Development and politics



Preface to the new edition of Paul Singer's book

The intellectual is trained in combat

The texts that make up this book were written in the first half of the 1960s, when Paul Singer, recently graduated in Economics from USP in 1959, participated with ease in the national debate. When we look through newspaper articles from this period in the IEB/USP collection,[I] we are faced with the recognition obtained by the young teacher in a short space of time. If, in April 1961, he appears in the afternoon diary like the economist “Paul Zinger”,[ii] o Diário de Notícias August 1968 has the following headline: “Paul Singer talks about 'youth and politics'”.[iii] The interviewee, it seems, now needs no introduction.

A Afternoon Sheet, dated December 30, 1968, refers to him as someone “still young – 36 years old”, but already “very well known in university circles in Brazil”.[iv] Then, bring your impressive resume. In addition to being a professor at FEA-USP and the Faculties of Rio Claro and Araraquara,[v] young Paul Singer has a doctorate in Social Sciences from the Faculty of Philosophy at USP and works as a professor of applied statistics at the Faculty of Hygiene and Public Health at the same university. Among his works, they appear in the article Development and crisis, published by Editora Difel, and Politics and social revolution in Brazil by Editora Civilização Brasileira, in collaboration with Octávio Ianni, Gabriel Cohn and Francisco Weffort.[vi]

These are the texts now republished – in the second case, his article “The politics of dominant classes” which appears in the book organized by USP professors. In them we can already identify the intellectual who spoke “simply about the toughest themes of economic thought”,[vii] according to the press at the time.

However, it will be read by today's readers, sixty years after these pages were written. Readers who probably know Paul Singer through some of his many people: the Cebrap intellectual, with his interpretations of the Brazilian economy and his works in the field of Marxist political economy; the outstanding and selfless PT economist, with his long-winded syntheses; and the activist and theoretician of the solidarity economy, who rolled up his sleeves to implement his version of democratic socialism “here and now”.

It is impossible to recover the historical complexity of the moment in which the essays were written, especially because the book itself Development and crisis is a collection of texts created at different times and with different purposes. They compose – together with the author and his context – an intricate web, our intention being solely to pull some threads, in order to elucidate connections and tensions that give it historical meaning. In doing so, we seek to pay tribute to the great master who left us in 2018 and would have turned 90 in 2022.

Who does young Paul Singer debate? How does he sharpen concepts, his instruments, for the clash of ideas? What is his conception of economics? And what is the role of politics? Is the costume (style) he wears the same in the various texts? This preface aims to launch some hypotheses about these questions.

Before we continue, it is worth emphasizing that an important part of young Paul Singer's political and intellectual background took place outside of university. Between 1946 and 1961, he was linked to several political organizations such as the Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB), the Independent Socialist League (LSI) and the Marxist Revolutionary Organization – Workers' Policy (ORM-Polop). Paul Singer was also one of the leaders of the Metalworkers Union of São Paulo in the historic strike of 300 thousand in 1953.

Reading the newspaper Socialist vanguard of Mário Pedrosa and his contact with Febus Gikovate, Antonio Cândido, Fúlvio Abramo and Paulo Emílio Salles Gomes proved to be decisive for his initiation into Marxist studies.[viii] As well as participation in the reading group The capital, created in 1958, together with other professors at USP, when he was the only economist in the group and was still studying for an undergraduate degree.

The course at FEA-USP and his work as an economist in the public debate, soon afterwards, launched his activism to a new level: not only because of the prestige and recognition he gained, but especially because of the way he conducted his theoretical and practical arguments, as we will see next.

In various media outlets, during the first half of the 1960s, Paul Singer appears facing Dorival Teixeira Vieira, professor of economic theory at USP, about SUMOC Instruction 204, from 1961, which brought changes to the country's exchange rate policy,[ix] debating with Ignácio Rangel, an important BNDE economist, about agriculture and development,[X] or traveling around the country at events that address regional development and social inequality.[xi]

The young Paul Singer who appears on these pages has full knowledge not only of the subjects covered in the essays – economy and development, politics and democracy – but also of the diversity of theoretical orientations that exist in Brazil and in the international context. He rehearses a way of positioning himself in the debate, in an innovative way in relation to those who preceded him and offering alternative interpretations in accordance with the interests of the working class. This is his observation post, which influences his diagnoses and policy proposals.

