Florestan Fernandes – VIII

Images_Oto Vale

By Nildo Viana*

The sociological ambiguity of Florestan Fernandes

Florestan Fernandes is considered one of the greatest Brazilian sociologists of all time. Title deserved for the body of work and for his contribution, especially in the context of Brazilian sociology. Florestan Fernandes carried out several studies and analyzes that are still recognized today, such as his analysis of black people in class society, his work on the bourgeois revolution in Brazil, his writings on Brazilian capitalism, his incursions into the discussion of Brazilian sociology, among others.

Our objective here, however, is to discuss a specific work, considering it symptomatic of this sociologist's body of work. It is possibly his densest work and in which he launches the ambitious idea of ​​carrying out a “sociology of sociology”, an ambition that was shared by other Brazilian and foreign sociologists. your work The Sociological Nature of Sociology (1980) takes on an important meaning within the scope of Brazilian sociology and, in this context, expresses issues of the time, which helps to explain its ambiguities[I].The thesis that we defend here is that the work in question shows the ambiguities of Florestan Fernandes, expressing a certain historical moment that reached several intellectuals who interpreted it in different ways, and he interpreted it in a specific way.

Crisis of Sociology and Crisis of Intellectuality

The Sociological Nature of Sociology it is an important, erudite work, which thematizes sociology at the time it was written, which referred to the idea of ​​crisis and sociological explanation of sociology itself. This was the challenge that Florestan Fernandes set himself: to reflect on the sociology crisis from a sociological approach. The merit of such an undertaking is unquestionable, because, after all, how many sociologists see their science and profession sociologically? Few, and usually superficially. But what would be the “crisis of sociology”? What is the context in which this discussion by Florestan Fernandes emerges?

The so-called “crisis of sociology” emerged at the end of the “amazing 1960s”. The television series with that name shows a little of the time and its dilemmas. From the new post-World War II hegemony of the reproductive paradigm (VIANA, 2019), there were no serious crises either in society or in culture. This means to say that there were no crises in the sciences in general and in sociology in particular. Reproductivism, heir to positivism, pointed to stability. Stability was achieved after the Second World War and the emergence of the combined accumulation regime (VIANA, 2009). The integrationist State (ideologically called the “Welfare State”) with its universal policies, Fordism and consumerism, among other elements, achieved in the imperialist capitalist countries (and this should be clear and explicit) economic stability and policy that generated a hegemonic paradigm based on the idea of ​​reproduction and refusal of history, and which made it fashionable to use terms such as “structure”, “function”, “system”, among others[ii]. In this context, structuralism, systemic functionalism, among other similar ideologies, were largely hegemonic. The historicity of capitalism is rejected, both with regard to the transition to a post-capitalist society (which is permanent in the bourgeois episteme and in all its paradigms, in various forms) and to a new phase or new regime of accumulation.

The crisis emerges when social struggles, especially worker and student struggles, expand and become more radical in the late 1960s, as in the French, Italian and German cases. This process of intensification and radicalization of struggles – driven by the decline in the rate of profit – ended up eroding the reproductive paradigm and, along with that, generating a crisis of certainties at the time. One of these certainties that collapsed was the objectivity of the sciences, as their fiasco in pointing to reproduction and permanence in the face of a changing reality, and the replacement of the idea of ​​“established truth” of structuralism and functionalism by its critique , points to this. The 1960s were marked by these ideologies and the 1970s by their critique. Talcott Parsons and Lévi-Strauss lost their crowns, in sociology and anthropology, respectively. In pseudo-Marxism, the one who loses the crown is Louis Althusser, who goes from an idolized figure to one of the most criticized authors of the 1970s[iii].

In this context, attempts to solve the problem emerge. We can highlight three solutions: the subjectivist; the pseudo-Marxist and the Marxist. The subjectivist solution initially emerged with post-structuralist ideology, embraced by many ex-structuralists such as Foucault, Deleuze, Guattari, Lyotard and others who opted for a bourgeois-critical solution.[iv]. Structuralists “lost their structure” and moved to post-structuralism, for the most part. In place of “structure”, they invented “desire”, rediscovered “sexuality”, and made an apology for “groupuscules”. Thus, Foucault (1989) adapts, once again (MANDOSIO, 2011), and starts to deal with the “Microphysics of Power”; Lyotard (1993) goes to war with totality in the name of “postmodernity”; as well as other similar pearls are thrown to the public. Soon after, the criticality of the 1970s was replaced by a growing conformism and Jean Baudrillard (1986) found the “realized utopia” in North American capitalism, that is, in the United States. Other subjectivist ideologies, as well as doctrines, will emerge, such as neoliberalism, cultural studies, genderism (the famous “gender ideology”, which supposedly conservative critics call “gendered”, which is a contradiction in terms), among others.

The pseudo-Marxist solution emerged through three positions: the orthodox Leninist critique of poststructuralism and “leftism”; the eclectic trend that sought a union with new ideologies and demands; the most radical tendency that returned to the idea of ​​class struggle – abandoned by Althusserian pseudo-Marxism – without carrying out a critique of its own assumptions despite the “revisionism” it carried out[v]. Thus, some, at least at first, clung to ideologies in a dogmatic way and sought to carry out a critique of everything that escaped the spectrum of Leninism, as seen in the critique of May 1968 (PRÉVOST, 1973; NIETO, 1971) . A sector marked by eclecticism also emerges, seeking to unite the old economic determinism or the discourse on “system and structure” with the new subjectivist ideologies and the concern with the “subjective”, “subjectivity” and the “subject”, which will become expand in the following decades (ANDERSON, 1984; SILVEIRA; DORAY, 1989). Finally, a more radical sector emerges within Leninism, which will be labeled by the former as “leftists”, who radicalize the critique of capitalism and science. This is the case of some Maoists[vi], trotskyists[vii], Among others.

The Marxist solution takes the form of self-managed Marxism and has in Guillerm and Bourdet (1976) one of its pioneers and main expressions (VIANA, 2020b). In this case, it is a development and updating of Marxism taking as a starting point the idea of ​​self-management, slogan revolutionary movement of French students during May 1968, to resume the essence of Marxism and its revolutionary and self-managing character. Thus, a set of works, some ambiguous, emerged and theoretically expressed the radical struggles of the late 1960s[viii].

This long contextualization helps to understand the so-called “crisis of sociology”. The student rebellion of May 1968 and the pre-worker revolution that accompanied it not only declared the “death of structuralism”, but of all ideologies corresponding to the reproductive paradigm, such as systemic functionalism in sociology, having in Parsons and Merton two of its greatest representatives. But not only that: the human sciences in general – and not only them, but philosophy and even the natural sciences – were denounced as part of instrumental reason and power. French students denounced sociology, anthropology and their link with imperialism, among other disciplines and science itself. Intellectuals are directly affected in this process, as their scientific production (and not only it) is denounced in its links with power and capital. Foucault tries to recover the intellectual while criticizing him. Foucault's search for re-legitimation of the intellectual is curious: he says that the "masses" already know, that groups must carry out their struggles without "spokesmen", he says that theory is totalizing and everything that is totalizing is linked to power, and, at the same time, defends the “specific intellectual”, the specialist who must make his own fight in his specialty, as in his example on the physicist (VIANA, 2013a). Here we have a conservatism disguised as radicalism. Intellectuals are only important and useful when they are far from the “masses” and are reduced to the “idiotism of specialization”, to use Marx's famous expression. This means not only distancing the proletariat (and the lower classes as a whole) from intellectuals and theory, but also relegitimizing the intellectual and science as long as it stays away from social struggles, since the “masses” and “groups” already have his conscience, “better than anyone else”, which reveals a metaphysical subjectivism here (and which will make a fortune later). The ghost of May 1968, in which revolutionary and radicalized students approached the labor movement, is exorcised, which demonstrates, once again, Foucault's conservatism.

