Ignacio Rangel – a demiurge from Brazil

Image: Sachingb


The economist from Maranhão is one of the main interpreters of Brazil

“Only in this way is it possible to organize space, including the whole world in its system” (RANGEL, 1968, p. 05).

Demiurges, yes, those who derive from Plato's idea, those who create reality, who organize and model it, or, in a simple sense, creators of a grandiose work, of relevant importance, such as the reference that Antonio Candido made to the interpreters Gilberto Freyre, Sérgio Buarque de Holanda and Caio Prado Jr., and this list took shape with Francisco de Oliveira, by adding Celso Furtado and Florestan Fernandes, a list to which Darcy Ribeiro and Raymundo Faoro also belong, all scholars undertaking an interpretation of Brazil.[I] It would be the “great tradition” of explainers in Brazil, celebrated by Chico de Oliveira, in an exhibition held at the traditional CEDEC, an appropriate place to study and understand the formation of Brazil in its specificity.

The idea fits. Demiurges, after all, do not create reality in the Platonic tradition, but organize a kind of chaos. Thus, they print not only a description that accounts for what they apprehend from the world, but actually posit the world itself.[ii]

Once, Alexandre de Freitas Barbosa[iii] asked Luiz Gonzaga Beluzzo, when telling his story in an interview, especially his trajectory and that of Unicamp. Asked that there were big names in this process, such as Celso Furtado and Raul Prebisch, he was asked: “but Rangel?”. By adding Ignacio Rangel,[iv] Beluzzo immediately corrected that he forgot to mention the economist from Maranhão. Reinforcing that much was owed to Ignacio Rangel and forgetting him “was an injustice that I could not commit” (BELUZZO, 2011, p. 426).

Such a character is an interpreter from Brazil who studied the enigma –[v], “Brazil, our clear enigma” (SANTIAGO, 2002, p. XLVIII), however, also does not appear in the good work with 52 prominent names of Brazilian thought, prepared by the Alexandre de Gusmão Foundation, of Itamaraty (IPRI-FUNAG, 2007 ). As in the dense collection on national thought by Djacir Meneses, which includes a myriad of authors, Rangelian studies are not present (Brazil in Brazilian Thought, 2011). Rangel was a thinker who invented Brazil – in special cases he did the same – so little remembered that he does not appear in the work of Fernando Henrique Cardoso (Thinkers Who Invented Brazil, 2013), however, according to José Márcio Rego, the reflection of the man from Maranhão was one of his inspirations to elaborate, together with Enzo Falletto, the Theory of Dependency (REGO, 1997).

According to Ignacio Rangel, the same happened to Hélio Jaguaribe when he was inspired by his ideas, but he was not remembered (Brazil: Alternatives and Departures, 2002). Absent in other works that deal essentially with interpreters and their interpretations, such as Interpretations from Brazil  (CARVALHO & EUGENIO, 2014); in the collection of articles interpreters from Brazil (AXT, SCHÜLER, & (Orgs), 2004); in the three volumes of The Identities of Brazil whose approach is essentially from interpreters.

The first volume addresses approximately 120 years of Brazilian thought, from Varnhagen to FHC (REIS, 2007). The second volume, which emphasizes names that “interpreted Brazilian civilization”, includes authors from Calmon to Bomfim (REIS, 2006). The trilogy ends with a focus on national identity that includes José Murilo de Carvalho and Darcy Ribeiro (REIS, 2017). No Rangel. In the same vein, the voluminous work, whose subtitle is “Little Encyclopedia”, called No Brazil Exists (ROCHA, 2003), which adds historians, literati, important documents of national history. Nothing from Rangel.

In works with this characteristic, Ignacio Rangel rises to the level of interpreter in a work whose title is salutary for an illustrious unknown, organized by Luiz Bernardo Pericás and Lincoln Ferreira Secco (Interpreters from Brazil: classics, rebels and renegades.

This “lack of knowledge” generates particular interest, due to its contradiction: those who had contact with the work of Ignacio Rangel do not spare him praise and equate him with other notables who focused on the Brazilian reality and sought to interpret it. However, what can be seen is a substantial lack of knowledge about his work and who was the interpreter. In the year celebrating the 200th anniversary of Independence, in the survey among more than a hundred scholars, there was no mention of the work of the economist from Maranhão.[vi]

As in the work of Nelson Werneck Sodré, dedicated to getting to know Brazil, although published for the first time in the 1940s, with successive and subsequent re-editions, there is no mention of Rangelian work (SODRÉ, 1967). Among the ten books to get to know Brazil highlighted by Antonio Candido, a choice that, according to him, depended mainly on his will and limitations. Candido's unique modesty, however, Ignacio Rangel is not mentioned, as well as some of his books, as important to get to know Brazil a little more.

