The sociability of competition



Bolsonarism is the new governmental rationality of neoliberalism.

Many must still be wondering how a person who openly went against the recommended measures to fight the pandemic, thus causing the death of almost 700 thousand people; which generated an immense social crisis to the point of people getting in line to buy bones; and who makes a violent, racist, LGBTphobic speech and in defense of weapons, have a real chance of winning a presidential election. And even though he lost, his supporting parties elected 250 federal deputies, forming the largest parliamentary group and even elected several governors.

Some aspects that need to be considered in this scenario.

The first is of a socio-economic nature. Neoliberalism implies more than a wealth reproduction paradigm. As the French thinkers Pierre Dardot and Christian Laval say in The new reason of the world: essay on neoliberal society (Boitempo), neoliberalism is a new reason for the world, or borrowing a Foucauldian concept, a new governance. Governability is the meeting of a power structure paradigm (State and institutions) with a sociability imposed by capital.

This sociability imposed by capital is marked by the paradigm of competition in all dimensions of life. From personal dreams to allegedly collective agendas, they are part of the competition paradigm. For this reason, the category “capital”, which was originally inserted within an economic framework (capital as a category inherent to capitalism, to the control of the means of production that enable the extraction of surplus value) dissolves and becomes capital human, social capital, political capital, symbolic capital; as if each and every human being had a “type” of capital that would become a resource for competition. In other words, it is the total supremacy of the ideology of the “market” as loci privileged to resolve all conflicts.

It is a fact that this did not happen out of nowhere. The fragmentation and precariousness of work weakened the proletarian class identity (what Marx calls the “class itself”) and, consequently, the class struggle, for what is imprecisely called identitarianism and “multiple oppressions”. Although there is much talk of “structural racism”, “structural machismo”, among other things, the anti-racist and anti-male agenda has never been hegemonized by post-structuralist proposals. Black consciousness, emancipation, equity shifted towards empowerment and a vision of representation much more articulated to “visuality” than critical analyzes of systems of power.

Robert Samuelson said in the 1990s that “the war on poverty is over, the poor have lost.” Revolting. Today there are groups that say: “the favela won”. Reassuring. But between revolt and tranquillity, there is a meeting point – the logic of competition between sectors dissociated from relational dimensions. Yes, because “poverty” and “slum” are products of a totality in which there are conflicting relationships. The victory against poverty or those who live in the favela implies the resolution of this social conflict that generates poverty and favelas. In other words, winning the poor means putting an end to poverty and winning the favela implies that favelas cease to exist. Neither one thing nor the other happened simply because this totality that generates poverty and slums continues to exist. Its name: capitalism.

The same applies to the extremely trivialized concept of “structural racism”. Speaking of structural racism means that there is a process that reproduces racism that is part of the logic of the social structure. For this reason, structural racism cannot be defeated with “empowerment” and “representativeness” (= visuality). Structural racism is faced with the questioning of the structures that feed on this logic. In the book Structural racism: a historical-critical perspective (Ed. Dandara) I pointed out that this logic is the overexploitation of work as a mechanism for reproducing the riches of dependent capitalism.

As long as this model of reproduction of wealth is maintained, structural racism remains and it manifests itself not only because a black person who has an important position is barred from entering an institution, but also by the naturalization of landscapes such as black children begging or working like flannels at the intersections of the great avenues of the cities.

But there is a second component that underpins fascism. These were the bottlenecks that were not addressed in the transition from military dictatorship to democracy in the late 1980s. When it was launched in 1978 on the steps of the Municipal Theater, the Unified Black Movement against Racial Discrimination (MNU-CDR) was already denouncing the police violence practiced by inflated repressive apparatuses to maintain the military dictatorship. In other words, the repressive apparatus served not only to repress opponents of the dictatorship, but also the black population in general, who lived in the peripheries.