The impact of this generated criticism of science and reason in general (while students and the contesting culture questioned instrumental reason and science's link with power and not any rational manifestation), irrationalism, and other intellectual oddities. On the other hand, it generated a period of critical production on human sciences and sociology. Some French anthropologists, who called themselves Marxists, such as Gerard Leclerc (1973) and Jean Copans (1974), denounced the link between anthropology and colonialism. These are the "incredible 1970s", which did not win a television series. The links between sociology and anthropology with power were no longer veiled for anyone who wanted to research and Maurício Tragtenberg (1978) shows this with a large amount of data and information in 1978, making use of bibliography from previous years[ix]. Sociologists and anthropologists are denounced and, thus, some embody criticism and become critics, while others seek the return of lost legitimacy.

Sociologists and sociology, even the most moderate ones, could not simply pretend that nothing was happening. Thus, from the end of the 1960s onwards, the theme of the “crisis of sociology” emerges. Florestan Fernandes cites Alvin Gouldner (1979), The Coming Crisis of Western Sociology, published in 1970. But he could also have cited other works, such as, for example, Robert Merton who, in 1975, cited this work by his former student and titled an item in his book chapter as “The Chronic Crisis of Sociology” (MERTON, 1977). This perception of the crisis in sociology, science, and culture in general (in essence, a crisis in the reproductive paradigm and the attempt to overshadow Marxism, the main adversary and inspirer of social struggles) is addressed in different ways by different sociologists. Sociologists, as concrete individuals, are bearers of sociological and political conceptions, have a certain situation in the scientific sphere and in the sociological sub-sphere, live in certain personal, family, class, national situations. Thus, in addition to this general context and the idea of ​​crisis and malaise prevailing in the human sciences, there was, in the case of Brazil, a situation marked by autonomous popular social movements and workers' struggles, whose apex was the strikes of May 1978 in São Paulo[X].

A Sociological Analysis of Sociology

It is in this context that the light The Sociological Nature of Sociology. And Florestan Fernandes explains the weight of this. He explains that the work is made up of notes from classes taught at PUC-SP in 1978, in its Program and Graduate Studies in Sociology. He explains the purpose of the book:

The idea of ​​doing an authentic sociological analysis of sociology and a perspective that goes beyond the so-called “critical sociology” (with a level of engagement that the new left and “Marxist sociology” demonstrated, in the 60s and in the beginning of the 70's) (FERNANDES, 1980, p. 9-10).

The author is also able to point out the context in which the process takes place, based on his interpretation of it:

He had no intention of returning to teaching or academic subjects. After 1969, my identification with sociology and with the sociologist's intellectual roles underwent a crisis. The crisis arose between 1969 and 1972, in Toronto (where, incidentally, it should not have taken place: for me, the opportunity was one of those that are seen as the culmination of an “international level” career – but it was exactly this opportunity that worked as the equivalent of the well in which young Joseph stayed; I came out of there transformed and into a long-lasting crisis, from which I have not yet emerged). To stick to the essentials: sociology has lost its charm for me; and the professional sociologist has become a person who fights more to survive and earn a living – in short, to preserve and reinforce his little middle-class status – than for the inherent truth of the scientific and therefore revolutionary nature of sociological explanation. Whether we like it or not, under capitalism and within a capitalist (“strong” or “weak”; “democratic” or “autocratic”) society, external controls and repression of the sociological imagination erode both sociology as a science and the roles constructive intellectuals of the sociologist. Would that be an easy way out to get rid of what I stopped doing? It seems to me not. What could I do? Accept a position that consolidated my “international level” and through which I would accommodate myself to the international self-defense of the capitalist order? Or conduct myself as some sort of “crusader in a monastic order”? When I decided to return to Brazil and settle here, from the end of 1972 onwards, I hadn't fully considered what I was doing: I had thrown myself into another well, this one more dark. If I managed to swim above water, it was because of the work I had left over, the old commitments with the Brazilian and Canadian universities; and the few conferences that students and professors (or Sedes) gave me to be people (to the extent that the sociologist also contains a person linked with a conscience and with a state of nonconformity or rebellion). Now, I return to the institutional link (first, occasional, with Sedes, in 1976 and 1977; then, more formalized, with PUC). However, I am no longer the same person or the same sociologist. This whole period of fermentative crisis led me to very deep frustrations and disappointments that could not be corrected or overcome. When someone steps forward and discovers that they have no cover, the truth about institutions and their human types, political movements and their conscience comes to the fore. Brazil turned out better for me in this long period of bitterness without pessimism and struggle for stubbornness (as a pure limit of the will to proclaim to the four winds: the dictatorship will not pass by me!) (FERNANDES, 1980, p. 14).

This excerpt from the introduction to Florestan Fernandes' book is a testimony of the personal crisis linked to the national and general crisis. It reveals not only the existence of problems and crises in various aspects of society at the time, but the individual perception and situation before it. The individual was also in crisis. It is an individual crisis of the sociologist Florestan Fernandes within a social crisis[xi]. This testimony reveals, on the one hand, a real social situation, and, on the other, the insertion of an individual, a sociologist, in this situation. However, it reveals the specific way in which he interprets the situation, both his own and social. The testimony reveals Florestan Fernandes' values, as well as interpretations, hopes and disappointments, among other processes. In terms of values, sociology appears. He poses not only the crisis of his identification with sociology and the role of the sociologist, which means that it was a fundamental value for him, and the “disenchantment” into which he fell, but, at the same time, he recovers it by making responsible the “external controls”, and the “repression of the sociological imagination”, which, according to him, “undermine both sociology as a science, and the constructive intellectual roles of the sociologist”. Here, in addition to the revaluation of sociology (which will reappear in the work by placing the “revolutionary” character of science and sociology), it presents its defense by placing the problem as external to it. It is from this external element that the “deepest frustrations and disappointments” arise. The values ​​appear alongside the conception that sociology, in itself, is positive, it is the capitalist order, the institutions, the “human types”, that deform it. It is possible to perceive, in this statement, a dichotomy between the sociologist and the individual with his political position. This dichotomy manifests itself as an ambiguity throughout the text and expressing it is our goal.

However, before that, it is necessary to make it clear that, according to what Florestan Fernandes said in this statement and in other parts of the book, there is an honesty in the positioning. Some intellectuals show their dishonesty very easily, while others hide it better. Some are already transparent in their honesty. Florestan Fernandes presents his personal crisis, the context and his disappointments. This is undoubtedly not enough to say that he is an honest intellectual, but the whole points to this.[xii]. Florestan Fernandes' intellectual and political honesty is explicit in the explanatory note and in the introduction. We agree or disagree with your ideas[xiii], this recognition is necessary. Undoubtedly, these elements are not enough to be sure, but they are an indication and there are no elements to the contrary, and the assumption that everyone is innocent until proven otherwise is valid in this case.

