruno (1997) on the agrarian bourgeoisie, by Diniz and Boschi (2007) on the industrial bourgeoisie, by Minella (1988) on the banking bourgeoisie, by Campos (2017) on the civil construction bourgeoisie. Equally relevant are studies that more directly investigate the relationship between the bourgeoisie and the Brazilian state, as is the case of Mancuso (2004).

More recently, broader research on the role of the bourgeoisie in the national political process has emerged, such as the studies by Boito Júnior (2018). Just to name a few topics and authors. However, what calls our attention in this area is the little emphasis given by research to what we call the associated bourgeoisie.

The classics of Brazilian social thought (Jacob Gorender, Fernando Henrique Cardoso and Enzo Faletto, Ruy Mauro Marini, Florestan Fernandes, among others) already pointed to the existence of a fraction of the ruling class, in a peripheral and dependent capitalist social formation, which is a political agent associated with international capital. In this sense, for a general notion, we briefly turn to Gorender, who presents some aspects of the relations between the Brazilian bourgeoisie and foreign capital: on the one hand, the perspective of bourgeois nationalism, of confrontation with foreign companies and without acceptance of association; on the other, degrees of association, from a marginal association in which control and direction of the productive forces remains with national capitalists to loss of control and direction along with complete political subservience to international capital. The author also recalls that all these relations are reproduced in the instances of the State, constituting forces that provoke unrest not always visible in the political scene (GORENDER, 1982)

However, it is in the Marxist theory of the State that we find the theoretical scheme for analyzing the relationship between class struggles and the capitalist State in a given social formation, particularly for our interest the analysis of the associated bourgeoisie and its political agency. In his theory of the capitalist State, Nicos Poulantzas (1977) attests to the role of the State as maintaining the unity of a capitalist social formation, which is also the basic objective of the bourgeoisie as a whole: maintenance of existing social relations and, in order to materialize them, Therefore, the conservation of the State is essential. This practice of the bourgeoisie of conservation of social relations is what gives unity to the class and allied to its ideological operation, which “consists in the fact of trying to impose, on society as a whole, a 'way of life' through which the State will be lived as representative of the 'general interest' of society, as holder of the keys to the universal, in the face of 'private individuals'” (POULANTZAS, 1977, p. 209), constitutes it as a social force. The bourgeois state “does not directly represent the economic interests of the dominant classes, but their political interests: it is the center of political power of the dominant classes insofar as it is the organizing factor of their political struggle” (POULANTZAS, 1977, p. 185) Ensuring class domination is part of the role of the State, as the State as an institution does not have its own power. It is worth noting that power, for Poulantzas, is the ability of a social class or fraction to carry out its specific interests.

The complex relationship between the ruling class and its fractions and the bourgeois state are elucidated through the concept of the power bloc. The power bloc is the contradictory unit of the fractions of the bourgeois class around general objectives – referring to the maintenance of capitalist production relations –, a unit that does not eliminate the particular objectives of each fraction. The power bloc is not an explicit political agreement, but a community of interests of the owners of the social means of production. Its unity is guaranteed by the common interest of the fractions to directly or indirectly govern the State, making it meet their general interests (the maintenance of private ownership of the means of production and the reproduction of the workforce as a commodity) and specific to each fraction. . The State is, therefore, a factor of political unity of the bloc in power (POULANTZAS, 1977).

In the articulation of the power bloc there is a tendency towards the formation of a hegemonic core, composed of one (or more) fraction, the hegemonic fraction. Hegemony is conquered through the ability of a fraction to make its particular interests prevail within the power bloc, that is, it is the ability of the fraction to obtain priority benefits, mainly, from the State's economic policy (that is, other state policies, such as social and foreign policy, are also relevant). State policies (especially economic policy) provoke the constitution of fractions and at the same time indicate their position within the bloc. The relationship between the bourgeois State and the fractions takes place in the sense of its political unity under the aegis of one (or more) hegemonic fraction.

The bourgeoisie is a class endowed with complex heterogeneity. Its economic cleavages are given by the cycle of capital reproduction (commercial, industrial, banking capital, etc.), by the concentration and centralization of capital (large and medium and monopolist and non-monopolist), by relations with imperialism (national, internal bourgeoisie and buyer), among other aspects, as well as the political and ideological dimensions that can generate the formation of a certain class fraction. These cleavages can combine in varied and dynamic ways and as a basis for the agglutination or political division of fractions. Whether or not such cleavages favor the formation of bourgeois fractions depends on the circumstances and on the reaction of these sectors of the bourgeoisie, mainly in the face of the State's economic policy.