But as he writes in the eye of the hurricane, the system's coordinates, full of zigzags, do not conform to structural trends, there are so many open possibilities. If Paul Singer is already a mature intellectual, the movement of history proves to be little conducive to analytical syntheses.[xii]

 Consolidation of the political and economic framework in the 1970s will allow him to further unravel the contradictions of the capitalist system that is advancing at full steam. Cebrap provides a minimum of institutional stability and group spirit so that its critical contribution is welcomed by the new legions of researchers and activists. He will plant in previously sown land.

An additional consideration refers to the style of the chronicler of the economic and political scene, a characteristic that will be one of the striking features of his career. This is evident in two articles of a cyclical nature.

In chapter 5 of Development and crisis, written with Mário Alves, Paul Singer seeks not only to “translate” and “didacticize” the technical and “esoteric” language of the Triennial Plan, but to point out “its political, economic and social implications” for the “ordinary Brazilian” (p. 101, 105). The text is an analysis of the plan, commissioned and published by UNE, which focuses on the structure of public accounts and the balance of payments, and can still play an important role in teaching economics and social science courses.

In chapter 7, he describes the debate held by the press around the PAEG, launched in August 1964. His report includes the then Minister of Planning, Roberto Campos, Carlos Lacerda, Herbert Levy (owner of Gazeta Mercantil and federal deputy for UDN), representatives of the CNI and “bourgeois” critics of the government. Paul Singer ironically dismantles the various arguments.

Our economist seeks to understand the military government's plan in the context of the system's current crisis; and highlight the strategic role of the Minister, who embodies “the global vision of the process from the perspective of the bourgeoisie (national and foreign), who have no reason to fear the role of the State that knows how to serve them” (p. 168).

Development and structural changes

In the preface to the first edition of “Development and crisis”, its author deems it necessary to give some messages to readers. He refers to the book’s chapters as “essays,” marked by “differences in emphasis.” He then states that, despite the relatively “harmonious” set, they are part of the “evolution” of his thinking during the period. It is, therefore, a thought – not ready and finished – that is nourished by practice to theoretically understand the research object in its entirety.

It is revealing that, on the first page of the Preface, the adjective structural appears three times, such as “structural contradictions” or “structure transformations”. After all, the unifying element is “the concern with the structural changes that occur in the economy when development occurs”.

A second point worth noting is the need to outline a “panorama of development theory”. Singer locates its emergence following the 1930 crisis, with the birth of national and international accounting, but especially with attempts to apply macroeconomics to “underdeveloped countries”.

The author highlights how marginalist (neoclassical) theory only sporadically makes use of economic history. The integration between history and theory is a hallmark of Marxists. Keynes, on the other hand, focuses on an analysis of the capitalist economy focused on the short term. At its inception, development theory identifies, by analogy, the relative scarcity of capital as “the main cause of underdevelopment”.

In this context, young marginalists from underdeveloped countries become Marxists, and many of these become Keynesians, generating a healthy eclecticism that provides the basis of the structuralist school. For Singer, it was possible to demonstrate “that it is not enough for 'new' countries to learn the lessons resulting from the industrialization that took place before 1914, in order to be able to repeat the process today”.

Soon, however, it differentiates itself from structuralist analysis. This would not have taken its premise to its ultimate consequences, which would have meant facing “the new economy produced by development as a capitalist economy”.[xiii] In the author's opinion, here demarcating the border that separates him from Celso Furtado and other theorists – whom he rarely names as if he preferred not to confront them directly – the apologetic character of capitalism prevents them from situating the “structural reforms” to beyond the central structure of the system, that is, “the market economy”.

His critical vein also addresses theories of imperialism, of a Marxist nature, for whom there would be no industrialization without breaking ties with the international economy. For the young economist, the development of events would have led to a review of the foundations of both Marxist theorists and academics.