This makes Florestan Fernandes' “sociology of sociology” even more curious. The first chapter of the work deals with the “Classical heritage and its destiny”, in which he points out some points of reflection and positions himself in front of them. He already points out that his conception of “classical sociology” is not the institutionalized and hegemonic one (for which, correctly, it would be composed by Durkheim, Marx and Weber)[xiv] but something more fluid and not very defined. The author reflects on science and the class situation, in which he places the link and contradictory relations between sociology and bourgeois revolution, which opens the way for his thesis of “polarity of domination” and “polarity of revolution” in sociological thought. After that, Florestan Fernandes reflects on the “external parameters of sociology as a science”.

The discussion in this chapter revolves around the relationship between sociology and society, its class link and with the bourgeoisie. Deep down, despite his “disenchantment with sociology”, Fernandes aims to regain sociology's legitimacy. Some statements make this explicit: “science is not a cultural by-product of the bourgeoisie” (p. 22), despite its expansion coinciding “with the revolutionary outbreak of the bourgeoisie”. And how is the quest to relegitimize sociology? It occurs in two ways: the first is through the distinction between the “polarity of domination”, which shows “bad sociology”, and the “polarity of revolution”, which shows “good sociology”; the second through mitigating the deleterious effects of “bad sociology”. Later, a third form appears, which is the accountability for factors external to sociology.

The relationship between science and capitalist society is not adequately pointed out and by stating that the former is not a by-product of the bourgeoisie, it already demonstrates an ambiguity that will continue throughout the work. At times, even empiricism and Parsons are defended – and you don’t need to be a revolutionary thinker to criticize them, as Wright Mills (1982) did, but Florestan Fernandes, who places himself in the “revolutionary polarity”, scolds him, something quite curious. Fernandes says that Wright Mills exaggerated and concludes: “all this suggests that we have to review the superficial and hasty criticisms of 'empiricism' and structural-functional analysis” (p. 40). Fernandes shows here how he resolved his crisis as a sociologist, relegitimizing sociology, which presupposes saving science in general and mitigating the effects of what he himself calls “sociology of order”.

In the second chapter, Florestan Fernandes addresses the relationship between sociology and “monopoly capitalism”. A more critical perspective is presented here, which is manifested in the discussion about the “scientific revolution of technique and the technification of science”, showing the situation of sociology during “monopoly capitalism”, a moment that generates specialization and abstract radicalism, two products of the new context. There is an interesting reflection on the spraying of sociology and its closer connection with capitalism.

In concrete terms, however, the institutional system of science is not self-determining or self-regulating: it is subject to the chaos prevailing in the capitalist production system, and by extension, to the multiplication of this chaos by the conditions in which science is incorporated into the production system. capitalist and the capitalist system of power. He has no ideal (or appreciable) control over the inflow of material and human resources on the basis of which his organization and growth are determined or the meaning of certain developments in science and for these two systems is defined. Therefore, the command of its dynamisms remains abroad: either in the decision centers of the institutions that would undertake science as a business and profit motive [...]; or in the decision-making centers of institutions that add science to some kind of control, security or power […]. In both cases, the science system appears as heteronomic (or dependent) and is subject to an external hegemony. What is important to emphasize is that only occasionally can there be a fundamental convergence of interests or values. By the very nature of things, the two preponderant decision centers are not committed to the “ideal growth” of the scientific output itself. But in the possibilities of converting output scientific in “profitability”, in “control”, in “security” or in “power” (FERNANDES, 1980, p. 56).

In this context, Fernandes criticizes “professional sociology”, as “it is a structural connection of bourgeois practice”. However, it is involved in the “domination polarity” in monopoly capitalism, maintaining a “rationally conservative, reactionary and counterrevolutionary bourgeois practice” (p. 61).

The exemption presupposed by the sociologist's ethical neutrality corresponds to the formula: maintaining the current conditions of manifestation and reproduction of order, everything is normal, which associates sociology with bourgeois practice in a conformist, but not “irrational” way. It is an adaptive, professional conformism. However, it is realized through sociological thinking and “positive” and “operational” sociological research. Which at the limit indicates that, placed under the threat of extinction, bourgeois practice calls for a conformism that must have an effectiveness equivalent to that of revolutionary anti-bourgeois practice. All the institutional and dynamic resources necessary for the preservation, strengthening and reproduction of the bourgeois order must be discovered by social scientists – the professional sociologist included – which chains monopoly capitalism to technical and institutional revolutions devoid of political potential for the revolutionary transformation of the world (FERNANDES, 1980, p. 61).

Here we observe a critique of the sociology of order, which is professional and specialized. But Fernandes does not ignore the opposition. He quotes Christopher Lasch who argues that the critical intellectual is doomed to failure, as he does not find support in a strong socialist movement and in the labor movement. Fernandes claims that, however, the phenomenon is more complex. He poses the question of the repressive apparatus, which seeks to neutralize and fragment the “opposition against order”. Therefore, the problem is more the fragmentation of the class struggle. Furthermore, “the repressive system of that same society is powerful and flexible enough to tolerate and absorb radicalism that does not have the institutional means to convert itself into a cultural and political force” (p. 62). The isolation of intellectuals “is the deliberate product of a cultural policy, which scales intellectual radicalism and condemns it to gravitate towards itself, as an 'abstract radicalism' and, therefore, empty” (p. 62). Thus we have the separation, in universities and scientific research, of intellectual and potentially revolutionary political changes. In that sense, critical sociology is not a threat to order. Critical and “insurrectional” sociology can be commercialized and its existence alongside professional sociology can be presented as one of the advantages of “democratic society”.

After presenting this dilemma marked by the existence of an extremely specialized and conformist professional sociology coexisting with a critical sociology that does not go beyond the level of an “abstract radicalism”, Fernandes turns to analyze the “new sociology of order” and highlights Wright’s criticisms Mills and Gouldner to mainstream sociology. He distinguishes between both criticisms, as Wright Mills could be considered as “the last classic” of sociology and Gouldner only “a sociologist of high scientific standing”. However, Fernandes is wrong here. After all, as good as his critiques of functionalism and empiricism are, as well as his other contributions, Wright Mills is far from being a classic – both in the proper sense of the term and in a broader sense. However, this classification is not very relevant and we will not deal with it. What matters is Fernandes' interpretation of the “new sociology of order”, which he identifies with the sociology criticized by Mills and Gouldner. It remains a sociology of “polarity domination”, but it is adapted to “monopoly capitalism”. In this context, Fernandes presents some insights interesting[xv]. One of them is the perception of the rejection of history, despite being inserted in an abstracted discussion about “sociological time”.

The new sociology, constituted under the direct or indirect impact of polarity domination, under mature monopoly capitalism, repels all historicism, extirpates historicity in the interpretation of the concrete and ignores the reciprocal relations between structure and history. It is an empirical, theoretical and practical purge. However, it has not yet been discussed sociologically (at the level of a “fait accompli”, of ideology or properly epistemologically) what this purification means. It is obvious that the trend does not eliminate real history and what it entails for the “fate” of the bourgeois world and monopoly capitalism. We can close our eyes to a shocking reality; it will remain the same and, if necessary, it will remain equally threatening and destructive (FERNANDES, 1980, p. 70).