We are interested here in the relations between the bourgeoisie and international capital/imperialism. According to Poulantzas (1976 and 1978) the fractions of this class can be distinguished into the comprador bourgeoisie (what we call the associated bourgeoisie), the national bourgeoisie and the internal bourgeoisie. The compradore bourgeoisie is the fraction whose interests are directly subordinated to those of foreign capital and which serves as a direct intermediary for the implantation and reproduction of foreign capital within a social formation. The interference of foreign capital “can only, in general, play a decisive role in the various dependent countries […] by articulating, in these countries, with internal power relations” (POULANTZAS, 1976, p. 20). This fraction does not have its own accumulation base and generally has its activity linked to land ownership and speculation, concentrated in financial, banking and commercial sectors, but equally able to operate in industrial branches, in those entirely subordinated and dependent on foreign capital. From the political-ideological point of view, it is the support and agent of imperialist capital. The national bourgeoisie is an autochthonous fraction, which has its own accumulation base within the social formation and has political-ideological autonomy vis-à-vis imperialist capital. At certain junctures, in alliance with the dominated classes, this faction can adopt an anti-imperialist stance and/or get involved in a national liberation struggle. The internal bourgeoisie occupies an intermediate position between the comprador bourgeoisie and the national bourgeoisie, presenting contradictions with foreign capital. It has its own accumulation base, thus trying to limit the presence of foreign capital in the domestic market, but at the same time it is dependent on this capital in areas such as investment and technology. Mainly concentrated in the industrial sector, it is generally interested in industrial development that is sometimes in opposition to the interests of foreign capital and in state intervention that ensures it some domains within the country and that would also make it more competitive in the face of foreign capital (POULANTZAS, 1976).

This theoretical framework by Poulantzas was used by a number of Brazilian analysts to research class struggles and the development of capitalism in Brazil, in different conjunctures and periods. Perissinotto (1994), Farias (2017), Saes (2001) and Boito Junior (1999 and 2018), for example, analyze the bloc in power in historical periods, indicating the hegemonic fraction. Therefore, we summarize their conclusions in the table below:

Quadro – Bloc in power in Brazil

In view of this situation, two observations seem pertinent. First, the national bourgeoisie was never a hegemonic fraction. In the Brazilian social formation, it never became a great social force to the point of becoming hegemonic and leading capitalist development in the country. Among some explanations, we emphasize the fact that Brazilian capitalism was introduced into the national territory from abroad, thus a national bourgeoisie never existed as a social force, it was never organized, because foreign forces prevailed in the country. This explains why the national-developmentalist project was conducted by the state bureaucracy (Era Vargas). Second, the great political-economic clash in Brazil takes place between the internal and associated fractions. About this, let's see the most recent chapters below, with the rise of neo-fascism.

The bloc in power of the Brazilian State during the 13 years of government of the Partido dos Trabalhadores/PT (2003-2016) was characterized by the rise and hegemony of the Brazilian internal big bourgeoisie, displacing the hegemony of the associated bourgeoisie (exercised in the governments of Fernando Henrique Cardoso of the Brazilian Social Democracy Party/PSDB, 1994-2002) and putting their interests and imperialism (especially US) in the background (BERRINGER, 2015; BOITO JR. 2018; BUGIATO, 2016, MARTUSCELLI, 2015). The governments of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (2003-2006/2007-2010) and Dilma Rousseff (2011-2014/2015-2016) articulated a neo-developmentalist political front, under the hegemony of the internal bourgeoisie and composed of fractions of the proletarian classes – important popular segments began to play a political and social role within this front – which sustained governments and reaped the benefits of state policy. The neo-developmentalist program, which served primarily the interests of the domestic big bourgeoisie, consisted, among other things, of using public banks (BNDES, Banco do Brasil, Caixa Econômica Federal) to encourage industrialization and economic growth, the use of Petrobras as a center for building the oil production chain, a policy to strengthen the internal market (credit, real increases in the minimum wage, Bolsa Família and Social Security), an autonomous foreign policy, with an emphasis on relations with Latin America and Africa. The neo-developmentalist program was the developmentalism possible within neoliberal capitalism on the periphery of the system, which bypassed neoliberal policies but did not eliminate them. Several projects by foreign capital and the associated bourgeoisie were thwarted and postponed, in particular the discovery and the established form for the exploration of the pre-salt layer, which profoundly contradicted imperialism and the associated bourgeoisie.