This brings us to chapter 2 of his work.[xiv] Paul Singer points out two basic conceptions in economic theory. One that treats “development” as synonymous with “growth”. Underdeveloped countries are those that grow below potential, as they do not take advantage of their supply of productive factors. For this conception, economic dynamics are “invariably the same” in any time and space, with no differences between economic systems. There is no “integrated view of the underdeveloped economy” here, as it derives from the combination of isolated characteristics.

The author then moves on to the structuralist conception. Here development is seen as “the process of passing from one system to another”. According to this approach, the functioning of economies is conditioned by existing structures, without which they have no historical validity.

For Paul Singer, even starting from reflection on historically conditioned “systems, regimes and structures”, “the inductive method of structuralism” fails to articulate structures within a broader system. Therefore, “structures disconnected from systems are nothing more than meaningless abstractions”. It is the opposite movement, of the system that “unfolds into structures”, which allows us to capture the totality of historical reality, conceiving the particular as a manifestation of the universal, unity in diversity.

The young economist probably relies on Marx from Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, which recommends the following methodological attitude: conceiving the concrete as a “process of synthesis”, since “abstract determinations lead to the reproduction of the concrete through thought”, and not through immediate observation and representation.[xv]

The authors classified as “structuralists” are all French and the limitation of their theoretical horizon means that, in terms of economic policy recommendations for development, at best they provide “good advice”, generic and “Acacian”. Their dualist arguments do not allow us to unravel how the articulation occurs, in underdeveloped countries, between a “capitalist system” and a “pre-capitalist system”, this is because the structures are superimposed and independent.

After offering historical examples from developed regions – Europe, the United States and Japan – and contrasting the American experience, which set up “a complete industrial structure” in the XNUMXth century, with the experience of transplantation from countries with a “colonial economy” – the author advances through another methodological field: “the structural approach method, which we adopted”, without neglecting induction, is part of the integrated movement of the system, which does not stop at the “external examination of the facts”.

Hence the need for “a consistent – ​​and therefore globalizing – structural analysis of the process in its entirety”. Only in this way can development be conceived, within the framework of the international division of labor, “as the reorientation of these economies” (colonial or underdeveloped) “in function of their internal market”.

One question will not fail to intrigue young Paul Singer's readers. Why doesn't he mention Celso Furtado, then one of the most prominent structuralists on the international scene - and whose works, Brazilian economy (1954) and Economic Formation of Brazil (1959)[xvi] Does he know you so well? In the introduction to his doctorate, Singer also cites Ignácio Rangel, from whom he differs in analytical terms, but without specifying the content of the divergence, as his objective is to “reveal certain significant aspects of development” in Brazil.[xvii]

Why cite the French, avoiding the debate with those authors who had already applied the structural method to the analysis of Brazilian historical formation? Is this a deliberate omission or a refusal to confront ideas? We believe that the first option is the most plausible. And even so, this is not a complete omission, as Singer appropriates the contributions of Furtado and Rangel in order to frame them in a new theoretical framework.

Colonial, underdeveloped or capitalist economy?

What is Paul Singer's challenge? Understand “how the economic system of underdeveloped countries works, a system that we call, not so much because of its origin but because of its global functioning, 'colonial economy'”.

Initially, the author is reluctant to use the term underdevelopment. It wants to place the “colonial economies”, which preceded the so-called “underdeveloped economies”, as part of a historical process, since they only exist because they are integrated into the world economy.

In this sense, two conclusions are necessary: ​​first, there is no possible development in the colonial economy system. Secondly, development is only possible through structural transformations that result in the replacement of the colonial economy by another of an industrial type, that is, by a different one, “capitalist or centrally planned in the historical conditions of the contemporary world”. This is the core of his argument, which is similar to that of Caio Prado Jr.[xviii]

In chapters 3, 4 and 6, Paul Singer analyzes the functioning of the “economy of an underdeveloped country that is included in the economic system led by industrialized capitalist nations”.

In a first analytical effort, he divides the Brazilian economy, “colonial” or “underdeveloped”, into two sectors: market and subsistence. In the case of the slaveholding latifundium, both are part of the same production complex, based on the large farm. Even in the coffee farm settlement regime, workers are divided between production for the market and for subsistence. In the Northeast, the sectors appear in different territories, as the market sector is concentrated in the forest area, with the agreste and sertão playing the role of subsistence sector. The description of the various concrete situations is based on the research for his doctoral thesis.