The insight here constitutes the partial perception of the refusal of history, but it does not go beyond that and inserts it into an ideological and antinomic interpretative framework, which can be seen in the antinomy between “structure and history”, which, incidentally, will dominate pseudo-Marxism and the discussion between “structure and subject” in Perry Anderson (1984) or between “economic laws” and “revolutionary subject” in Agnes Heller (1982). Florestan Fernandes sees the refusal of history, but does not perceive its real bases and its real meaning, which would presuppose a deepening and radicalization of his thought. Another insight is the perception of the strength of formalism, which had already been noticed – for being too evident – ​​by several authors, with a more critical analysis in Lefebvre (1992), and cybernetics:

When sociology becomes, at the same time, “sociology of order” and “sociology of the defense of order”, order is seen simultaneously as an object of investigation, analysis and interpretation and as the ultimate reserve of the power of discussion placed in the hands of women. elites of the ruling sectors of the ruling classes (that is, as a formidable political technique). Here is the crux of the matter. The order is simulated and miniaturized as if it were a sophisticated electronic device (or system). Computers did not, therefore, only invade sociology's “means of knowledge”. They permeated the sociological imagination, leading it to practice a “cybernetic reduction of reality”. As a result, order is no longer a historical fact: it appears as a mass of resources and results, whose flow can be calibrated and regulated, recycled or recomposed according to determinations established by certain central commands (or subcommands) (FERNANDES, 1980 , p. 74).

Here, reductionism in the form of reducing reality to models (in the aforementioned case, cybernetics) is perceived, although the reduction to the linguistic model, carried out by structuralism, does not appear, as well as other manifestations of the reproductive paradigm, in addition to its similarity with the conjugated accumulation regime (VIANA, 2019) does not emerge, except in a vague reference to “monopoly capitalism”.

The third chapter may seem somewhat incomprehensible. It deals with sociology and its relationship with what Fernandes calls “accumulation socialism”. This is, without a doubt, the worst chapter in the book. On the one hand, Lenin's quotes and the attempt to justify the state capitalism of the former Soviet Union show a conception that is not very critical and unrelated to Marxism, since it does not start from the analysis of concrete social relations or from the perspective of the proletariat. Reflection on sociology in “accumulation socialism” shows the same lack of critical sense and foundation as its real basis. The assumption of the greater development of sociology in “socialism”, although softened throughout the text, has no foundation and the lack of relevant sociological works to be cited is enough to realize this.

The fourth chapter is the most promising, as it would address the issue of relations between sociology and Marxism and the “crisis of Marxist sociology”. In this context, Fernandes shows his disagreement with both those who consider sociology incompatible with “scientific socialism” and those who think that Marxism is a science, or, more specifically, a sociology.

Whatever the truth content of such interpretive approaches, they are partial. And it is fundamental to understand, as a starting point, that I do not subscribe to any of the implicit confusions. If Marxism contains a sociology, it goes far beyond that; if sociology found one of its roots in marxism, it also transcends it. Therefore, it would be false and simplistic to take the guideline “all or nothing”, which is born of a narrow mechanism and blind dogmatism. If we locate the two polarities of classical sociological thought, it was not to remain within this limit of a pseudo “dead end” (which evokes the circularity of “bourgeois sociology” versus “proletarian sociology”). If, in fact, sociology were irreconcilable with scientific socialism, what would become of Marxism in the face of other socialist doctrines, which proved incapable of converting the critique of capitalist society into a theory of revolution against order? However, if Marxism is only a social science and, specifically, a sociology, what would become of scientific socialism itself and the historical revolutions it fueled? There is also no need to please Greeks and Trojans. As one would do in an “eclectic line”: a small infusion of sociology into Marxism and that's it, there's scientific socialism; and a dash or two of Marxism in sociology and presto, there is “truly” scientific sociology! (FERNANDES, 1980, p. 110-111).

Marx, complements Fernandes, was the greatest exponent of socialism and one of the classics of sociology. “This coincidence cannot be fortuitous” (p. 111). And Florestan Fernandes aims to demonstrate this in a synthetic way, as it would be something very extensive and would be equivalent to a course (which would be equivalent to another book) and therefore defines three topics to discuss. The question of the denial of order in classical sociology, what is sociological in dialectical materialism and historical materialism, and the question of whether there is a crisis in Marxist sociology are these three topics. Thus, Fernandes makes some succinct digressions on the issue of Marx's contribution and the relationship with classes and sociology, among other aspects. He concludes this topic by laying out the social functions of Marxist discoveries: being a direct cultural force; to promote a broadening and deepening of the rationality of workers' consciousness; be a pedagogical element for the development of class consciousness; form a revolutionary cultural horizon beyond “utopian idealism”. And he concludes by stating that such functions generate “purely scientific requirements”, as noted in Marx's criticism of classical economists. Marxist sociology had to surpass the sociology of order by having to be “more ambitious, rigorous and objective in the use of scientific techniques of observation and interpretation” (p. 116). It had to go further and not stay in the “half way”, uniting theory construction and negation, forcing the researcher to “combine the explanation with the transformation of the world” (p. 117).

His discussion of what is sociological in what he calls “dialectical materialism” (a curious concession to Stalinism), supplemented by quotations from Henri Lefebvre (1969c) and his work on this subject – one of the worst things the French sociologist has written – is somewhat confusing and does not go beyond some general considerations about the “dialectical way of thinking” and general questions whose sociological character is not clearly revealed. In the case of exposing what is sociological in historical materialism, which is a much easier task due to the thematic proximity, it also does not go beyond the level of thematic discussion (the analysis of revolutions and workers' struggles, for example), for a side, and abstract considerations about method and the unity of the practical moment and the theoretical moment. The conclusion is that the sociological element of historical materialism can be synthesized in relation to the critique of political economy, the constitution of a “differential” and “historical” sociology and the overcoming of positivism in social science. Undoubtedly, such elements could hardly justify the “sociological” in historical materialism. The strongest argument is the following:

Historical materialism created, in turn, its own sociological theory. Although “strictly empirical in procedure” [Korsch], thanks to the dialectical reconstruction and explanation of the real, it became the sociological model par excellence for interpreting development as a “living movement” or as a “continuous transformation” through which structures were linked. and historical duration (FERNANDES, 1980, p. 124).

Thus, referring to Marx, he puts him in opposition to traditional historiography, which presented historical processes in terms of reproduction and repetition, among other aspects; in contrast to formal and systematic sociology, it pointed to forms and contents in time and space and in structural, functional and historical interaction; in contrast to comparative sociology, it expressed continuous variation outside and above the mechanistic and conjectural limitations of classificatory analysis and its evolutionary projections” (p. 124-125). Thus, these and other elements pointed out by Fernandes aim to show what is sociological in historical materialism, even if the theory has become “closely linked to the concrete study of the capitalist mode of production, class society and the bourgeois democratic State” (p. 125).

Florestan Fernandes closes the chapter with a discussion of the supposed “crisis of Marxist sociology”. Some general considerations are made – including a brief and accurate critical observation of Habermas –, in order to make some historical digressions and make a distinction between “crisis of Marxism” and “crisis of Marxist sociology”. Fernandes denies the existence of a Marxist crisis, based on some general historical considerations and on “real socialism”. With regard to a crisis of Marxist sociology, he points out that this does not exist in the sense of a “lack of dynamism” in Marxist thought and cites Hilferding, Rosa Luxemburg, Lenin, Gramsci, to demonstrate this. But at the same time, he recognizes a certain crisis within “Marxist sociology”:

The “crisis of Marxist sociology”, however, appears concretely on two different levels. In a horizontal line and according to occasional influxes, as an immantation of a braking of the real socialist movement. […]. In a vertical and persistent line, limitations of another type are configured. It is easy to detect: “Marxist circles” cultivate an erudite pedantry and an ingrained tendency to see in sociology only a manifestation of “bourgeois ideology”. Both phenomena are curious. A leftist intellectualism and highly susceptible to fashion! It exists and gives rise to “Marx specialists” (to a lesser extent, Marx and Engels). These experts don't close in on themselves; they close themselves in the writings and ideas of Marx (or Marx and Engels), practicing a tradition of “biased optics”, which would be abhorrent to the two founders of Marxism. They refuse the sociological rotation, which would expose them either to the “shocking facts” of the current times, or to the “militant action”, which is indispensable. A form of alienation, in short, cultivated in the name of Marxism! (FERNANDES, 1980, p. 135).