The murder of Robson Silveira da Luz, on May 4, 1978, at the police station in the Guaianases neighborhood, in S. Paulo was one of the events that led to the demonstration that created the MNU-CDR. The transition of agreements had as one of the consequences not only the settling of accounts with the crimes committed by the dictatorial State but the maintenance of personnel and all the technology of repression in the public security systems that led the country, even with more than 30 years of validity of the democratic Constitution bear data of having a young black man killed every 21 minutes.

The maintenance of the repressive system meets, in a way, the demand for a response to a direct consequence of neoliberalism: the intensification of income concentration. By increasing misery, social conflicts tend to intensify. A repressive system, therefore, is the guarantee of “controlling” these belts of misery. Just as during the period of colonial slavery in Brazil, the State maintained a sophisticated surveillance system to repress those who “dare” to rebel and/or escape from the slave quarters. Today, the slave quarters are the outskirts – for this reason, they need, from the perspective of capital, to be controlled.

In a sociability of competition, the State has the role of controlling eventual rebelliousness of those who “lost” or were not even called to play, as well as guaranteeing that this competition takes place without any kind of control or norm. That is why, in the reading of the fascists, imposing restrictions on the movement of people due to the Covid-19 pandemic is “authoritarianism”.

As well as preventing racist, sexist or LGBTphobic acts is to hinder freedom of expression. In the sociability of competition, anything goes. Deregulation and increased repression are the two sides of the coin of contemporary fascism in Brazil. It is the institutional arrangement of governance that Bolsonarism expresses and therefore its support. Understanding this is fundamental for thinking about the best strategies on how to face it.

*Dennis De Oliveira He is a professor in the Journalism course at the School of Communications and Arts at USP. Author, among others, books of Structural racism: a historical-critical perspective (Dandara).

See this link for all articles


  • About artificial ignoranceEugenio Bucci 15/06/2024 By EUGÊNIO BUCCI: Today, ignorance is not an uninhabited house, devoid of ideas, but a building full of disjointed nonsense, a goo of heavy density that occupies every space
  • Franz Kafka, libertarian spiritFranz Kafka, libertarian spirit 13/06/2024 By MICHAEL LÖWY: Notes on the occasion of the centenary of the death of the Czech writer
  • The society of dead historyclassroom similar to the one in usp history 16/06/2024 By ANTONIO SIMPLICIO DE ALMEIDA NETO: The subject of history was inserted into a generic area called Applied Human and Social Sciences and, finally, disappeared into the curricular drain
  • Impasses and solutions for the political momentjose dirceu 12/06/2024 By JOSÉ DIRCEU: The development program must be the basis of a political commitment from the democratic front
  • Strengthen PROIFESclassroom 54mf 15/06/2024 By GIL VICENTE REIS DE FIGUEIREDO: The attempt to cancel PROIFES and, at the same time, turn a blind eye to the errors of ANDES management is a disservice to the construction of a new representation scenario
  • Introduction to “Capital” by Karl Marxred triangular culture 02/06/2024 By ELEUTÉRIO FS PRADO: Commentary on the book by Michael Heinrich
  • Hélio Pellegrino, 100 years oldHelio Pellegrino 14/06/2024 By FERNANDA CANAVÊZ & FERNANDA PACHECO-FERREIRA: In the vast elaboration of the psychoanalyst and writer, there is still an aspect little explored: the class struggle in psychoanalysis
  • Volodymyr Zelensky's trapstar wars 15/06/2024 By HUGO DIONÍSIO: Whether Zelensky gets his glass full – the US entry into the war – or his glass half full – Europe’s entry into the war – either solution is devastating for our lives
  • The strike at federal Universities and Institutescorridor glazing 01/06/2024 By ROBERTO LEHER: The government disconnects from its effective social base by removing those who fought against Jair Bolsonaro from the political table
  • PEC-65: independence or patrimonialism in the Central Bank?Campos Neto Trojan Horse 17/06/2024 By PEDRO PAULO ZAHLUTH BASTOS: What Roberto Campos Neto proposes is the constitutional amendment of free lunch for the future elite of the Central Bank