development and dependency

Bryan Wynter, Meander I, 1967


Fernando Henrique Cardoso's theory and its contestation by Ruy Mauro Marini.

Fernando Henrique Cardoso developed an approach opposite to that of André Gunder Frank, Ruy Mauro Marini, Theotônio dos Santos and Vânia Bambirra, but initially placed himself in the same field as dependency theorists. His text with Enzo Faletto questioned the traditional presentation of regional backwardness as an effect of fractures between traditional and modern society. He also opposed Prebisch-Furtado explanations based on deteriorating terms of trade and structural heterogeneity.

He portrayed the mechanisms of economic subjection that accentuated Latin America's subordinated integration into the world market, describing two variants of this situation. In national control models, elites, bureaucracies or oligarchies manage the main exported resource (Brazil, Argentina); in enclave economies, this administration is in the hands of foreign companies (small Central American or Caribbean nations). Based on this scheme, Cardoso described the diversity of social orders that in each country resulted in scenarios of stagnation or growth.

More than a diagnosis of underdevelopment, the Brazilian theorist outlined a picture of multiple paths, highlighting the importance of the relationships established between the local governing groups and the central powers. He identified these connections with different situations of dependency in the association between national and foreign dominant groups (Cardoso; Faletto, 1969: 6-19, 20-34, 40-53).

Cardoso did not oppose dependence to development. He just emphasized that both paths generate differentiated models that allow or thwart long-term development. He stressed that these pathways are determined by the state's driving bloc, social cohesion, and the institution of legitimate orders of consent and obedience.

In his view, the ruling groups define political models that, in turn, determine the convenient or adverse economic paths for each country. As this action requires autonomy, FHC concentrated his analysis on medium-sized countries with their own management of their productive resources. He considered that excluding political regimes predominate in enclave economies, with little room to maintain development (Cardoso; Faletto, 1969: 39, 83-101).

Cardoso assessed that Argentina advanced significantly in 1900-30 by incorporating the middle classes into a dynamic project of the exporting bourgeoisie. He considered that Brazil maintained a confederation of oligarchies without hegemonies or gravitation of the middle sectors, and, for this reason, its economy was left behind. Political action from the state determined both outcomes.

FHC assessed that, in the later period (1940-60), distributivism affected the expansion of Argentina, while Brazil achieved greater industrial development through state aid and less popular pressure. The articulations made by Peronism and Varguism defined this result.

Cardoso concluded his study by indicating the generalized tendency to go beyond the limits of development through the increase of foreign investment and of national capitalist groups with their foreign partners (Kubitschek, Frondizi) (Cardoso; Faletto, 1969: 54-77, 111-129, 130-135).

confusion of theories

Cardoso's theses did not confront liberalism, did not share ECLAC's critical spirit and were alien to the Marxist tradition. They showed affinity only with conventional sociology, with the functionalist method and with undefined perspectives regarding the relationship between political dimension and economic structure, which some analysts associate with Weber (Martins, 2011b: 229-233).

Cardoso formally attributed analytical primacy to the economic condition (national control versus enclave), but actually attributed to political actors (classes, bureaucracies, elites) the ability to generate positive (development) or negative (underdevelopment) models.

In all cases, it ignored the limits that capitalism imposes on the possibilities at stake. He conceived this system as a conflicting regime, but superior to any alternative. Unlike Frank, Dos Santos, Bambirra or Marini, he did not adopt anti-capitalist views or socialist proposals.

FHC only contrasted schemes of greater or lesser effectiveness based on typologies built around ideal models. He attributed total primacy to the political determinants of this counterpoint. He argued that, within the scope of certain structural possibilities, the trajectories of each country are defined by the type of predominant political alliances.

He considered that, at certain times, working pressure favors accumulation and at other times obstructs it. He assumed the same observation for the agreements between the industrial bourgeoisie and the exporting oligarchies or for the entry and exit of capital (Cardoso; Faletto, 1969: 136-143).

With this perspective, he evaluated the compatibility of each process with development, following a functionalist logic of adaptation or non-adaptation to the requirements of capitalism. He adopted this social regime as an invariable given, omitting any reflection on the exploitation of workers.