He does not fail to mention the “inveterate prejudice against sociology”, generated by a “blind or one-eyed” militantism (p. 135) and refuses to recognize the importance of the discussion on the issue of method, as Lukács did in History and Class Consciousness[xvi]. And he states: “dialectical materialism and historical materialism could not engender an exclusive paradigm, beyond the most anti-scientific and stupid one” (p. 136). After all, “rejecting empirical sociological investigation or sociology tout court it would actually be falling into a childish idealistic trap” (p. 136).

Finally, Florestan Fernandes closes his book with some considerations on communism and sociology. In addition to pointing out that communist society is not a perfect society and that it contains changes, he again discusses the issue of sociology in “socialist” countries, stating that his opinion is that the autonomization of sociology in transition countries tends to persist and strengthen.

I think this process will continue and deepen for two reasons. First, as advanced socialism gives way to communism proper – a process still remote –, the institutional residues blocking sociological research and expanding its applications will end up being eliminated. […]. Second, one must take into account the complexity of the problems and social forces at work under the communist pattern of modern civilization. It would be fictitious to assume that “communist society” will be perfect, static and problem-free. This is a cretinous and perverted image of what human life should be under the incredibly rich and varied potentialities of this civilization (FERNANDES, 1980, p. 143-144).

Finally, concludes Fernandes, the difficulties in the development of empirical investigation and explanation in sociology will be overcome. The “promises of sociology” were fulfilled. This, however, will only become effective when overcoming the “last stage” (arrival in communism).

Ambiguous Sociology and Sociological Ambiguity

This synthetic – and therefore incomplete – summary of the work of Florestan Fernandes now allows us a global analysis based on the initial considerations that we present. For the beginning reader this book may impress. And it can impress with its erudition and supposed radicalism and link with Marxism. However, even a novice reader with a critical sense would already put his enthusiasm for the work on hold after reading it completely: the passionate defense of sociology, the link with Leninism and the defense of state capitalism (“accumulation socialism”) would already be sufficient for a critical reserve in the face of this intellectual production.

Our objective is to analyze the meaning and content of this work, briefly and critically. We will start with an analysis of the external elements of the work and then its internal elements. Regarding the external elements, we have already contextualized them at the beginning and cited the author's own justification. However, this is still insufficient. Undoubtedly, there was a crisis (of the conjugated accumulation regime) that promoted a process of criticism and crisis in sociology and, consequently, this affected sociologist Florestan Fernandes. The critique of sociology, which ranges from the actions of the students in May 1968 – and it does not hurt to remember what was written on the walls of Paris: “we will only be happy when the last bureaucrat is strangled with the guts of the last sociologist” – to the texts by Gouldner, Merton, among many others, as well as by criticism of science and sociology external to sociological production, by militant means. On the other hand, Marxism was questioned by the subjectivist ideologies that emerge from the preventive cultural counterrevolution (VIANA, 2009) that tries to respond to the end of the reproductive paradigm and prevent new radicalized struggles. Leninism, seriously wounded by worker and student struggles (and to this one could add the case of Czechoslovakia, in 1968, The Carnation Revolution in Portugal, etc.), had some of its expressions going to positions labeled “leftist” ( as accused in certain Maoists, Trotskyists and others) or to the conservative reaction and unrestricted defense of Bolshevism and the former Soviet Union from the orthodox, beyond those who sought to “adapt”.

How does Florestan Fernandes place himself in this context? Florestan Fernandes' proximity to Trotskyism undoubtedly distanced him from the orthodox Leninist line. However, he also distanced himself from “Leninist leftism”. Thus, his closer approximation – without being aware of it, certainly[xvii] – it was with the more eclectic wing and more linked to the academy, which tried to maintain “Marxism” and respond to criticism, by maintaining the idea of ​​the importance of “structure”, but now integrating the “subject” or “history”, that is, going beyond Althusserian structuralism and the determinist and economistic conceptions of Stalinist origin.

This location of Florestan Fernandes helps to understand both his dilemmas and his answers. As a sociologist of Leninist influence, the criticisms of sociology and the speeches about its crisis reached him personally, which promoted the personal crisis that he reveals in the introduction to his work. To face this problem, he starts looking for a solution within his beliefs, values ​​and already established conceptions. Hence his difficulty in radicalizing the critique and adopting a leftist or even more radical Leninist position (self-managed Marxism) and his ambiguous solutions. Thus, he must solve the problem of the crisis of sociology (actually, of the critique of sociology) through the Leninist conception. The latter, which makes the discourse of “scientific socialism” that justifies the vanguard ideology, points to a distinction, originated with Kautsky and developed by Lenin, of the opposition between “bourgeois science” and “proletarian science”.

However, Florestan Fernandes makes this conception more sophisticated and works with sociology with a domination polarity (and at the end he uses “bourgeois impregnation”) and sociology with a revolution polarity (which is also called at the end of the work as “proletarian impregnation”). And, as a sociologist, he ends up having to defend even the “sociology of order”, in its scientific aspects and against “exaggerated criticisms” (even Wright Mills, who is nothing revolutionary, is accused of having “forced his hand” in his critique of abstract empiricism and the “grand theory”, functionalism). However, it is not enough to relate sociology and social class, nor is it enough to defend the autonomy of science and sociology in the context of the criticisms of the time. Thus, the discussion on monopoly capitalism comes to show the question of the technification of science and the even greater approximation of the “sociology of order” with the needs of capital.

This initial ambiguity generates other ambiguities. By postulating a “sociology against order”, Florestan Fernandes sees himself in the need to justify and explain the poverty of “Marxist sociology”, especially in countries with state capitalism, supposedly linked to “Marxism-Leninism”. Thus, his problematic discussion on “accumulation socialism” aims to accomplish such an explanation and does so by pointing out the limits of this experience, which needs to pass to a higher stage, “advanced socialism” and, later, to “communism”. Obviously, the conception here has nothing to do with Marx, being purely Leninist. The idea of ​​a “socialism” before “communism”, mistakenly attributed to Marx, is Lenin's. But regardless, state capitalism has nothing to do with the project of communism developed by Marx. And Florestan Fernandes postulates the existence of an “accumulation socialism”, a theoretical and methodological contradiction. Marx always insisted that the concepts that express certain social relations in one society cannot be transplanted to another society and “accumulation” is a typical and specific concept of capitalism. If there is accumulation, there is no “socialism”. Fernandes goes beyond Lenin and creates another transition (accumulation socialism) before the transition (advanced socialism) to communism. And the supposed importance of “Soviet sociology” is never demonstrated, as not a single sociologist appears who has produced anything better than the sociologists of the order of private capitalism. If in private capitalism there could be a Bourdieu or a Henri Lefebvre or even a Frankfurt School, in state capitalism no one relevant or who has deepened the supposed “Marxist sociology” appears. Not even anything resembling critical thinking sprouts in the barren lands of state capitalism.[xviii].

