meritocracy of bonds

Image: Nikita Nikitin


Origins and reconfigurations of the space of economists in Brazil

What determines the rise of economists to positions of power and prestige in Brazil? Your merits and expertise? Their different endowments of social, economic, cultural, symbolic, political, etc. capital? Your social ties with other economists? Your links to alien institutions and governments? Their confluences of interests with power holders?

In order to understand such processes, Elisa Klüger, in her extensive research for the construction of her doctoral thesis, Meritocracy of ties: genesis and reconfigurations of the space of economists in Brazil, began by investigating the family ties of economists who reached high positions in public administration , from public and private institutions, with influence on the direction of the policies adopted in the country. She researched the connections built in undergraduate and graduate years and at work, especially in universities, research centers and the public sector.

To compose the historical narrative, she merged the data obtained in about 50 interviews with others available in secondary sources such as biographies, historical-biographical dictionaries, commemorative DVDs, etc. He warns: “In the narrative, the social origin of economists is emphasized, the formation of links between them – with emphasis on similarities and contrasts between individuals and groups, with regard to their social properties and their worldviews –, the emergence and the transformations of institutions in the space of economists and the web of international connections in which agents and institutions are immersed”.

Her focus is located on the period that begins in 1930 and goes until the beginning of the 2000s. These more than 70 years are divided into four “movements”, as she calls them. The First Movement, which lasted from the 1930s to the 1960s, was responsible for establishing the first schools of economics and the first public bodies for economic management in the country. The Second Movement, which lasted until 1979, saw the union of a group of “experts” in charge of the economy of the military government and the formation of critical groups. The formation of the opposition that would come to command the economy in the New Republic is described in the Third Movement, which runs until the first direct election for president. In the Fourth Movement, from 1990 to 2003, the perspective is inverted: the narrative is built from the inflections and continuities in the management of the BNDES.

In addition to the four chapters, which deal with the four Movements, there is an Overture chapter and an Intermezzo, between the First and Second Movements. Due to the decisive role played by the Economic Commission for Latin America (ECLAC) in the search for an “indigenous” economic thought, the opening chapter is dedicated to it and its members. Intermezzo, on the other hand, focuses on the meeting, in Chile, of economists and other social scientists, exiled by the dictatorship, who would come to occupy key posts in Brazil in the following years.

Next, we seek to carry out a panoramic flight and highlight fragments


Opening: “In search of an indigenous thought: diplomatic battles for an Economic Commission for Latin America (ECLAC) and the entry routes of ECLAC thought in Brazil (1948-1964)”

The purpose of the chapter – to analyze the social conditions surrounding the formation of ECLAC, as well as the ways that made it possible for the thought produced there to be disseminated in Brazil – materialized in the “Opening Network”, represented by the figure at the end.

It is perfectly noted that ECLAC – Economic Commission for Latin America (current Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean) – and Celso Furtado, the latter in a position coinciding with the border between Brazil and abroad, are the centers of the Network of Opening. From them radiate relationships with people and institutions.

The observation of the entanglement begins with the members of the Chilean Santa Cruz family. The request to the Economic and Social Council of the UN, for the installation of a commission focused on the development of Latin America, was made by Hernán Santa Cruz. ECLAC – was established in 1948. The US was not only against it, but spared no effort to discontinue the work of the institution in the following years.

What social ties did the family that won 15 votes out of 18 in favor of the creation of the Commission have? The study shows that “those who proposed and defended the creation of the Commission at the UN, the Santa Cruz, had connections with individuals who were largely endowed with political assets. They were descendants of presidents and central families of the Chilean elite, having an early familiarity with power and an extensive network of contacts in the political world. They accumulated the traditional training in law and the cosmopolitanism required to make themselves heard internationally, becoming interlocutors of bureaucrats, scientists and politicians from central countries”.

In addition to Raúl Prebisch, ECLAC's first director, Alfonso Santa Cruz, his cousin Aníbal Pinto Santa Cruz, Celso Furtado, Cleantho de Paiva, Miguel Osório de Almeida, Víctor Urquidi, Juan Noyola and Regino Boti formed the group born between 1915 and 1925 that would join ECLAC. About them, the author observes, “the privileged social origin and the vast set of economic, cultural and symbolic assets of the cadres that created and consecrated ECLAC allowed them to travel nationally and internationally and to take initiatives even without the immediate support of their governments , since they were people with their own authority and prestige”.