Ignacio de Mourão Rangel (1914-1994), was born on February 20 in the city of Mirador, Maranhão, the son of a magistrate and a teacher, he graduated in Law. In 1954, on Celso Furtado's recommendation, he went to Chile to carry out what he called his master's thesis at ECLAC, defending the thesis entitled “Economic Development in Brazil”. She was a member of the Communist Party and a member of the National Liberation Alliance (ALN). In her intellectual militancy, she was a member of the Clube dos Economistas, IBESP, and the Instituto Superior de Estudos Brasileiros (ISEB).

He held public office, as a member of the economic advisory of Getúlio Vargas, collaborating in the project to create Petrobras and Eletrobras. He joined the BNDE in 1955, rose to head of the Economic Department, and also participated in the Development Council of the Presidency of the Republic. He acted in the Plan of Goals of the Juscelino Kubitschek government. In 1964 he was invited to occupy the Ministry of Finance by President João Goulart, but he did not accept. He kept a column in the newspaper Last Minute in Rio de Janeiro between 1969-1971 and in 1993, for more than a decade he collaborated with the newspaper Folha de São Paulo.

The method he applied was historical-structural, or in the understanding of Bresser Pereira, which I appreciate, historical-deductive (2009). The first element of the Rangelian method is the critical reception of foreign theories, as it is exposed, initially, by the national common sense demonstrated by Barão de Mauá, Irineu Evangelista de Souza. Ignacio Rangel's work included the critical assimilation of foreign theory – the decisive influence of the Kondratiev and Juglar cycles: large waves produced by central economies, with the expansion of productive forces introducing technologies – combined with the dynamics of social classes, their interaction and position in society. structure of power and economic dominance. His position, in this regard, is clear, when speaking of theories, also in their practical aspects:

“We must be prepared to alternately use Marxist, Keynesian, neoclassical, classical and even physiocratic instruments, depending on the circumstances. We can improve these instruments, reformulate these principles, by using modern methodology, when applicable, but we cannot exclude at the outset neither of them. All will be useful to us in practical work”.[vii]

For Guerreiro Ramos, the work dualidade is a milestone in the history of ideas for the way it welcomes and critically uses foreign theory. Ramos maintained at the time that Ignacio Rangel had found the basic law of Brazil's economic formation. Duality is the theory that unites the socioeconomic process with the dynamics of social classes. The concern that permeated Rangel's long life was the existence of a dynamic duality within a national unit, this Land of Santa Cruz. His vision resembles, roughly speaking, that of an engineer who observes his creation when seeing a motor vehicle in operation. Something that is made up of several parts in operation, whose purpose is displacement, movement. Ignacio Rangel saw the process being undertaken in these lands and made an effort to understand its formation.

*Robson Adami Campos, lawyer and professor, holds a master's degree in Brazilian Studies from USP.


[I] OLIVEIRA, Francis. How to think? New Moon: Journal of Culture and Politics. 2001, no. 54, pp. 87-132. In: https://www.scielo.br/j/ln/a/tWRDxghtCHdRddwpYSc5jtt/?lang=pt#.

[ii] OLIVEIRA, Francis. Dialogue in the Great Tradition. In: Novaes, Adauto. The Crisis of the Nation-State. Rio de Janeiro: Brazilian Civilization, 2003.

[iii] Lecturer, root economist, professor on the permanent staff of the Institute of Brazilian Studies at the University of São Paulo.

[iv] Ignácio Euquério de Mourão Rangel had the spelling of his name changed after a fire broke out in the registry office where he was registered. After a new registration, he started to have his civil registration as Ignacio de Mourão Rangel.

[v] An exquisite collection of studies that brings together “29 interpreters and a country” was organized by André Botelho and Lilia Moritz Schwarcz based on the premise that deciphering Brazil is not a simple undertaking (An Enigma Called Brazil, 2019). It is noteworthy that Ignacio Rangel is not on the select list of interpreters studied in the work.

[vi] See the article in Folha de SP named 200 years, 200 books elaborated on the project that brings together 200 important books to understand Brazil, a survey with works indicated by 169 intellectuals of the Portuguese language that can be consulted at: https://arte.folha.uol.com.br/ilustrissima/2022/05/04/200-livros-importantes-para-entender-o-brasil/.

[vii] Vide includes the explanation in Development and Project (RANGEL, Obras Reunidas, 2012, p. 207).

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