State, law and development

Minister Silvio Almeida. Image by Antonio Cruz/ Agência Brasil


Considerations about Silvio Almeida's master class

Silvio Almeida's master class State, Law and Development in Brazilian Social Thought given at the Escola da Advocacia Geral da União offers fertile ground for a historiographical analysis that considers the interaction between lived experience and economic and cultural structures. By examining Silvio Almeida's contributions, it is possible to identify how his reflections on economic development, ideology and culture dialogue with a historiographic tradition that values ​​the agency of the working and marginalized classes, as well as the importance of everyday struggles in the construction of history.

Silvio Almeida begins his class by highlighting the centrality of political economy in development. He argues that the backbone of prosperity dynamics is rooted in the ability to establish economic dynamics that enable a prosperity spiral. This view contrasts with the neoliberal approach that reduces economics to a series of techniques devoid of social and political context.

Instead, Silvio Almeida insists that economic development must incorporate a robust ideological and cultural dimension. This point of view recognizes that the economy is not merely a set of graphs and tables, but a social construction involving desires and possibilities that have not yet been realized.

The quote from Celso Furtado by Silvio Almeida, who defines development as an “organized fantasy”, reinforces the idea that culture is a field of dispute where social classes articulate their resistance and construct alternative meanings. For Celso Furtado, as well as for Silvio Almeida, national development requires the creation of a project that not only improves material conditions, but also inspires a cultural and ideological vision of a new and prosperous Brazil. This national project, by incorporating the subjective dimensions of existence, becomes a struggle against established power structures.

Walter Benjamin, another author cited by Silvio Almeida, offers a crucial perspective on the dispute over the past. He argues that the past is not a fixed object, but is in constant dispute, being continually redefined. Silvio Almeida uses this notion to emphasize that the development process involves not only the creation of new material conditions, but also the reinterpretation of the stories and memories that form national identity. By recognizing and honoring the heroes and heroines of the past, Almeida suggests that we are building a future that respects and incorporates the historical struggles of marginalized classes.

The ideological dimension, discussed by Silvio Almeida through the ideas of Louis Althusser, is presented as an essential material practice for development. Althusser sees ideology as a structure that shapes the subjective conditions of existence, directly influencing social and economic practices. Silvio Almeida, by stating that ideology is central to development, reinforces the importance of creating both the objective and subjective conditions necessary for a spiral of prosperity. Ideology, therefore, is not just a reflection of material conditions, but an active force that can transform those conditions.

Furthermore, Silvio Almeida addresses the issue of Brazil's international subordination, highlighting the need for a rebellious attitude against the subordinate role that the great powers reserve for the country. He argues that developing Brazil means refusing this role and asserting a stance of equality on the international stage. This critical view of geopolitics and international relations resonates with the idea that true economic and social emancipation can only be achieved through self-determination and resistance to hegemonic forces.

Antonio Gramsci, with his concept of “pessimism of reason and optimism of will”, offers a strategic vision for social and political struggles. Gramsci argues that, despite difficulties and structural barriers, it is essential to maintain hope and determination in the fight for fair and inclusive development. Silvio Almeida, by emphasizing the importance of public policies and social mobilization, resonates with Gramsci's perspective, underlining the need for a proactive and hopeful approach in confronting inequalities.

Historical and theoretical implications

The influence of José Bonifácio de Andrada e Silva, considered the Patriarch of Brazil's Independence, is also fundamental in the construction of a national project. Alberto Torres, in his social thought, dialogues with Bonifácio's ideas when defending the need for autonomous and sovereign development for Brazil. Silvio Almeida, by valuing the historical roots of Brazilian thought, highlights the continuity of these ideas in the fight for development that respects the country's specificities and potential.