“Prebisch reports that, first as undersecretary of Finance and later as director of the Central Bank, he tried to prescribe orthodox remedies to mitigate the deleterious effects that hit the Argentine economy in the wake of the 1929 crisis. heretical: devaluing the exchange rate, raising import tariffs and giving incentives for the industry to expand. He says that the success of his heterodox behavior led him to abandon his belief in the free market, which, together with the perception of his country's subordinate status on the international scene, gave rise to his theoretical reconversion and his production aimed at understanding the specificities of Latin American insertion in the international scenario”

Those born around 1935 also did not have “less social security and availability of cultural capital”. They were Osvaldo Sunkel, Maria da Conceição Tavares, Carlos Lessa and Antônio Barros de Castro.

Celso Furtado's social and cultural capital is not far behind: “he studied in Europe, traveled numerous times in the US and worked in Brazil and Chile, having links with the various locations considered in space. Born in 1920, he also falls somewhere in the middle of the generational spectrum under consideration”.

The Economic Advisory Office of Getúlio Vargas, another hub that brought together the first Brazilian economists, was created right at the beginning of his second government to streamline tasks and give continuity to industrialization planning. Assembled by Rômulo de Almeida, the Advisory included Cleantho de Paiva Leite, Jesus Soares Pereira and Ignácio Mourão Rangel.

“Ignácio de Mourão Rangel was from Maranhão, born in the city of Mirador. The Rangel family owned a mill and Ignácio's father, grandfather and great-grandfather were provincial magistrates. He moved to São Luís to attend high school and, following the family course, entered the Faculty of Law of Maranhão. In his youth, Rangel was a member of the National Liberation Alliance and the Brazilian Communist Party (PCB). He participated in workers' and students' movements and strikes, and even in guerrilla trials, which is why he was arrested at the age of 21. (…) Regarding his entry into the Vargas Office, Rangel reports: I was called by Getúlio Vargas for a specific purpose: to draft a law on babassu. I then went to work on the drafting of that law and joined the team, afterwards there was no way for me to detach myself from it. We made good friends, Rômulo [de] Almeida, Jesus Soares Pereira, people like that, and they are friendships that stayed for the rest of my life and that enriched me enormously”.


First Movement: “Brazil-United States foreign policy and the genesis of specialists in economics in Brazil (1931-1966)”

During the period under review, at least two important changes took place in the field of economists. The first is the implementation of several schools of economics and government institutions aimed at conducting the country's economy.

The second difference is that right from the start adherents of different currents of economic thought cooperated with each other. “At the beginning of the Movement, the tendency for cooperation of all those engaged in valuing economic knowledge and in the mission of transforming it into a fundamental instrument for rationalizing State practices prevailed, so that the economic teams were made up of members from different groups. and schools and research institutes published papers and housed people with diverse economic orientations”.

At the end of the period, conflicts prevail. An example is the irritation of Eugênio Gudin and Octavio Gouvêa de Bulhões, linked to the North Americans and defenders of free markets, with the speech of Raúl Prebisch, at the installation of the Mixed Group ECLAC-BNDE, which exhorted industrialization on a regional basis and the increase in trade between Latin Americans. The controversy generated several articles. One of them, written by Gudin, was called “The mystique of planning”. In response Prebisch wrote “The Mystique of the Spontaneous Equilibrium of the Economy”.

“Eugênio Gudin (1886-1986) was the grandson of French merchants from the Orleans lineage who settled in Brazil in 1839 and opened a Parisian fashion house here. His father, educated in France, worked on the stock exchange and was a merchant. Gudin's mother died young and his father remarried the daughter of a wealthy banker, also educated in Europe. Eugênio Gudin therefore had a cosmopolitan education, in line with the dominant European cultural standards of his time. (…) 'Eugênio Gudin keeps clear reminiscences of his first trip to Europe, at the age of seven, on a messageries Maritimes steamer. The encounter with Paris marked him forever, impregnating him with the beauty of the city. Led by his grandfather's hand, he walked along the banks of the Seine; he walked through the streets and squares that retrace the course of civilization' (Paulo Carneiro)”.