Cardoso avoided clear opinions. He adopted the attitude of a distant researcher, who dissects his object of study, observing how the different capitalist subjects forge alliances with each other, taking advantage of the passive accompaniment of the people.

The most curious thing about this approach was its presentation as a dependency theory. In FHC's scheme, this term constitutes an additional ingredient of the functionalist deduction. Some dependency situations are dysfunctional and others are developmentally compatible.

In this perspective, dependence does not necessarily imply adversity. It is therefore simply registered without any denunciation of its effects. FHC omitted to consider the mechanisms of dependent reproduction that Marini, Dos Santos or Bambirra indicated as the causes of underdevelopment.

Cardoso only observed significant adversities in the enclaves. In countries with national control of the exported resource, he realized that dependency situations could be mitigated with adequate management. This approach's total departure from a dependency theory was initially obscured by the ambiguities and recognition that surrounded FHC.

an enlightening debate

Cardoso's vision was clarified in the controversy in which he became involved with Marini. In an article co-written with José Serra, he accused the Marxist theorist of stagnationism. He questioned the consistency of overexploitation, opposed the deterioration of terms of trade, rejected the existence of a decline in the rate of profit and highlighted the booming consumption of the middle classes (Cardoso; Serra, 1978).

In other articles, he complemented this criticism, emphasizing that dependency situations did not obstruct the dynamism of the industrialized economies of the periphery (Cardoso, 1980; Cardoso, 1978; Cardoso, 1977a). He argued that foreign investment encouraged a bourgeois revolution, internationalized markets and reversed the narrowness of local consumption (Cardoso, 1973; Cardoso, 1977b; Cardoso, 1972).

Marini responded by illustrating the level of exploitation of wage earners. He presented indicators of prolonging and intensifying work and clarified that his concept of overexploitation referred to these modalities. He also indicated that his model did not imply the predominance of absolute surplus value, nor the absence of productivity increases.

The Marxist theorist also demonstrated the seriousness of realization crises, noting that, in a context of high unemployment and wage deterioration, the emergence of the middle classes does not compensate for the general weakness of purchasing power (Marini, 1978).

Marini recalled that stagnationism was a defect of Furtado's developmental pessimism and his thesis of Brazilian “pastoralization”. This vision diagnosed a regression to agricultural stages, which was contradicted by the new period of industrialization (Marini, 1991: 34).

The Brazilian revolutionary was never a stagnationist. He wrote dialectic of dependency to investigate the contradictions and not the final stages of capitalism (Osorio, 2013). In his assessment of the expansive dynamics of this system, he was closer to Mandel than to Sweezy.

Marini's response made it clear that his disagreements with Cardoso did not revolve around the existence of a new local bourgeoisie, closely associated with foreign capital. Both authors highlighted this novelty. The sticking point was the consistency and scope of ongoing industrialization.

For Marini, this process did not correct the old limitations of the Brazilian economy, nor did it equate its development with the central countries. On the contrary, Cardoso assumed that these restrictions had been left behind and that the South American country was entering a virtuous circle of development.

During the course of the controversy, Marini modified his initial view of his opponent and considered that Cardoso had broken with his past to embark on a “grotesque apology for the prevailing capitalism in Brazil”.

This fascination prevented him from registering the basic data of a country with inequalities higher than the world average, more segmented internal markets and more significant industrialization imbalances. Cardoso omitted these problems and ignored Brazil's impossibility of achieving the historical performance of the United States, France or Japan (Marini, 2005).

Dos Santos made the same criticisms. He highlighted his agreement with Cardoso on the existence of a shift by the Brazilian bourgeoisie towards greater associations with multinational capital. But he stressed his complete disagreement with the presentation of this change as a path to development. He indicated that the model adopted by the ruling class increased investment, without repeating the self-sustained development of advanced economies (Dos Santos, 2003).

The entire debate confirmed that Cardoso's fascination with foreign capital was germinated in his classic book with Faletto. The title of this work – Dependency and development in Latin America – had already been conceived in implicit opposition to the development of underdevelopment from Frank.