Roberto Schwarz, with his essay “As Ideias Fora do Lugar”, offers an insightful critique of the importation of foreign concepts into Brazil without proper contextualization. Schwarz argues that many imported ideas do not adapt to the Brazilian reality, creating cultural and social dissonance. Silvio Almeida, by emphasizing the need to develop theories and practices that reflect the local reality, resonates with Roberto Schwarz's criticism, defending a development that is authentically Brazilian.

Leda Paulani, with her analyzes of political economy, supervised Silvio Almeida in his second post-doctorate, significantly influencing his thinking. Paulani highlights the importance of a critical and interdisciplinary approach to understanding the complex interactions between economy and society. Silvio Almeida, by integrating these perspectives, reinforces the need for a critical analysis that takes into account the different dimensions of development.

Alessandro Travian, when studying the work of Celso Furtado, highlights the theoretical richness of economic development in Brazil. Furtado, with his analyzes of Brazil's economic formation, offers a deep understanding of the economic and social structures that shape the country. Silvio Almeida, when talking to Travian and Furtado, emphasizes the importance of development that is both economic and social, integrating the different dimensions of the Brazilian reality.

Development and the inorganic issue

Maria Odília Teixeira, with her work Impasses of the Inorganic, offers a critical analysis of the contradictions and impasses of capitalist development in Brazil. Maria Odília Teixeira argues that inorganic development is characterized by modernization that does not sustainably integrate existing social structures, generating a series of impasses that hinder economic and social progress. This disjointed development results in a fragmented society, where the benefits of progress are not equally distributed.

Silvio Almeida, when addressing the need for inclusive and sustainable development, echoes the concerns of Maria Odília Teixeira. He highlights the importance of creating a national project that not only promotes economic growth, but also tackles structural inequalities. This vision aligns with Maria Odília Teixeira's criticism of disorganized modernization, reinforcing the need for public policies that integrate social and economic dimensions in a cohesive manner.

The historical and social perspective

Emília Viotti da Costa, in her historical analysis of Brazilian social structures, offers valuable insights into the roots of the inequalities that still persist. Your work From Senzala to Colonia examines the transition from slavery to modern society, revealing how structures of power and oppression perpetuate themselves over time. Silvio Almeida, when discussing the importance of public policies that promote racial and social equity, dialogues with Viotti da Costa's analysis, recognizing that true development must address and repair historical injustices.

Guerreiro Ramos, with his criticism of imported theories and the need for a genuinely Brazilian sociology, also influences Silvio Almeida's vision. Guerreiro Ramos argues that Brazil needs to develop its own theories and practices that reflect local reality, instead of adopting foreign models that do not fit the Brazilian context. Silvio Almeida, by emphasizing the need for a development approach that takes into account the cultural and social specificities of Brazil, reflects Guerreiro Ramos' criticism of intellectual dependence.

Class structure and social movements

Florestan Fernandes, one of the greatest Brazilian sociologists, contributes significantly to the understanding of class relations and social movements in Brazil. Florestan Fernandes argues that overcoming structural inequalities can only occur through conscious and organized social mobilization. Silvio Almeida, when discussing the importance of the active participation of marginalized classes in the development process, echoes Florestan Fernandes' ideas about the need for a deep and structured social transformation.

Gilberto Bercovici, with his analyzes of economic law and development, complements this vision by highlighting the importance of a legal structure that supports and promotes inclusive development policies. Gilberto Bercovici argues that economic law should be used as a tool to regulate and direct economic development in a way that benefits society as a whole. Silvio Almeida, when discussing the importance of legal reforms for development, integrates Gilberto Bercovici's perspective, reinforcing the need for a legal framework that promotes social justice.

Culture and national identity

In addition to theoretical contributions, Silvio Almeida emphasizes the importance of culture and national identity in the development process. The appreciation of popular culture and Brazilian cultural manifestations is seen as essential for the construction of an inclusive national project. This aligns with Florestan Fernandes's vision of the importance of a strong cultural identity for social mobilization. Silvio Almeida argues that development cannot just be economic; it must also involve the construction of a national identity that inspires pride and unity.