One of the book's innovations is precisely to investigate economic flows between the various sectors: subsistence economy, market economy and foreign market. As the author highlights, the movement of the market sector commands the internal division of the subsistence sector, as part is produced for self-consumption and the other for the market sector.

Paul Singer uses the concept of “natural economy” borrowed from Ignacio Rangel,[xx] to name the production of the subsistence economy aimed at self-consumption. And the notion of articulation between sectors goes back to the analysis carried out by Celso Furtado, when he describes the formation of the northeastern complex through the articulation between livestock farming and sugar production in the colonial period.[xx]

Secondly, Paul Singer improves the model to understand the dynamics of an underdeveloped economy, by dividing the market sector into an internal market economy and an external market economy. At the same time, he starts to name the “external market” as “capitalist economy (or sector)”. The scheme of flows between the various sectors gains in complexity.

Its objective is to show how the domestic market sector tends to replace imports made by the two other sectors, while at the same time concentrating for itself the currency allocated to the acquisition of production goods. When this happens, stage 1 of development is completed.

But we cannot lose sight of the “political-social content” of development. Because what is at stake is “the expropriation of the surplus which, to become real, needs to pass from the hands of landowners, traders and bankers, linked to foreign trade, to those of entrepreneurs in the domestic market sector”.

Not surprisingly, the process triggered in stage 1 is a direct result of State action and “can only take place under political conditions that, as a rule, are also revolutionary”. In this sense, “the study of development cannot be confined solely to the field of economic speculations”.

Autonomization of the internal market sector is neither spontaneous nor inevitable. Paul Singer makes a point of highlighting that this appears as a supplier of complementary services to the foreign market sector, having an ancillary character. At this moment, it does not yet have “its own expansion capacity”.

Stage 2 of development occurs when the domestic market sector advances in the domestic production of capital goods. The external market ceases to be the engine and also the main factor constraining the expansion of the economy with productive differentiation. Now other concerns emerge: the extent of the internal market and the capital available for investment. In practice, however, as the author explains, stages 1 and 2 overlap, with “no clear limit between them”.

Paul Singer highlights that before stage 1, when economic expansion is led by the external market sector, and the colonial economy predominates, the country finds itself in a “situation of complete underdevelopment”. It is clear, therefore, how throughout the text the concepts are stitched together and take on a new characterization.

The table below helps us follow its theoretical and historical outline, as the underdeveloped Brazilian economy acquires an “increasingly capitalist” appearance.

Analytical Framework

 Foreign market sectorDomestic market sectorSubsistence sector
Colonial economy (until 1930)Leading sectorAccessory, provides complementary servicesWide reservoir of labor
Stage 1 (1930 to 1950)foreign exchange supplierLeading sector, quantitative expansionFrees up labor and partially reorganizes
Stage 2 (1950 to 1964)Foreign trade monopolyLeading sector, greater qualitative differentiation with production of capital goodsAntagonistic to development (hinders market expansion potential)

The succession of stages serves as an analytical resource, as the author emphasizes that development implies “a succession of imbalances”. In our opinion, Singer seeks to broaden the analytical horizon presented by Ignácio Rangel in his 1957 work. The correspondence between the excerpts below seems enlightening to us.

For Paul Singer, “the internal market, sufficient in stage 1, becomes too narrow” in stage 2. It is, in this context, that “the subsistence sector becomes antagonistic to development”. This is because “an entire part of the country is 'closed' to the domestic market sector, which embodies development, and whose barriers must be broken”.

For Rangel, “these extra-mercantile activities occupy much more than half of the effective workforce of an underdeveloped nation. It follows that the market economy is nothing more than a light crust floating in an immense ocean of labor power waiting for a better occupation.”[xxx]

The economist from Maranhão also divides the Brazilian economy into three strata: the natural economy, the market economy and foreign trade, which establishes the link with the world economy under the dominance of monopolized capitalism.[xxiii] With the creation of the national market, “capitalism” developed, which began to depend on the State’s “monopoly on foreign trade”. In this context, the opening of the “rural complex” must be in line with industrial development.