When configuring the First Movement Network, the author realizes that “the polarities detected in the period are arranged in the network in a triangular structure whose vertices correspond to the monetarist, nationalist developmentalist and non-nationalist or cosmopolitan developmentalist groups”.

The nationalist developmental pole would have in its composition the members of the Vargas Advisory, ECLAC, SUDENE and BNDE. The group would gravitate towards the Clube dos Economistas, founded by Celso Furtado in response to the worsening of relations with Gudin's group. In geographical terms, the members of this group from the Northeast were predominant, due to SUDENE, and from Rio Grande do Sul, due to Vargas and Goulart's trusted cadres.

Sharing the proximity to Rio de Janeiro, graduates of the faculty that would become the Institute of Economics at UFRJ and those linked to the Getúlio Vargas Foundation in Rio de Janeiro, in addition to the group linked to SUMOC (Superintendence of Currency and Credit), formed the monetarist group. “The ties of Gudin and Bulhões were mostly woven with groups that shared the economic vision that privileged the action of the markets, the control of currency issuance and rejected state intervention and state planning for the promotion of development”.

The third group, non-nationalist developmentalists, believed in the validity of the State's planning action, however they differed from the nationalists on issues of protectionism and closing the country to foreign companies. Two important unifying centers of this line of thought were CAE (FGV-RJ Economists Improvement Center), led by Mário Henrique Simonsem, and CONSULTEC, a consulting and planning company that had Roberto Campos and Lucas Lopes among its founders.

Roberto Campos “was not a carioca born in a golden cradle and educated in the highest cosmopolitanism… Born in Cuiabá, he was the son of Valdomiro de Oliveira Campos, a professor from São Paulo who went to Mato Grosso on a mission to help São Paulo to reform education in the West becoming director of a school group (…) His situation in Rio de Janeiro was very precarious. In search of a more stable job than occasional classes, he signed up for the contest organized by the DASP [Administrative Department of the Public Service] for Itamaraty. During this period he doubled his duties: he taught during the day and studied at night for the contest. The seminary had given him good training in the humanities and canon law, he had a good command of French and Italian and had training in Latin and Greek, but he did not speak a word of English, a mandatory language in the exam for the diplomatic career”.

Klüger highlights two relevant facts in relation to the non-nationalist monetarist and developmentalist groups: the IPES (Institute of Research and Social Studies), an alliance of businessmen, military personnel and technicians formed to combat the government of João Goulart, occupies a central place between the two groups ; with the 1964 coup, the non-nationalist developmentalist group progressively adopted the monetarist ideology. Octavio Bulhões was appointed Minister of Finance and Roberto Campos became Extraordinary Minister of Planning and Economic Coordination.

“Campos, who was at first a cosmopolitan developmentalist, identified himself more and more with the monetarists, adhering to the stabilization guideline as a requirement for development sustained by private capital and, therefore, the fight against inflation and institutional restructuring. Until then, conservatives were considered those who, like the members of the CMBEU [Brazilian United States Joint Commission], were not nationalists, even though they claimed that the economy was planned and that the State intervened when necessary. “After the coup, the group became, more than cosmopolitan in its perspective of openness to international economic integration, anti-statist, anti-protectionist and monetarist, taking Gudin and Bulhões as masters”.


3. Intermezzo: “Militance and exile (1964-1973)”

The author's decision to include the study of relations between people who left the country is due to the great importance of the positions that this group would assume after the end of the dictatorship. Fernando Henrique Cardoso and José Serra are the two most prominent figures in the Intermezzo Network.

“Fernando Henrique participated in the University Council of USP [CO], from April 1957 to April 1958, as a representative of former students, and in 1961 he returned to the Council as a professor. He reports that CO members were impressed by his politeness, respect for elders, his conciliatory rather than radical tone, the fact that he was always well dressed, and other qualities expected of those who were socialized among the elites. Thus he won the favor of the conservatives who dominated university politics. These recognized him as a peer from the point of view of his social constitution, which was similar to that of the elites that populated the dominant schools of university politics, the traditional Faculties of Medicine, Law and Engineering. Fernando Henrique even began to be admitted to the unofficial spaces of congregation of this academic elite, being invited to the group's dinners and meetings. He managed to unite support from the left and tolerance from part of the university right, gaining a prominent role in USP politics”.

