Two Brazils face each other in 2022?



The best opposition to explain the 2022 elections is not “archaic” x “modern”, but “poor” x “rich”

Nobody expected the results of the 1st round of the 2022 elections. They were probably just less surprising than the results of the 1st round of 2018, when Jair Bolsonaro had 46% of the votes and barely had to face the 2nd round. In the wake of the retired captain, unknown figures such as Romeu Zema in Minas Gerais and Wilson Witzel in Rio de Janeiro were elected.

Now the most unexpected was Bolsonaro's vote again, just 5% behind that of Luís Inácio Lula da Silva, while polls indicated a difference of up to 14% between the first two candidates in the dispute. Once again, in the Bolsonarist wave, senators were elected such as the pastor and former minister Damares Alves, the astronaut and former minister Marcos Pontes and the general and former vice president Hamilton Mourão, deputies such as former minister Eduardo Pazuello, second most voted in Rio de Janeiro, and former minister Ricardo Salles, fourth most voted in São Paulo.

The biggest discrepancies occurred in the Southeast, where DataFolha pointed to a 7% advantage for Lula, but Bolsonaro won by 5%, with a difference of more than 10% in Rio de Janeiro and almost 7% in São Paulo. Even in Minas, where the former president won, the difference to the current president was 5%, while DataFolha indicated that the distance would be 17%.

It is interesting to see how continuities appear on the electoral map since 2006. It is not by chance that I speak of 2006, when, according to political scientist André Singer (2012), there was an electoral realignment of the Workers' Party (PT). This occurred after the “mensalão” scandal, which caused the party to lose ground in the middle class and in the so-called organized sectors of society and began to rely more and more on what Paul Singer had called the subproletariat. Such a group, in turn, would have a direct identification with the main PT leader, which would characterize what could be called “Lulismo”.

In regional terms, since 2006, the PT has won elections in the Northeast and, with less leeway and with the exception of 2018, in the North. On the other hand, the PT’s opponents – initially the PSDB and, since the last elections, Bolsonaro – win in the Midwest and South. The deviant case was 2010, when the PT candidate, Dilma Rousseff, won in all regions, but toucan José Serra was voted especially well in the Midwest and South. The Southeast has been a contention zone, in which the PT won in 2006, 2010, 2014, but lost in 2018 and 2022. Among the states in the region, São Paulo is the exception, the PT having lost every election since 2006 .

In summary, the territory of the PT is the North and Northeast and that of its opponents the Center-West and the South. Finally, the Southeast is the main terrain of electoral dispute.

The 2022 elections generally follow this design. Lula won, handily, in the Northeast and, with less ease, in the North; while Jair Bolsonaro won well in the Midwest and South. In turn, the current president won in the Southeast, but with a small difference in relation to the former president.

What to take away from these regional differences? Since 2014, there have been those who propose that two Brazils face each other in the elections, which refers to the old formulation of the French sociologist Jacques Lambert regarding a “modern” Brazil opposing an “archaic” Brazil. In other words, modern Brazil would be Brazil in the South, Southeast and Midwest, which voted for Bolsonaro, while archaic Brazil would be in the Northeast and North, which gave victory to Lula.

Francisco de Oliveira (1972), exactly fifty years ago, showed how fallacious the dualist interpretation of Brazil was, since modern Brazil is not opposed to, but feeds on, archaic Brazil.[1]

More specifically, the industry of São Paulo could keep the wages of its workers low because of the Northeastern migrants who did not stop going to the urban center and functioned as a true industrial reserve army, in addition to the fact that food prices were not so high due to to traditional agriculture. Consequently, Francisco de Oliveira pointed out, in an original way, the existence in Brazil of a “structural primitive accumulation” and not the occurrence (as the genesis of capitalism) of a primitive accumulation, as described by Marx in The capital.

However, Brazilian economy: critique of dualistic reason was written at the height of the “economic miracle”, Brazil having grown, on average, 12,5% ​​per year, between 1971 and 1973. This situation has changed since 1980. Brazil reached in the last decade, between 2011 and 2020, the grow, which contrasts especially with the 1970% increase in GDP during the 79,1s (Barbosa, 2020).