As we highlighted, Paul Singer follows the economic process without losing sight of its political-social content. He emphasizes, for example, the transfer of power from businesspeople in the foreign market sector to the “developmental” team. But also for entrepreneurs in the potentially “autonomous” branches of the domestic market sector (the origin of the “national industry”).

The dilemmas of the development process are listed in chapter 4. The domestic market sector goes from being a complementary producer to a competitor of foreign industry. It is also necessary to increase the productivity of the subsistence sector through small property (agrarian reform) or through the formation of cooperatives. No less important is ensuring demand, as the transformation process must result in a “complete industrial economy”.

The challenge from the point of view of economic policy is to channel a mass of surplus via the public sector without compromising the private sector, housed in the internal market sector. The subsistence sector is still immersed in the natural economy and some resources can be mobilized via the external market sector by manipulating exchange rates. However, in the end, inflation and the inflow of foreign capital will provide financing for expansion.

In chapter 6, Brazil's economic system in the post-1930 period is described as a case in which the underdeveloped economy “has not yet fully acquired capitalist characteristics”. However, when following the process of import substitution, Paul Singer suggests that “the economy no longer has its dynamics tied to that of industrialized countries”. In turn, the domestic market sector, “which is capitalist, becomes an autonomous focus of cyclical variations”.

Not only is the industrial pyramid being built from top to bottom (consumer goods and then intermediate and production goods), but bottlenecks also appear on all sides: shortages of electricity and fuel, of infrastructure transport, qualified labor, etc.

In order not to slow down the process, the government resorts to emissions, keeping the economy expanding, as well as the profit margins of businesspeople and the portion allocated to production goods. Everything seems to indicate the non-existence of economic cycles, typical of developed economies.

In practice, forced savings are ensured by two mechanisms: exchange confiscation, which transfers part of the surplus from the foreign market sector to the industrial bourgeoisie; and wage confiscation, due to the readjustment of wages over longer periods compared to the prices of working-class consumer items. Once both “dams” that protect the generation of “forced savings” were broken, cost inflation came into play and the inflationary spiral advanced from 1959 onwards.

This is an original interpretation, created in the heat of the moment, right after the 1964 coup. Paul Singer describes the crisis as “one of conjuncture”, which cannot be confused with the “crisis of structure” – resulting from the “clash between the developmental impulse and archaic structures”, characterized by technological immobility in agriculture and the role of foreign capital in hindering the expansion of public services.

The current crisis refers to the very nature of the capitalist economy, resulting from the anarchy of production, due to the market's inability to generate the necessary allocation of investments in view of the real needs of the economy. The stagnation, promoted by the government, causes the structural crisis to attenuate and colonial residues apparently cease to be a problem.

In the author's opinion, the root of the problem lies in the conception that basic reforms could free a series of structural obstacles, “leaving the anarchy of production and its cyclical consequences untouched”.

Therein lies its true difference with the Brazilian structuralists. Because, in his opinion, both the crisis of the situation and the crisis of structure – which overlap – must be faced “by operating profound changes in the economy, in an anti-capitalist sense”, through comprehensive economic planning.

This explains the deliberate omission of Furtado in the text. Some of the economist's books appear marginally cited, although he uses them, as in the case of Rangel, to form his original theoretical structure. Furtado also participates in the critical analysis of the Triennial Plan.

To return expressly to the end of the book, when the young economist refers to the “structuralist school” as the “economic version of reformism”. In his opinion, the use of “monetarist remedies” – read the Three-Year Plan – can be explained by the difficulty of understanding that structural crises are not dissociated from economic crises, typical of a capitalist economy where production anarchy prevails.

Before the 1964 coup, Celso Furtado and Paul Singer fulfilled, respectively, different social positions – one was the intellectual statesman, and the other, the intellectual of the popular classes.[xxiii] This explains their different conceptions of development as a historical process in the country. No matter how much the differences persist, they will act in the same trench in the 1970s, composing the rich mosaic of theoretical variants of the historical-structural style of interpretation in Brazil.