Eric Hobsbawm, with his concept of the “invention of traditions”, argues that history and traditions are constantly reinterpreted to serve present interests. Silvio Almeida, when discussing the importance of culture and national identity, resonates with Hobsbawm's perspective, highlighting the need to value and reinterpret Brazilian traditions in a way that promotes inclusive and sustainable development.

John Holloway, in his critique of Keynesianism as a “dangerous illusion,” argues that Keynesian policies, although well-intentioned, often reinforce existing power structures. Silvio Almeida, when discussing the importance of public policies that promote social equity, resonates with John Holloway's criticism, defending an approach that goes beyond superficial solutions and confronts the structural roots of inequalities.

Sérgio Miceli and Lúcia Lippi, with their analyzes of Brazilian culture and society, offer definitions that help to understand the complex interactions between different spheres of social life. Almeida, when using these definitions, emphasizes the importance of an analysis that takes into account the different dimensions of Brazilian reality, integrating cultural, social and economic aspects.

David Harvey, with his analyzes of capitalism and geography, offers a critical understanding of the spatial dynamics of development. Silvio Almeida, when talking to David Harvey, highlights the importance of understanding how spatial and economic structures interrelate, influencing development possibilities.

Michel Aglietta and Suzanne de Brunhoff, with their analyzes of currency violence and political economy, respectively, offer a deep understanding of global economic dynamics. Almeida, when dialoguing with these authors, highlights the importance of a critical analysis of global economic structures and their implications for national development.

Robert Boyer and Alain Lipietz, with their theories on the regulation and crises of capitalism, offer a critical understanding of contemporary economic dynamics. Silvio Almeida, by integrating these perspectives, emphasizes the importance of a critical approach that takes into account the crises and transformations of global capitalism.

Bob Jessop, with his analyzes of the state and regulation, offers a critical understanding of political and economic dynamics. Almeida, when speaking with Bob Jessop, highlights the importance of understanding the role of the state in development dynamics, defending an approach that promotes social justice and equity.

Relationships between history and social structure

Silvio Almeida also cites Jacob Gorender and Ciro Flamarion Cardoso, reinforcing the importance of understanding the history of Brazil through the lens of social struggles and power dynamics. Jacob Gorender, with his Marxist analysis of Brazilian social formation, highlights how class structures and relations of production shaped Brazilian society. Your work Colonial Slavery It is essential to understand the economic and social bases that continue to influence inequalities in Brazil. By integrating Jacob Gorender's analysis, Silvio Almeida points to the need to confront these historical roots to build truly inclusive development.

Ciro Flamarion Cardoso, in turn, offers a historiographical approach that emphasizes the importance of social and economic structures in understanding history. His detailed analysis of social formations in Latin America provides a deep understanding of the interactions between economy, society, and culture. When talking to Cardoso, Almeida reinforces the idea that development must be analyzed not only in economic terms, but also considering the complex social interactions that shape the possibilities for change.

The analyzes by Jacob Gorender and Emília Viotti da Costa converge in highlighting the historical roots of social and economic inequalities in Brazil. Jacob Gorender, with his Marxist approach, identifies how colonial and slave structures perpetuated a system of exploitation that continues to shape contemporary Brazilian society.

Emília Viotti da Costa complements this vision by exploring historical transitions and continuities of social oppression, highlighting that changes in forms of work and social organization are fundamental to understanding the persistence of inequalities. Almeida, by integrating these perspectives, emphasizes the importance of a historical approach to development, which recognizes and confronts the deep roots of inequalities.

Furthermore, Cardoso's approach to social formations in Latin America, when seen in conjunction with Viotti da Costa's analysis, reveals the importance of understanding development in a broader regional context. Cardoso highlights the particularities of economic and social dynamics in Latin America, emphasizing interactions between different countries and regions. Viotti da Costa, by focusing on Brazil's internal transitions, provides a detailed view of local power structures. Silvio Almeida, when dialoguing with both, emphasizes that Brazilian development must be analyzed not only within its borders, but also in relation to regional and global dynamics, recognizing the interdependence of social and economic struggles.