Furthermore, Brazil has transformed itself in the last forty years. In summary, if when Francisco de Oliveira wrote “modern Brazil” he was basically identified with industry, with the reprimarization of the economy it came to be understood as almost synonymous with agribusiness. One cannot forget, however, that current agribusiness is a relative, not so distant, of the great agrarian exploitation that, as shown by another Brazilian classic, Caio Prado Jr. (1942), was, in its time, modern.

Much of the innovation of great agrarian exploitation consisted precisely in bringing together, in large units, slaves in terrible working conditions, to produce, without regard for the environment, agricultural goods demanded by the foreign market. It is not difficult to see how terrible working conditions and disregard for the environment persist in much of today's agribusiness, especially in the border zone – perhaps not by chance, another facet of primitive accumulation – where Jair Bolsonaro was especially well voted. That is, the supposed modern and the supposed archaic are even more intertwined today than they were fifty years ago, when Chico de Oliveira wrote Brazilian economy: critique of dualistic reason.

Complicating the supposed explanation of the opposition of modern Brazil x archaic Brazil as a key to understanding the electoral results, Lula, in 2022, unlike Fernando Haddad in 2018, who had lost in all capitals outside the Northeast, won in São Paulo and Porto Alegre and lost, by less than 3%, in Rio de Janeiro and Florianópolis. In broader terms, Bolsonaro was voted less in capitals and larger cities and was more voted in smaller municipalities, which points to the interiorization of his votes.[2]

What to conclude from these results? The space outside the center was occupied by the extreme right. However, the Brazilian Social-Democracy Party (PSDB) was progressively shifting to the right, which made possible, in 2018, something like the “Bolsodoria”, voting for Bolsonaro for president and for the Tucano candidate João Doria for governor of São Paulo. The contrast could not be greater with the party founded, in 1988, in the midst of the National Constituent Assembly and which wanted to be a social-democratic alternative to the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB).

This movement seems to be related to the increasingly conservative profile that a large part of the pessedebist electorate now has. It is quite likely that such an orientation is linked to the interests and values ​​of agribusiness. Going further, it can be said that this inclination also transcends Bolsonaro, which makes it possible to identify not only a regional base, but a social base for the right (which has become extremist) and opens the way for imagining something like a Bolsonarism without Jair Bolsonaro.

In turn, the PT's good vote in the Northeast and North regions, as already noted, goes against André Singer's thesis (2012) regarding the electoral realignment that the party experienced from 2006 onwards, when the middle class withdrew from and the poor approached the party. It is more complicated to explain the good vote of the party in the capitals and in the big urban centres, which are identified with the “modern”. There are indications that it is related to the recovery by the PT of the periphery, which the party had largely lost in 2018 (Carvalho and Abramovay, 2022).

In other words, the poor voted for the PT mainly, both from “archaic” regions and “modern” cities. In other words, the best opposition to explain the 1st and even the 2nd round of the 2022 elections is not “archaic” x “modern”, but “poor” x “rich”.[3]

*Bernardo Ricupero He is a professor in the Department of Political Science at USP. Author, among other books, of Romanticism and the idea of ​​nation in Brazil (WMF Martins Fontes).


BARBOSA, Nelson. “Evolution of GDP per capita and political situation”, BLOG DO IBRE. January 6, 2020 (, accessed October 13, 2022).

CARVALHO, Laura and ABROMAVAY, Pedro. "Mano Brown's Prophecy". (accessed October 13, 2022).

OLIVEIRA, Francis. “The Brazilian Economy: Criticism of Dualistic Reason”. CEBRAP Studies, 2. São Paulo, pp. 3-82, 1972.

PRADO JR., Caio. Formation of contemporary Brazil: colony. São Paulo, Livraria Martins Editora, 1942.

SINGER, Andrew. The meanings of Lulism: gradual reform and a conservative pact. São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 2012.


3] This article is based on my speech in the (virtual) debate, “Elections 2022. Paths, limits and political possibilities for the coming years”, promoted by the Instituto Humanitas UNISINOS, in which I discussed with Giuseppe Cocco.

2 CENEDIC and CEDEC promote, on October 26 and 27, the (virtual) seminar “The critical fortune of Chico de Oliveira: 50 years of Critique of Dualistic Reason”.  

3"Five revelations about the 2022 votes, according to the data". BBC News Brasil in London (interview with Fernando Meireles). October 5, 2022. (accessed October 13, 2022).


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