Development, politics and social classes in Brazil

Reading the article The politics of the ruling classes, following Development and Crisis, proves the correctness of the editors. The style is essayistic, but without proselytism. Paul Singer exercises his political pedagogy with primacy. Right in the introduction, he announces his perspective: “this is not about research and does not intend to prove the assertions made”. The author wants to “clarify, to some extent, to those who are involved in the struggle of the Brazilian people for their liberation, what right-wing parties are”.

We only do one repair. The intellectual is not an “occasional” participant in the country’s political life, as he is active in party activism and trade union organization throughout the entire period.

In this essay, we cover the period between 1945 and 1964 from a perspective that inserts the economy into politics and ideologies into social classes. If the focus is on the dominant classes and the “bourgeois” parties, PSD and UDN, its objective is to understand the options and mistakes of the left during the crisis of the 1960s.

This is mandatory reading for understanding developmental Brazil, following its contradictory and nuanced progress. The political scientist costume does not suit the author well, as the situation can only be explained based on the class relations of this capitalism that is advancing in a peculiar way.

In practice, Paul Singer builds an analytical scheme to unravel the functioning of political institutions in the period. Instead of focusing on party statutes and programs, or questioning their “authenticity”, he gets straight to the point: what role do ruling class parties play in the country’s political life?

Firstly, Singer characterizes the “professional politicians” who perform functions in the Executive and Legislative branches at the various levels of the federation. Using Weberian reasoning, the author classifies three “pure types”: the colonel, the representative of the economic group and the client politician.

If the colonel is reminiscent of a traditional politician with roots in the past, in the context of urban Brazil he undergoes adjustments, increasingly working in capitalist enterprises. The clientele politician, linked to sectors of the electorate, stands out for his narrow political horizon and opportunistic attitude. It also becomes engulfed by business networks. Therefore, the development of the capitalist economy in Brazil tends to have repercussions at the political level, making “the representative of the economic group the central figure of the process”.

The decisive question for our political essayist is the following: how do these political groups fit into the parties of the dominant classes? One cannot overestimate its homogeneity, he tells us. What may seem like instability of right-wing parties to a thoroughbred political scientist, he conceives as a resource to give “maximum flexibility to their structures”.

In item 5 of the text, Paul Singer provides a historical recovery of the actions of bourgeois parties in the period analyzed. We suggest that readers of this preface follow this detailed and reliable report, as we will focus on some aspects of its structural analysis, prioritizing the intertwining of political and economic dimensions.

The PSD and UDN have different origins. The first arises from the grouping of local political leaders around the Estado Novo. The second has its unity sealed by anti-Varguism. Reconfigured in the post-1945 period, they guarantee the sustainability of the capital accumulation process, despite apparently different ideological orientations and different participation in successive governments.

As Paul Singer tells us, “labor politics is always the touchstone for ascertaining the class content of a government”, clearly bourgeois in the Dutra government. In the second Vargas government, with the “worker renaissance”, the class content becomes less evident. In the JK government, labor policy remains “active”, “under the sponsorship of the PTB, without the bourgeoisie having any reason for concern”.

During the JK government, two related processes changed the economic and political situation. Firstly, the composition of the bourgeoisie changes. The process of centralization of capital, led by foreign capital, opens a gap between the big and small bourgeoisie, the latter more “nationalist”, although increasingly prone to confusing “state capitalism” with “socialism”.

Secondly, the inapplicability of the usual methods to stimulate development is clear. The bourgeoisie is faced with two types of solution: productive transformations in the economic structure itself or deflation. He prefers the first solution, but his class position “only allows him to choose the second alternative”.

At the same time, on the political level, between August 1961 (resignation of Jânio Quadros) and January 1963 (victory of presidentialism with João Goulart), for the first time since 1945, “the big bourgeoisie and foreign capital were confronted with a left in the command of powerful mass organizations and with real influence over the constituted powers”.

In this context, the PSD plays a dual role. On the one hand, it represents the wing of the big bourgeoisie that trusts in the solution of the crisis, with Jango, in favor of its class interests. On the other hand, it opposes the government's “reformist pretensions”, as they lead to the division of the dominant classes in a context of intensifying “clashes with the workers and peasants movement”. To complicate the scenario, “bourgeois solutions to the economic crisis”, tested with the Three-Year Plan, reinforce the class unity of wealth holders.