Finally, Florestan Fernandes has to deal with the issue of Marxist sociology and its crisis. Fernandes falls into a new ambiguity when dealing with the relationship between Marxism and sociology. He sits between the two, as on the one hand he is a sociologist and on the other he considers himself a Marxist (being, in fact, a Leninist). According to his values, beliefs and conceptions, he cannot accept a radical critique of sociology nor its incompatibility with Marxism. In this historical context, Fernandes seeks to save “Marxist sociology” and, consequently, sociology in general. It is curious that he does not question his bond, especially the evaluative one, with sociology.[xx]. His idea of ​​showing something “sociological” in “dialectical materialism” and historical materialism is meaningless. The dialectic is a method and therefore has no “sociological element” (unless it were just a “sociological method”, but it is a universal method and is not limited to sociological themes and penetrates into historical, political, cultural, that is, of the most diverse human sciences and beyond). Even if dialectics were a “philosophy”, as Althusser (1986) supposes, or had the Engelsian meaning (ENGELS, 1985), later developed by Lenin (1978) and Stalin (1982) – a position closer to Florestan Fernandes –, it has nothing “sociological” even in this sense.

Historical materialism is a theory of human history and therefore deals with sociological themes, as well as generating a theory of capitalism, current society, which is the main sociological theme, even not using such a term and disguising it. However, he does not do this “sociologically”, no matter how much Fernandes tries to erase the essential difference between historical materialism and sociology, the latter rejecting history in its deepest sense, the history of societies, which is precisely the element foundation of the materialist conception of history. History, when it is admitted or worked on by sociologists, is that of the past to the present – ​​as seen in Durkheim's analysis of the passage from mechanical to organic solidarity (DURKHEIM, 1995), or in Weber's analysis aimed at explaining the “typical rationalism of the West” (WEBER, 1987), or even Elias (1994) and his quest to reconstitute the “civilizing process” – and the transience of current capitalist society is never accepted, except when, ideologically, it is stated that it was “surpassed” by a supposed “post-industrial” or “post-modern society” (BELL, 1969; TOURAINE, 1970; LYOTARD, 1993).

Sociology is bourgeois from its deepest roots, as well as science in general. Fernandes' attempt to "save the dead" is similar to the spiritual revival preached by some evangelicals. The assumption that there is an immanent and positive development of science and sociology and that it is the external elements (monopoly capitalism, institutions, technification, etc.) that divert them and prevent their maturation lacks foundation and criticality. Furthermore, it creates a new mysticism in contradiction with both the dialectical method (sociology and science are excluded from the totality of capitalist society, from which they emerged and gain meaning) and historical materialism (whose theory of consciousness carries out the fundamental critique of all immanentism of ideology and cultural productions, which returns in this metaphysical conception of science and sociology). Science in general is ideology, in the Marxist sense of the term, that is, a system of illusory thought (VIANA, 2017; VIANA, 2010; MARQUES, 2020) and sociology is one of the particular sciences, therefore, it is just as ideological – or even more, due to its “object of study” – than any other scientific manifestation.

Of course, at this point, many readers could rage against the radical critique of science, and again the label of “leftism”, among others, tends to emerge. Undoubtedly, this stems from a misunderstanding of what ideology is. It is false systematic knowledge, but it is not and cannot be totally false. It has “moments of truth”, otherwise it would be pure fantasy (VIANA, 2010). These moments of truth emerge when reality is inverted, as it must appear inverted and along with it elements that cannot be hidden. Thus, if the ideology of social stratification classifies the population into “upper class”, “middle class” and “lower class” (and, due to the limits of this process, it can subdivide and then emerge “upper middle class, middle middle class and low average", as the classificatory mania has a large room for manoeuvre), inverts reality and obfuscates the true meaning of the concept of social classes, but, at the same time, it has to show a real division existing in society (which are expressed in the classification criteria, which can be just income or this accompanied by other complementary elements) and which, despite its importance and restricted explanatory character, is related to real social classes (obviously that the “lower class” has in its composition vast sectors of the lower classes: proletariat, lumpenproletariat, etc.). On the other hand, the quantum of moments of truth varies with the specific ideology, with the ideologue, etc. The natural sciences, due to their thematic domain and the needs of technological and technical development, tend to have more moments of truth than the human sciences. But one cannot confuse the part with the whole, nor the existence with the essence. In its entirety and essence, science in general – and therefore sociology – is a form of ideology. In fact, it is its dominant form and the main legitimizer of today's society.

Finally, the discussion about the “crisis of Marxist sociology” is carried out in a way that, deep down, ends up confirming it. Fernandes says that the crisis does not exist and uses the contributions of supposedly Marxist authors to support his assertion. It is curious that he cites political activists and party leaders (Rosa Luxemburgo, Lenin, Gramsci), philosophers (Lukács), economists (Hilferding) and no sociologist per se. Incidentally, his very idea of ​​a sociology against order or of “revolutionary polarity” is a contradiction, since his cited representatives are not sociologists but socialists (from the utopians to Marx). To say that Marx was a representative of socialism and a classic of sociology and this is not “mere coincidence” is an extremely weak argument. He disregards that it was the sociologists who made Marx a classic of sociology and that he did not consider himself and did not intend to produce such a particular science, just as he is also a classic in philosophy, economics, etc., without being a philosopher, economist, etc.[xx]

In this context, it is worth recalling Fougeyrollas (1989) and his correct statement, according to which the marriage of Marxism and the social sciences is like the marriage of water and fire (one extinguishes the other). the water[xxx] would be the social theme. Well, if that were the case, the Sophist philosophers in ancient slavery would be “sociologists” and Kurt Schilling (1974) would be wrong to consider them “precursors of the social sciences”, as they would, in fact, be its “founders”. And, in addition to the sophists, we could list as sociologists: Plato, Aristotle, medieval theologians, Hegel, Kant, and thousands of philosophers, economists, anthropologists, geographers, etc. To be a sociologist it is not enough to reflect on society or on social phenomena, it is necessary to do this scientifically, which rules out philosophers, theologians and others. Therefore, Florestan Fernandes, if he wanted to “scientifically” prove this thesis, should have taken the trouble to define science and that qualifies something as scientific, as well as to specify what was scientific in the socialists that he qualifies as sociologists, as well as how to demonstrate what was sociological in such analyses, which presupposes, therefore, a definition and analysis of what sociology is, which was not done.

Obviously, there was no crisis of “Marxist” sociology, as such a thing does not even exist. Fire and water do not go together. Therefore, sociology influenced by Marxism – this is the maximum that could exist – would not need to defend itself against a supposed crisis, since, at that moment, it was not the target. The target was, on the one hand, the ideologies associated with the reproductive paradigm and its by-products, and, on the other hand, Leninism (and not “Marxist sociology”, despite the confusion being understandable) confused with Marxism. And Florestan Fernandes notes that criticism comes from many sides and the contestation of the ideology of “development of productive forces”, of “structure”, strikes Leninism in the heart. Hence the idea of ​​resuming the relationship between “structure and history”, quite in vogue in the 1970s for those who defended Leninism and who ended up strengthening the enemy and helping the new hegemony, now of the subjectivist paradigm, which invaded vast sectors called “ Marxists”.