On the multiple connections established by Fernando Henrique Cardoso in exile, Klüger highlights: “He moved between sociology and economics, between Brazil, Europe and Latin America, between groups of nationalist businessmen, communist and developmentalist professors and students of leftist philosophy, between the national elites to which he belonged and the universe of São Paulo immigrants from his college, dispositions and belongings that favored the multiplication of connections that allowed him to congregate around him diverse segments of exiles”.

There were countless ties built in exile in Chile, which proved to be structural in the country's redemocratization process. The author highlights Unicamp's Institute of Economics and Cebrap as, possibly, the two institutions that suffered the greatest rearticulations derived from the links of militants and intellectuals congregated in Santiago.

An expressive example of the web of relationships produced in exile is given with the professor from Porto Alegre, Ernani Maria Fiori. He and the Pernambuco educator Paulo Freire had a great friendship. When his son José Luís Fiori, threatened by the dictatorship for being a member of the AP [Popular Action], arrived in Chile at the end of 1965, he was hosted by Paulo and Elza Freire. As it was a very small apartment, José Luís ended up moving to the residence of Plínio de Arruda Sampaio, where he lived until his parents joined him in Santiago in 1966.

The Fiori and Freire families visit each other every weekend and their intellectual partnership grows, with Ernani Fiori invited to introduce the classic The Pedagogy of the Oppressed. In one of these meetings, José Luís Fiori introduced José Serra, who also frequented the Freire household, to Paulo Renato de Souza. Serra, in turn, introduced José Luís to his teacher and friend Carlos Lessa, who would become a decisive influence on his career. When Carlos Lessa leaves Chile, Maria da Conceição Tavares arrives in the country. Two ties that would profoundly mark the trajectory of José Luís Fiori.

In the same year of creation of the University of Brasília, 1962, Ruy Mauro Marini joins it as a teaching assistant in political science and political theory. His stay in Brasilia would be short: he was summarily dismissed in 1964. Twice arrested and twice freed by habeas corpus, he took refuge in the Mexican Embassy and went to that country a month later. In 1969, Marini joined “a vast colony of Brazilian exiles”.

“The period I spent there [in France between 1958 and 1960] coincided with the height of developmental theory in Latin America and Brazil – with which I had become familiar at EBAP [Brazilian School of Public Administration at FGV], through the hand of [ [… ]. Development theories, in vogue in the United States and in European centers, revealed themselves to me then as what they really were: an instrument of mystification and domestication of the oppressed peoples of the Third World and a weapon with which imperialism sought to face the problems created after the war by decolonization. Then began my withdrawal from ECLAC, strongly influenced, moreover, by my growing affiliation with Marxism (MARINI, Memória)”.


Second Movement: “Mathematized visions of economic science (1967-1979)”

In addition to the removal of power from nationalist developmentalists, linked to ECLAC, Sudene and the Clube dos Economistas, the period witnessed the adherence of non-nationalist developmentalists to the monetarists. Also notable is the entry of Paulistas, especially from the middle and lower classes, into positions of power. “In the beginning, São Paulo appears as a meritocracy without ties when compared to the scenario of the capital”, reveals the author.

Most of the professors at the Faculty of Economics at USP are children of immigrants with no relation to the nation's leaders. The prominent figure of the Paulistas was Delfim Netto. Through his participation in ANPES (National Association of Economic and Social Programming), an economic research institute funded by businessmen from São Paulo, Delfim gained national recognition and brought other colleagues with him, such as Affonso Celso Pastore.

Delfim's economic position was quite plural: “he kept the State very present in the economy, operating without cutting costs and relying on debt to drive growth, which displeased the monetarists and was well regarded by nationalist sectors; it encouraged export agriculture as a way to balance the balance, getting closer to those for whom the country had comparative advantages in agriculture; it maintained considerable protectionism, which pleased the nationalists and was deeply rejected by the monetarists; but it maintained the policy of wage tightening introduced by non-nationalist developmentalists, which displeased all opposition”.

The network also indicates the growth of both a mathematized orthodoxy, whose principles emanated from the Chicago School, and a mathematized heterodoxy, also formed in the US, but critical of the assumptions of neoclassical theory. Edmar Bacha, linked to PUC-RJ, is the most prominent individual in the mathematized heterodox branch. Among the so-called chicago boys, Carlos Geraldo Langoni stands out.