Our economist-political scientist ends his text trying to understand why the dominant classes lost control of the political process. In his opinion, the period after the 1930 Revolution reveals the misconception that the function of the State “is merely to serve as an arbitrator in the struggle of private interests”. To then amend: “it turns out that Brazil is an underdeveloped country”, and the State must intervene vigorously in economic progress, which leads not only to conflicts between fractions of the bourgeoisie itself, but also between them and the working class.

In this sense, military intervention represents “the bankruptcy of bourgeois party politics”.[xxv] But his critical streak does not spare the left, which proved to be “immature for the full exercise of power”: “being too weak to conquer it, it was content to play the role of a pressure group on those who held it”.

Here we see one of Paul Singer's trademarks throughout his entire career: the exercise of consistent self-criticism as an inescapable task of intellectuals and social movements challenging capitalism.

*Alexandre de Freitas Barbosa is professor of economics at the Institute of Brazilian Studies at the University of São Paulo (IEB-USP). Author, among other books, of Developmentalist Brazil and the trajectory of Rômulo Almeida (Mall).


Paul Singer. Development and politics: reflections on the crisis of the 1960s. São Unesp/ Fundação Perseu Abramo, 2023, 282 pages. []


[I] Paul Singer's collection was donated by his family to IEB-USP in 2018. It comprises the library and the archive of personal documents. Paul Singer's books and documents went through the conservation protocol that involves the irradiation process, carried out by IPEN, demetalization, hygiene and pre-classification, activities carried out in 2019. After the pandemic, between 2022 and 2023, with the support of interns, PUB scholarship holders (Unified Scholarship Program) from USP and postgraduate students, under the supervision of the IEB Library and Archive, the books and documents began to be cataloged and described, being available, not yet in their in full for public consultation.

[ii] “The current economic system could impede the country’s economic development”, Report of Paul (sic) Zinger’s participation in the “National Reality Studies Seminar”, held in São Paulo. Afternoon Diary, 25/04/1961. IEB file, PS-FC-015.

[iii] “Paul Singer talks about 'youth and politics'”, Diário de Notícias, 01/07/1968, IEB Archive, PS-FC-026.

[iv]“A people does not grow haphazardly.” Interview with Paul Singer, Afternoon Sheet, 30/12/1968. IEB file, PS-FC-027.

[v] The two Faculties of Philosophy, Sciences and Letters, called “Isolated Institutes of Higher Education of the State of São Paulo”, would be incorporated into Unesp in 1976. Paul Singer, between 1963 and 1966, was “Professor-Regent of the Chair of Economics” , teaching Social Sciences students from both faculties. His CV for this period can be found in the IEB Archive, PS-MEMO-002, p. 3.

[vi] “A people does not grow haphazardly”, op. cit,. 30/12/1968.

[vii] “Development is only understood as a social and political phenomenon”, Report of Paul Singer’s participation in the “II Week of Economic Studies”, at the Faculty of Economic Sciences (former FEA) at USP, afternoon diary, 24/10/1960. IEB file, PS-FC-007. At the time, Singer was an assistant professor at the FCE Institute of Administration at the invitation of Full Professor Mario Wagner Vieira da Cunha, teaching the subjects “structure of economic organizations” and “administration sciences”. IEB Archive, PS-MEMO-002, p. two.

[viii] FERREIRA, Maria Paula Quental. Paul Singer’s political and intellectual trajectory: the “reinvention” of the solidarity economy as a socialist project for the transformation of Brazil. Master's Qualification Report. São Paulo, IEB/USP, 21/12/2022, p. 14-16, 26-35, 62-64.

[ix] “Economics professors debate instruction 204”, Folha de São Paulo, 12/04/1961. IEB file, PS-FC-012.

[X]“The current economic system could impede the country’s economic development.” Afternoon Diary, 25/04/1961. IEB file, PS-FC-015.

[xi] Paul Singer participates in the Course on Agrarian Problems at the Faculty of Law of the University of Minas Gerais (UMG) in Belo Horizonte (Diário de Minas, 28/04/1960, IEB Archive, PS-EXP-PROV-027); the Northeast Studies Seminar in Recife (Jornal do Comércio, 25/03/1961, IEB Archive, PS-FC-10); and holds a conference on the development of the Amazon at the Faculty of Philosophy of the University of Pará in Belém (Folha do Norte, 18/09/1967, Archive IEB PS-FC-024).