Lúcio Kowarick, cited by Silvio Almeida, contributes significantly to the understanding of urban issues and social marginalization in Brazil. Your work Urban Dispossession highlights how urbanization in Brazil resulted in processes of exclusion and marginalization of the popular classes. Lúcio Kowarick analyzes the formation of favelas and the precariousness of urban living conditions as results of economic and development policies that ignore the needs of the working classes.

Integrating this perspective, Silvio Almeida emphasizes that true development must address these urban inequalities and promote policies that include the voices and needs of marginalized populations.

In the context of public policies, Silvio Almeida is emphatic in stating that anyone who opposes the financing of the single health system adopts a racist stance. This declaration directly links the fight for fair public policies with the fight against racial and social inequalities. Public health, as a fundamental right, is a battlefield where tensions between different visions of development and social justice are manifested. In prefacing the new edition of Hunger Geography by Josué de Castro, Silvio Almeida reintegrates the issue of hunger into the national debate, highlighting that facing hunger is essential for an unsubmissive and prosperous Brazil.


Silvio Almeida's class focuses on the importance of culture in national development. He argues that Brazilian popular culture must be valued and integrated into the development project. This vision recognizes that development is not just a matter of economic policies, but of building a cultural identity that inspires pride and national unity. Cultural manifestations, such as samba and carnival, are vital elements of Brazilian life that must be respected and celebrated as part of the development process.

Silvio Almeida discusses the importance of institutional strategies for development. He emphasizes that development is not a natural accident, but the result of deliberate actions in the field of politics and law. Institutional dynamics are crucial to establishing the conditions for a prosperity spiral. This includes not only economic policies, but also legal reforms that guarantee justice and equity. Silvio Almeida defends an integrated approach that recognizes the interdependence between economics, politics and culture.

To complement the analysis presented in Silvio Almeida's master class “State, Law and Development in Brazilian Social Thought” it is necessary to address, within a Thompsonian perspective, the importance of the political culture of the working classes and their forms of resistance. Edward P. Thompson emphasizes that the lived experiences of marginalized classes and their everyday cultural practices are crucial to the formation of class consciousness and resistance against dominant power structures.

In this sense, Silvio Almeida could have deepened the discussion on how traditions, popular festivities and forms of community organization not only reflect, but shape social struggles and the construction of an inclusive development project. The absence of this perspective limits the complete understanding of the social and cultural dynamics that sustain mobilizations and resistance in Brazil, preventing a richer and more comprehensive analysis of the forces that drive social transformation.

Silvio Almeida's master class offers an integrated and multifaceted view of development in Brazil. By dialoguing with thinkers such as Maria Odília Teixeira, Emília Viotti da Costa, Guerreiro Ramos, Florestan Fernandes and Gilberto Bercovici, among other exponents, Silvio Almeida constructs a narrative that values ​​the intersection between economy, law and culture.

This approach recognizes Brazil's social and economic complexities and proposes a path towards development that is both inclusive and sustainable. This critical and integrative vision is essential to understand the challenges and possibilities of development in contemporary Brazil, providing a path to a fairer and more prosperous future.

Furthermore, it is important to highlight the contribution of Alysson Mascaro, who in her work on sociology of Brazil, complements this discussion by offering an in-depth analysis of the country's legal and social structures. Alysson Mascaro emphasizes the need for a critical understanding of power relations and social dynamics that shape Brazilian reality. By integrating this perspective, A Silvio lmeida reinforces the importance of an approach that not only promotes economic development, but also social transformation and justice.

*Erik Chiconelli Gomes is a postdoctoral fellow at the Faculty of Law at USP.


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