Finally, we can ask two final questions: how to explain Florestan Fernandes' choice? How to make a general balance of this work and its solutions? We highlight, at the beginning, the honesty of Florestan Fernandes. In addition to being honest, Fernandes demonstrates erudition and broad sociological and political reading (Marx and Leninism, for example). However, despite this, he does not overcome a generalized ambiguity, he is unable to offer a satisfactory solution and, moreover, he is mainly opposed to “leftism”, and even goes so far as to defend the “sociology of order” against its attacks. The explanation for this can only refer to his values, conceptions and beliefs, which blinded him to reality. His link with Leninism and a certain interpretation of Marx and Marxism, as well as with sociology, prevented him from taking a radical position, which is the only one, within capitalism, that allows the overcoming of illusions, ideologies, etc. .

His identification with sociology, despite the declared crisis in the introduction of the work, manifests itself very strongly and prevents him from going further and understanding the political and historical meaning of sociology. Identification with a profession or science is a limit for every human being, as well as other forms of “identity”, which are very much in vogue today. Marx, in his drafts of a manuscript on Feuerbach, already pointed out “the division of labor makes occupations autonomous; each takes his own office as the true one. About the relationship between their craft and reality, they have illusions that are all the more necessary as this is conditioned by the very nature of the craft” (MARX, 1982, p. 134). Thus, it is necessary to understand that Marxism is a critique of the social division of labor (VIANA, 2007) and that any form of identity and identification, whether professional or group, within capitalist society, is conservative. And this even in the case of the proletariat, as does workerism. For individuals, groups, professions are products of this society and are limited by this society and identity and identification means staying within the limits of capitalism[xxiii]. In the case of Florestan Fernandes, his identification with sociology limits and ties him to capitalist society. And this leads him to have to defend even the “sociology of order”, in addition to science and other elements of bourgeois society, as well as the fanciful existence of sociology in communist society. Thus, his honesty and erudition were not enough to break with the intellectual limits imposed by capitalism and the values ​​and beliefs of that society that he introjected.

Finally, the work of Florestan Fernandes has a serious problem, which is the lack of foundations. And this is all the more serious in view of the high value that is provided to science and sociology. His “sociology of sociology” proves to be deficient. The social and historical bases of sociology are pointed out superficially and based on general ideas rather than analysis of relationships and processes. By the way, what he accuses in Gouldner is found in his book: “it combines exemplary erudite incursions with perfunctory and impressionist analyzes” (p. 66); “it assembles by juxtaposition the various aspects of the global picture (on the capitalist side and, here and there, on the socialist side)”, the panel does not point to the “unity of the diverse”.

Florestan Fernandes' reasoning consists of pointing out a key idea and, through a mosaic of quotes and general considerations, reproduces it without any depth. This is the case of his reasoning for the increasingly intense link between sociology and capitalism, which consists in appealing to “monopoly capitalism”. However, nowhere is discussed what monopoly capitalism means (apart from some loose and superficial assertions and discussion, questionable, as he himself recognizes, about the “three industrial revolutions”) and technological determinism appears as a shadow that accompanies it. your reasoning. The history of capitalism, the question of changes in the state apparatus, the workers' struggle, among other processes, do not appear in their concreteness. The absence of the proletariat is notable. The social and institutional bases of sociology are pointed out, but its mutations, its characteristics, its consequences, do not appear. The idea of ​​“monopoly capitalism”, whose source is not clear – the references to Mandel are not enough and the term recalls the conception of Boccara and others – is abstracted and without greater explanatory capacity.

Another fundamental problem can be seen in his criticism of the supporters of the incompatibility between Marxism and sociology. Deep down, there is no deep reflection on sociology and its meaning, nor on the real relationship with Marxism, except for a superficial tour of works that have nothing to support, as well as mistakes, some mentioned earlier. But worst of all is that, by defending science and its even “exact” procedures, it reverts to Leninist rhetoric and its use and abuse of pejorative adjectives.[xxiii]. Deep down, Fernandes contests the Marxist critics of sociology through adjectives: erudite pedantry, leftist intellectualism, narrow mechanism, blind dogmatism, blind or one-eyed militantism, inveterate, stupid, childish prejudice, etc. The critique reads more like a pamphlet by Lenin than a work by a sociologist or a Marxist theorist. However, it does not refute the arguments and analyzes presented. Incidentally, they never appear, as Florestan Fernandes does not cite the authors and defenders of these ideas, nor their arguments and foundations, which prevents the reader from going to check it out on his own and see if infantilism, pedantry, blindness, etc. really exist. Disqualification through pejorative adjectives may have a rhetorical effect, but it has nothing theoretical or scientific, being effective only for the unwary and the easily impressionable.

Thus, unfortunately, Florestan Fernandes, dominated by his values ​​and beliefs, is unable to carry out a real debate with those with whom he disagrees, nor is he able to leave a superficial and impressionistic tour in his supposedly “sociological” analysis of sociology. So should this work simply be disregarded? The answer is negative. It is an honest, albeit mistaken, statement by an individual, by a sociologist, which expresses issues of a time and which can be useful both to understand these processes and issues, and to see how ambiguity can flow into increasingly polluted rivers. and dark, such as Leninism's contemporary capitulation to subjectivism and its ideologies. This shows that for Marxism it is essential to seek a theoretical self-awareness of its time and not limit itself to an “impressionist” and superficial perception. It is also fundamental not to forget Marx's lesson, a fundamental element of historical materialism: not to confuse the individual and his self-image, the illusions of an era with his reality. This requires the exercise of ruthless and radical criticism, including that of the “spirit of the age”. Florestan's work also has insights and interesting moments, which can be critically understood and thus can compose a broader analysis of the process.

Another use of Florestan Fernandes' work is to point out the advantages of critical sociology and, at the same time, its limits and weaknesses. It, in most cases, reveals itself to be the “critical part” of bourgeois thought, either via its republican wing or on the part of the progressive bloc (with its semi-bourgeois character, whether in its reformist or supposedly revolutionary conceptions). Today, it has resulted in superficial, reductionist and poor criticism, as seen in the displacement towards the constructs of gender, identity, among other manifestations of subjectivism. Intellectual and academic populism is making a fortune nowadays and the work of Florestan Fernandes would certainly not lead to this, but it helps to understand the risks and how this was carried out in several other cases.

Critically rereading Florestan Fernandes is a necessity, as he was one of the few Brazilian sociologists who tried to interpret Brazilian reality and position himself in the face of the contradictions of the world in which he lived. We can agree or disagree in a more general sense, find elements interesting and others extremely problematic, but we find somethingand that is what makes its reading necessary, as it distinguishes itself from thousands of other works in which a fundamental effort is needed to find something worthwhile.

* Nildo Viana is Sociologist and philosopher; Professor at the Faculty of Social Sciences and Graduate Program in Sociology at the Federal University of Goiás.



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[I] We make it clear that the objective is to address the ambiguities of Florestan Fernandes only in this work. The other “phases of his thought”, both earlier and later, we will not address. This means that its approximation with functionalism in the past and its ambiguity in the relationship between politics and academia, in the future, will not be addressed. Regarding the latter case, there is a doctoral thesis that explores this element (PROTO, 2019).

[ii] We will not be able to discuss this paradigm and its crisis in detail and in its complexity, which can be seen in Viana (2019). The perception of the strength of these terms and other associated elements can be seen through a “symptomatic” analysis in Henri Lefebvre (LEFEVBRE, 2020; LEFEBVRE, 1992; LEFEBVRE, 1969a; LEFEVBRE, 1969b; VIANA, 2020a).