[xii] The author himself realized this in the early 1980s. Regarding the “theoretical scheme” of this book, it would have served in several of his later works, “until its essence was modified when I tried to develop a structural theory of employment, in 1970s”. SINGER, Paul. Militant for a utopia. São Paulo, COM-ARTE, 2013, p. 32. This book contains the entirety of his academic memorial for obtaining the position of Full Professor of Macroeconomics at FEA/USP in 1983. The text he refers to above is entitled “Elements for a theory of employment applicable to non- developed”, published in Cadernos CEBRAP 18. He would later compose the first part of his classic book. See SINGER, Paul. Political economy of work. So Paulo: Hucitec, 1977.

[xiii] It is worth highlighting the originality of his theoretical proposal. At the time he writes, for example, the economists of his generation still had in their repertoire “the theoretical rearguard of 15 years of ECLAC thought”, as Maria da Conceição Tavares attests in her classic 1963 study, “Rise and decline of process of import substitution in Brazil”. TAVARES, Maria da Conceição. From import substitution to financial capitalism. 2nd. edition. Rio de Janeiro: Zahar, 1973, p. 16. The investigation of “underdevelopment as a capitalist and not simply historical formation” will reach its peak in 1972, with the Critique of Dualistic Reason from his CEBRAP colleague, Francisco de Oliveira, and then with contributions from the Campinas School. See OLIVEIRA, Francisco de. Criticism of dualist reason/The Platypus. São Paulo: Boitempo, 2003, p. 33.

[xiv] This chapter contains the first part of a doctoral thesis at FEA/USP, never completed, “due to circumstances beyond my control”. With the 1964 coup, Mario Wagner Vieira da Cunha, with whom Singer works at FEA, asked to retire. At the same time, Florestan Fernandes invited him to carry out research within the scope of the project “Economic Development and Social Change”, linked to the Sociology I chair at USP, thus allowing Singer to complete his doctorate in Social Sciences in 1966. SINGER, 2013, op. cit., p. 33-34, 40-41.

[xv] MARX, Carl. Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy. 4th. edition. São Paulo: Martins Fontes, 2011, p. 246-249.

[xvi] These books are cited in Development and crisis, sideways (p. 146).

[xvii] SINGER, Paul. Economic Development and Urban Evolution. 1st. reprint. São Paulo: Companhia Editora Nacional, 1974, p. 13. The Introduction to this book, his entire doctoral thesis, was written in 1966, before the publication of Development and crisis.

[xviii] Caio Prado Jr. has the same reticence with the term “underdevelopment”, generally used with reservations or in quotation marks. The historian from São Paulo also keeps his distance from the theory of (under)development. See PRADO JR., Caio. History and development. 3rd. edition. São Paulo: Brasiliense, 1989, p. 16-26. During his participation in an FCE/USP event, Singer contrasts the thoughts of Caio Prado, Celso Furtado and Ignácio Rangel, and then states that, despite not having “a model of economic development”, the first author “can give a better image of the real process.” “Development is only understood as a social and political phenomenon”, op. cit., Diário da Tarde, 24/10/1960. IEB file, PS-FC-007.

[xx] RANGEL, Ignacio. Introduction to the study of Brazilian economic development. Salvador: Livraria Progresso, 1957, p. 46-51.

[xx] FURTADO, Celso. Brazil's economic formation. Rio de Janeiro: Fundo de Cultura, 1959, chapters 11 and 12.

[xxx] RANGEL, 1957, p. 55-56

[xxiii] Idem, p. 71-72, 90, 97.

[xxiii] BARBOSA, Alexandre de Freitas. Developmental Brazil and the trajectory of Rômulo Almeida: project, interpretation and utopia. São Paulo: Almeida, 2021, p. 27, 333-344, 401-405.

[xxv] The last part of the text contains an Afterword, written after the 1964 coup.

the earth is round exists thanks to our readers and supporters.
Help us keep this idea going.

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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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