Situations of dependency that were far removed from the structural dynamics of subjection exposed by Marini, Dos Santos or Bambirra were demonstrated there. It was assumed that development materializes with correct economic policies and that capitalism does not obstruct the eradication of underdevelopment.

socioliberal backlash

The dissolution of the sense of dependence was emphasized by Cardoso in the review of his book. He then used the formula “associated dependent development” to characterize the joint management of multinational companies with local bureaucracies and bourgeoisies (Cardoso, Faletto, 1977).

FHC pointed out that, under such an administration, foreign investment facilitated intense economic expansion, without generating the obstacles pointed out by Marxist theorists. He rejected the authors' approach that illustrated how growth driven by foreign capital generates greater imbalances than those suffered by core countries. This qualitative difference was forgotten by Cardoso, who transformed dependence into a concept opposite to what was imagined by the creators of this idea.

The only real limit to development that Cardoso observed in intermediate countries was the existence of exclusionary political regimes that obstructed markets that encompassed the entire population. He supposed that removing this political barrier would also eradicate the main cause of underdevelopment.

During this period, FHC was still considering several paths for the success of this democratization. But, shortly afterwards, he indicated that only transitions negotiated with dictatorships would pave that path. For this reason, it actively participated in the creation of tutored democracies, which in the 80s ensured the continuity of the neoliberal economic scheme inaugurated by these tyrannies.

Based on this approach, Cardoso promoted post-dictatorship transitions as the ideal political framework for attracting foreign capital. He initiated a fervent vindication of neoliberalism and his disagreements with the left centered on this apology. The disparate assessments of addiction have been relegated to an issue of the past.

FHC also took greater distance from ECLAC and abandoned any presentation of the state as an entity driving industrialization (López Hernández, 2005). It is true that, contrary to developmentalism, it perceived the conversion of the former national bourgeoisies into associates, but it never regretted or questioned this change. On the contrary, he justified it as a right path to Latin American prosperity.

His criticism of Marini coincided with the rise of more right-wing positions. He questioned all of his opponent's concepts that clashed with his fascination with the market and multinational companies.

During this period, Cardoso introduced the Ford Foundation into academia and encouraged private funding of the social sciences. He cut any reference to the problems discussed with Marini and avoided debates related to his own past (Correa Prado, 2013).

Later, as president of Brazil, Cardoso became the main architect of adjustments, privatizations, commercial openings and labor flexibilities. In the last decade, he crossed new limits to become – with Vargas Llosa – the main guarantor of reactionary causes. He is currently a spokesman for imperialist intervention in Venezuela and for all the Pentagon abuses.

Therefore, his active participation in the recent judicial-media-institutional coup that ousted Dilma Rouseff is not surprising. FHC played a prominent role in this arbitrariness, presenting himself as a noble statesman who praised the values ​​of the republic, calling for the removal of an elected president.

Cardoso wrote 22 articles with this hypocritical message in the main newspaper of the coup leaders (The Globe) and assumed this campaign as a personal revenge against his rival Lula (Anderson, 2016; Feres Júnior, 2016). This attitude has already generated scathing repudiation from the progressive intelligentsia (CLACSO, 2016).

FHC's partner in criticizing Marini – José Serra – was also an active coup leader and awarded the position of minister of foreign affairs. From then on, he promoted the biggest pro-American turn in recent Brazilian history (Nepomuceno, 2016).

Cardoso's neoliberal retreat was anticipated by Marini's criticisms. The controversy between the two was not a conjunctural episode of the 70s, nor did it concentrate mistakes on both sides. The first author denied the persistent reality of delay and the second explained its continuity. This difference places them at opposite poles.

In recent years, a revaluation of Marini's work has begun (Murua, 2013:1-3; Traspadini, 2013:10-12). His writings are disseminated and his works are resumed to update his conception. Some researchers argue that he built a “political economy of dependency” and provides the foundations for understanding underdevelopment (Sotelo, 2005).

This characterization raises several questions: are the pillars indicated by Marini sufficient? Does the appreciation of your approach refer to the time of the Brazilian revolutionary or is it projected into the present? How to evaluate the questions he received from the Marxist camp?

*Claudio Katz is professor of economics at Universidad Buenos Aires. Author, among other books, of Neoliberalism, neodevelopmentalism, socialism (Popular Expression).

Translation: Fernando Lima das Neves.

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Originally published in the magazine Jacobin Latin America.


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