However, the world crisis of capitalism that started in 2008 shook the neo-developmentalist program, which started to have implementation difficulties. The economic slowdown began in the first Dilma government and was reinforced by economic policies of tax exemptions and by the fiscal adjustment at the beginning of the second government, turning into an economic recession (BASTOS, 2017). In this national and international context of crisis of capitalism, the associated bourgeoisie and imperialism regained political protagonism and returned to the attack, encouraging, sponsoring and redirecting the popular demonstrations of 2013 (originally contrary to the readjustments of public transport fares) against the Dilma Government and the PT, having as its central motto the denunciation of the existence of generalized corruption in the government.

The crisis then created the conditions for the ruin of the neo-developmentalist program and the consequent abandonment of the internal big bourgeoisie as the support base of the government. Thus, the vast majority of fractions of the bourgeoisie opposed the Dilma government, since it proved incapable of overcoming the economic crisis. The 2016 coup d'état, supported by the bourgeoisie as a whole, was predominantly an action by imperialism and the associated bourgeoisie that returned to the attack to eliminate once and for all the neo-developmentalist program and restore the neoliberal policies to be implemented by the Brazilian State, in order to meet their interests (BOITO JR, 2018). This was the character of the government of Michel Temer, of the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party/PMDB, between 2016 and 2018, along with an austerity policy. Although the coup d'état was a confluence of several interests, it gave voice, above all, to a new right wing in Brazil, and the economic crisis created the economic and social conditions for its development, especially giving birth to what we call neo-fascism. The rise of neo-fascism in Brazil can then be considered the result in good part of an offensive by the associated bourgeoisie, as argued by Poulantzas in the book fascism and dictatorship (1971)

Neo-fascism in Brazil, in parallel with its international articulation, is a political movement originated in the upper middle class – what Poulantzas (1971) would consider the petty bourgeoisie –, which was outside the neo-developmentalist program, impacted by the economic crisis and the policy, this one arising from the accusations of corruption in the government propagated by the great press. The movement took shape in the demonstrations for the deposition of the Dilma government after its victory in the 2014 elections, taking forward the slogan “Fora PT”. Neofascism can be characterized as follows. First, it is a resumption of programs and ideologies from past periods (Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany), in a new historical stage, globalized neoliberal capitalism (BOITO JR, 2019). Furthermore, it is characterized by: the delegitimization of politics and the democratic rule of law; moral and cultural reactionary (cult of traditions), associated with a political messianism; individualist (neoliberal) values ​​summarized in the binomial entrepreneurship-meritocracy, contrary to social policies and labor rights; hysterical anticommunism, recalling the Cold War period and forging an artificial climate of “communist threat” (identified with the PT); and an empty nationalism, (rhetorical and abstract), declared only in the appreciation of national symbols, such as the flag and anthem. The movement is still driven by the anti-corruption crusade, politically and selectively directed against forces of the left (and at the limit the elimination of the left) whose agents are the institutions of the State itself (lawfare): the Judiciary (judges, prosecutors and prosecutors), the Ministry Public (attorneys) and Federal Policy (delegates and agents), instilled with a self-delegated, moral and salvationist mission (unachievable under capitalism): to end corruption in the country. One can also add mass political mobilization, with the constitution of an active, aggressive and, at the limit, violent movement (FILGEIRAS and DRUCK, 2018 and 2019; BOITO, 2019).

After the PT's fourth victory in the 2014 presidential elections and the PSDB's fourth defeat, a traditional ally of imperialism and representative of the associated bourgeoisie, the latter, still faced with the possibility of Lula's candidacy for 2018 and 2022, promoted an alliance with the growing movement neofascist, against the policies of the PT governments. International capital and the associated Brazilian big bourgeoisie confiscated this middle-class movement in order, in the case of US capital and the segments of the Brazilian big bourgeoisie associated with it, to profile the State and the Brazilian economy alongside the United States. In this way, since the Temer government, the content of foreign policy, economic policy and social policy of the Brazilian State prioritizes the interests of big international capital, mainly the US, and the segments of the Brazilian bourgeoisie associated with it, and also serves, although secondarily, other segments of the Brazilian bourgeoisie, a dynamic that continues in the Bolsonaro government, elected in 2018. Therefore, it is imperialism and the associated Brazilian bourgeoisie mainly that occupy state power, the hegemony of the power bloc. The election of Jair Bolsonaro to the presidency of the republic solidifies the alliance between the associated bourgeoisie and imperialism with the neo-fascist movement, an active movement that forms a government whose leadership is entrusted to the main representative of this movement, the current president of the republic (BOITO JR, 2019).