Dissident from the guidance of the Graduate School of Economics at FGV-RJ, closely linked to Chicago ideals, the group of Chico Lopes, Dionísio Dias Carneiro and Rogério Werneck manages to put together the master's degree at PUC-RJ, with the help of Ipea, Anpec and of the Ford Foundation.

Edmar Bacha joined the group at the end of 1978, the first year of the Master's program. “Pedro Malan and Régis Bonelli, who worked at INPES, started moving between PUC-RJ and IPEA. Afterwards, José Márcio Camargo, Lara Resende and Eduardo Modiano completed their doctorates at MIT and, upon returning to Brazil, joined the group. Persio Arida came from USP to join colleagues and friends from the American Cambridge period”.

“The family trajectories of André and Persio are and are not different. André starts from an extremely privileged situation, with an older and more prestigious insertion in Brazilian society; Persio is a descendant of immigrants, but he was born into an already wealthy household and had the opportunity to enormously multiply his cultural capital. Persio had been politically active and entered economics because of his flirtation with Marxism; André had no political activities and wanted to be an engineer. They acquired, over time, very close positions in economics. Both managed with ease and developed an interest in abstraction, which was essential for them to adhere to an economic science full of models and for them to claim predominance in economics of logic and not ideology, which is why both reject Chicago”.

On the mathematized forms, orthodox and heterodox, of economics, notes Elisa Klüger: “In both cases, however, it is possible to observe that the proof and refutation are due essentially to the ability to demonstrate and justify statistically and econometrically the analyses, using highly esoteric language, which excluded those who did not have specialized training, closing economic debates in a universe of insiders and distancing economics from the human sciences”.


Third Movement: “The opposition front in government (1979-1990)”

With José Sarney in the presidency, the critics of the dictatorship came to power in the economy: heterodox economists occupy, for the most part, the command of the New Republic. Economists from Unicamp (João Manuel, Belluzzo, Luciano Coutinho) participated; from UFRJ (Carlos Lessa, Eduardo Augusto Guimarães); from EAESP-FGV (Luiz Carlos Bresser Pereira, Yoshiaki Nakano); from FEA-USP (João Sayad, Andrea Calabi, Montoro Filho); from PUC-RJ (Edmar Bacha, Persio Arida, André Lara Resende).

“Sayad became director of courses at FIPE. He had returned from abroad and became director of courses at FIPE and invited me to be coordinator [...]. We set up a research group that was about energy. The price of oil had exploded in 1979, so the whole idea was how much energy would cost in general and especially in the electricity sector. A research group that included Sayad, myself, Marcos Giannetti, Calabi and Philippe Reichstul. So we stayed together there for two or three years doing this research. When Sayad was nominated to be secretary of the farm, this whole group went with him. The Secretary Sayad. Calabi to run DIVESP [Distributor of Securities and Securities of the State of São Paulo], I took care of economic advisory. Philippe took care of the state-owned companies and Marcos was president of Caixa. We all went with it. So this group became a very close group (Francisco Vidal Luna's interview with the author, 2014)”.

Sayad's team is then assigned to the Ministry of Planning. The entry of Dílson Funaro to the command of the Treasury and of several PUC-Rio heterodox in the Central Bank and IBGE completed the team responsible for the implementation of the Cruzado Plan in 1986.

“The Third Movement, which ended at the end of the Sarney government, was characterized by the cooperation of the opposition in search of the solidification of the economy of the democratic regime. To the differences between the existing schools at the beginning of the period, initially suppressed in the name of the common mission, were added party divisions and divergences resulting from the disputes that the groups had when trying to govern together”.


Fourth Movement: “The BNDES of the Collor, Itamar and FHC governments (1990-2003)”

Elisa Klüger assesses that, in this period, the lines of economic thought are transformed. Both FGV-RJ's monetarism and the nationalist developmentalism that was the hallmark of the Clube dos Economistas and Assessoria de Vargas lose centrality. “In its place, clusters of 'liberal-developmentalists', 'neoliberals' and 'non-liberal-developmentalists' are identified, outlining a triangle in space”.