[iii] For empiricists who always want “empirical evidence”, we can list a set of works critical of the French philosopher, in Brazil and around the world, in a rather incomplete list: Rancière, 1970; Glucksman, 1971; Vilar, 1972; Vazques, 1980; Thompson, 1981; Gianotti, 1980; Silveira, 1978;

[iv] Deep down, it meant a depoliticization and detotalization of the criticism present in the worker and student struggles of the late 1960s and the contesting culture that inspired it, being a “preventive cultural counterrevolution” (VIANA, 2009).

[v] This starts with Althusser himself, who, trying to escape criticism, rediscovers history and the class struggle from Lenin and Philosophy (1984). However, it would be necessary to analyze later Althusserian work to know which of these trends he would join, given that some of his disciples – or at least some of his works – approached “Leninist leftism”.

[vi] In addition to the small activist groups during May 1968 and some later works, influenced by a certain interpretation of the “Chinese cultural revolution”, such as those by Magaline (1977) and Charles Bettelheim (1979). The latter wrote a work characterizing the USSR as state capitalism, unlike his earlier works on “real socialism”. In France, the “Proletarian Left” group emerged, among other organizations. The critique of economism and the determinism of the productive forces was one of the characteristics of this “leftist Maoism”, and for this reason they were identified as such by the orthodox Leninist line (for example: SANTOS, 1986).

[vii] The “Left Trotskyists” emerged as a split from Trotskyism much earlier, and their main representative was Tony Cliff (pseudonym of Yigael Glückstein), and one of their characteristics was to characterize the Soviet Union as “state capitalism”. However, they strengthened during this period. His group, called International Socialists, had around 1962 members in 100 and in 1977, now known as the Socialist Workers' Party, it now has around 3 members.

[viii] Close to self-managed Marxism, new organizations and autonomous concepts emerge in Italy, such as Power Worker e lotta continues (heirs of the autonomism developed, among others, by Mário Tronti and Raniero Panzieri), driven by the rise of social struggles, as well as in 1973 emerges Proletarian Autonomy (which will have derived from the Red Brigades), as well as also developed in France, Germany, Portugal and other countries. Autonomism is distinguished from self-managed Marxism by its “workerism” and idea of ​​immanent development of the proletariat, derived from its theoretical limitation, in addition to having a sector, derived from Leninism, with a greater degree of ambiguity and political moderation. This is the case of Il Manifesto, which emerged as a dissidence from the PCI – Italian Communist Party – and a while later formed another party, the Party of Proletarian Unity for Communism. Many abandoned autonomism, such as Toni Negri, who led to the ideology of “immaterial labor” (for a critique of this position, see Viana, 2009).

[ix] A part of the critical thinking of that period also carried out a critique of capitalism, but we will leave that aside for the purposes of this text.

[X] The best analysis of this struggle was that of Amnéris Maroni (1982), but several others have analyzed strikes and other actions and mobilizations at this time. On popular social movements, the best analysis is that of Telles (1987).

[xi] It is not the case here to question the limited perception of this, including Florestan Fernandes, because at the moment any crisis is difficult to understand and in the later historical moment it is easier to be understood. However, with a more adequate theoretical-methodological basis, a broader perception of the process is possible. This, however, does not exempt the individual from, with more or less broad awareness of the process under development, opting for position X or Y. Many other intellectuals did not have a broader perception of the meaning of what was happening, but assumed a much more radical and profound in the scope of intellectual and political decisions.

[xii] Honesty is understood as the personal coherence between speech and action, especially in terms of ethics, which means that there is coherence between the fundamental values ​​expressed by the individual and his concrete action, his decisions, etc.

[xiii] It goes without saying that we are among those who disagree with Florestan Fernandes, as this is explicit. This warning, however, reinforces the statement we made in this regard. We must not recognize honesty in just those we agree with, but in everyone who demonstrates it.

[xiv] Of course, this requires a discussion of the concept of the “classic” and how one might define the classics of sociology. We have already discussed this elsewhere (VIANA, 2013b) and here it remains to say that the classic author is the one who, in an area of ​​knowledge, manages to carry out a reflection that becomes a reference (theoretical or ideological) to think about certain phenomena or a set of them. and has social recognition, that is, it is effectively used for that. In this sense, there are three classics in sociology and it is nothing more than a superficial attempt to want to add others, as they already did with Parsons (now forgotten, which is inadmissible for a “classic”).

[xv]Insight here means a partial perception of a broader and global phenomenon. Therefore, it is distinct from the conception related to this term by psychiatry, psychology and psychoanalysis (on these meanings, cf.: Abel, 2003) and, although it has a certain proximity to Köhler's thesis (1968), which is translated as discernment or untranslated, also differs from it. Our conception points to something that is partial. Its “partial” character of something broader shows its limits, as well as, in our approach, it has no connection with the emotional, as in the case of Köhler, and could not even manifest itself, even in a more “primitive” way, in animals. That is, here insight is a rational but partial procedure, correctly identifying aspects without being able to contextualize them and understand their relationships with the totality.

[xvi] Interestingly, Florestan Fernandes overlooks Lukács' (1989) criticism of sociology and particular sciences, including Bukharin, who he considers one of the examples of Marxist sociologists, widely recognized in Russia. Although he does not make it clear, what he seems to mean by such a statement is that only science is concerned with the issue of method, which was not made explicit and does not make sense, since philosophy and Marxism, and even theology, hold discussions about method, in different ways. This is not where the difference between Marxism and science lies, as well as it is necessary to make it clear that those developed by one and the other are antagonistic methods.

[xvii] Individuals find it difficult to have a broader awareness of the totality of social life and their location within it. The initial contextualization and its resumption here is not something conscious for most individuals who lived at the time and not even for a large number of scholars and researchers of that period. And this applies to almost all sociologists and is even more serious in times of transition and uncertainty, such as the 1970s, when the combined accumulation regime was in crisis and the integral accumulation regime had not yet emerged.

[xviii] The only thing “reasonable”, in the sense of complexity and innovation, that was generated in state capitalism was the so-called “Budapest School” (Heller, Markus, etc.) ), especially his work "Marxism and Philosophy of Language" (nineteen ninety). Maybe digging will find something else. Lukács has a problematic work, since since his adherence to the Leninist ideology of reflection, he has fallen into dogmatism, as can be seen in his critique of existentialism (1990) and his work “The Destruction of Reason” (1983), despite having some interesting elements in his other works, more focused on aesthetics and ontology (marked by limits and problems too, but not as serious as in the cited works). However, these conceptions are philosophical and not sociological.

[xx] “Sociologists often proclaim their commitment to 'scientific values', but rarely consider the nature of such values ​​problematic” (BLACKBURN, 1974, p. 62-63).

[xx] Marx's critique of philosophy and economics is enough to perceive the antagonism between Marxism and science. Korsch was right when he stated that Marxism is not a science, in the bourgeois sense of the term, which, incidentally, is its only meaning, as well as that it does not fit in any drawer of the particular sciences (KORSCH, 2020).

[xxx] Marx himself already made the contrast between the science/ideology of the bourgeoisie and the theory/socialism of the proletariat, as, for example, in the passage where he states that economists are the ideological representatives of the bourgeoisie and communists the theoretical representatives of the proletariat (MARX, 1989).

[xxiii] We intend to deepen this discussion in a work on “identity and ideology”.

[xxiii] The masterful work characterized by the profusion of pejorative adjectives, starting with the title, is “Leftism, the Childhood Disease of Communism” (LENIN, 1986).

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