Thus, gestated in 2016 and especially from 2019, there is a new hegemony, the hegemony of international capital and the segments of the Brazilian bourgeoisie associated with it. The internal bourgeoisie, which was the hegemonic fraction in PT governments, suffered defeats and was displaced to a subordinate position within the power bloc. As we have already pointed out, in this Brazilian case, despite the massive political intervention of an intermediate social class, the core of the political process is the conflicts between fractions of the bourgeoisie: associated bourgeoisie and international capital versus the internal bourgeoisie.

Although these research notes are aimed at the associated bourgeoisie in Brazil, they are possibly valid for all of Latin America, which is also a peripheral region and dependent on global capitalism, where foreign forces prevail, mainly US imperialism.

* Caio Bugiato Professor of Political Science and International Relations at the Federal Rural University of Rio de Janeiro (UFFRJ).

Originally published on the Latin American State Observatory (ODELA/UFRGS)


BASTOS, Pedro Paulo Z. Rise and crisis of the Dilma Rousseff government and the 2016 coup: structural power, contradiction and ideology. In: Journal of Contemporary Economics, special issue, p. 1-63, 2017. Available at:

BERRINGER, Tatiana. The Brazilian bourgeoisie and foreign policy in the FHC and Lula administrations. Curitiba: Ed. Apples, 2015.

BOITO JUNIOR, Armando. Neofascism in Brazil. In: LIERI Bulletin. N. 1, May 2019. Available at:

______. Neoliberal politics and trade unionism in Brazil. São Paulo, SP: Xamã, 1999.

______. Reform and political crisis in Brazil: class conflicts in PT governments. Campinas, sp; São Paulo, SP: Editora da UNICAMP: Editora UNESP, 2018.

BRUNO, Regina. Landlords, warlords: the new political face of agroindustrial elites in Brazil. Rio de Janeiro. University Forensics/EDUR, 1997.

BUGIATO, Caio. The BNDES financing policy and the Brazilian bourgeoisie. 2016 (282 p.). Thesis (doctorate) – State University of Campinas, Institute of Philosophy and Human Sciences, Campinas, SP. 2016.

CAMPOS, Pedro Henrique Pedreira. “Strange cathedrals”: ​​Brazilian construction companies and the civil-military dictatorship, 1964-1988. Niterói, RJ: Fluminense Federal University Publisher, 2017.

DINIZ, E. and BOSCHI R. The difficult road to development: Entrepreneurs and the post-neoliberal agenda. Belo Horizonte: Editora UFMG; Rio de Janeiro: IUPERJ, 2007.

FARIAS, Francisco Pereira de. Bourgeois state and dominant classes in Brazil: (1930-1964). Curitiba, PR: CRV, 2017.

FILGUEIRAS, Luiz and DRUCK, Graça. The Bolsonaro government, neo-fascism and democratic resistance. In: Le Monde Diplomatique Brasil. November 2018 Edition: Available at:

______. To understand the conjuncture: Neoliberalism, neofascism and bourgeoisie in Brazil. In: Le Monde Diplomatique Brasil. May 2019 Edition: Available at:

GORENDER, Jacob. The Brazilian bourgeoisie. São Paulo: Brasiliense, 1982.

MANCUSO, Wagner (2004). “The Industry Lobby in the National Congress: Business and Politics in Contemporary Brazil.” Data – Journal of Social Sciences, vol 47, no. 3, pp. 505-547, 2004.

MARTUSCELLI, Danilo Enrico. Political crises and neoliberal capitalism in Brazil. Curitiba: CRV, 2015.

MINELLA, Ary Cesar. Bankers: organization and political power in Brazil. Rio de Janeiro - RJ; [Sl]: Space and Time: National Association of Graduate Studies and Research in Social Sciences, 1988.

PERISSINOTTO, Renato M. (Renato Monseff). Dominant classes and hegemony in the Old Republic. Campinas, SP: Editora da UNICAMP, 1994.

POULANTZAS, Nicos. Social classes in today's capitalism. Rio de Janeiro: ZaharEditores, 1978.

______. Crisis of dictatorships – Portugal, Greece, Spain. Rio de Janeiro: Editora Paz e Terra, 1976.

______. Fascism and dictatorship: the third international against fascism. Madrid: Siglo Veintiuno, 1971.

______. Political power and social classes. São Paulo: Editora Martins Fontes, 1977.

SAES, Décio Azevedo Marques de. Republic of Capital: Capitalism and the Political Process in Brazil. Sao Paulo, SP: Boitempo, 2001.

See this link for all articles