Liberalization, external opening and privatization made up Fernando Collor's modernizing project, as Eduardo Modiano, president of the BNDES between 1990 and 1992, exposes: “I felt a great identification with the main lines of action that the new government intended to take and then I began to to involve, to help... Gradually, my participation in the elaboration of the program, in the discussions, ended up involving me in a certain way that, later, when I wanted to leave, they wouldn't let me. At this point, the president was practically elected and there was no going back. I was already, in a way, involved and also committed to the policies of liberalization, privatization, privatization that the new government had promised to implement”.

Zélia Cardoso de Mello became Minister of the Economy and leader of the team that implemented the Collor Plan, with the confiscation of savings among the measures adopted.

“Zélia was raised in Jardim Paulistano and used to spend her holidays on her family farms. She even attended Madame Poças Leitão's course, which introduced young women from wealthy families to good manners and ballet. She had a strict Catholic background and with her parents went to mass at the Nossa Senhora do Brasil church, located in Jardins and attended by the high elite of São Paulo. The main inflections in Zélia's trajectory were promoted by some cousins ​​who worked in politics and economics. The first major change was the transfer to the College of Application at USP. His cousins ​​managed to convince Emiliano and Ausélia [his father and mother] of the intellectual superiority of the school, where professors associated with USP taught. There, Zélia became close to leftist groups and during college she even worked for some time in the PCB”.

The FHC government is located in the network between the neoliberal and liberal-developmental currents. The first with predominant origin at PUC-RJ and the second at FEA-USP and UNICAMP. Two presidents of the BNDES, Luiz Carlos Mendonça de Barros (1995 to 1998), from the second stream, and André Lara Resende (1998), from the first stream and “one of the economists with the greatest number of connections in the network due to the multiplicity of their ties”, they were partners at Banco Matrix when they participated in the FHC government. Over time, the FHC government leaned more exclusively towards neoliberalism.

“After having worked at the Central Bank during the preparation and implementation of the Cruzado Plan, Luiz Carlos resumed his activities in the financial market. Before working on Fernão Bracher's team at BCB, he had worked at Investbanco, Patente and Planibanc… [Luiz Carlos tells us that] 'when President FHC set up the government, Sérgio Motta came to talk to me about the possibility of my participating. It so happened that André (Lara Resende) and I had founded Matrix very recently. We think it would be a lack of responsibility towards the other partners to abandon everything. That's why I didn't participate in the initial team. At the end of 1995, Edmar Bacha had received an invitation to work in the private sector and wanted to leave. I thought there were already conditions to leave the bank. I accepted, but I knew there was a certain conflict of ideas in the air. And I went to the BNDES, invited by Serra and pressured a lot by Sérgio Motta, a friend of 30 years' (BARROS, 1999).”



In the beginning it was practical economists, members of the elite or prominent civil servants, trained especially in law, who studied economics on their own. Those few with a background in economics studied abroad. The second generation, born between 1920 and 1940, were lawyers or engineers: “alongside the group belonging to the national elite centered in Rio de Janeiro, those who ascend through school investment multiply”. The third generation, born after 1940, presents similarities with the previous elites, but includes members of immigrant families, in which parents and grandparents had already accumulated capital.

“The third generation was the main beneficiary of the multiplication of international agreements expanded throughout the 1960s, notably as an effect of the intensification of North American scientific cooperation programs during the Cold War. Members of this generation form the first group to systematically attend doctorates abroad, becoming the agents of the transfer to Brazil of the institutional design of the economics departments of North American universities and of the mathematical economy that was conquering a dominant position in the global space of economists. ”.

Some of the few who went to study in other countries had different backgrounds from those that prevailed in the United States. As Ruy Mauro Marini reports in the text Memória he produced for the University of Brasília in the mid-1980s: “the theories of development, in vogue in the United States and in European centers, revealed themselves to me, then, as what they really were: an instrument of mystification and domestication of the oppressed peoples of the Third World and a weapon with which imperialism sought to face the problems created in the post-war period by decolonization”.

*Cesar Locatelli holds a master's degree in economics from PUC-SP.



1 – The following link gives access to the thesis Meritocracy of ties: genesis and reconfigurations of the space of economists in Brazil.

2 – The excerpts between quotation marks are transcripts of the thesis.

3 – Opening Network (the figures related to the other figures can be accessed in the thesis)


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