Far beyond the pure form

Photo by Carmela Gross


Afterword to Neil Davidson's book, Uneven and Combined Development: Modernity, Modernism and Permanent Revolution.

Questions and answers

Can an impoverished, dependent and fractured country rethink its own condition? How to reverse in a critical perspective the stumbling and truncated material, mental and reflective accumulation, that is to say, the historical disadvantage of backwardness? How to extract some strength from the situation of inferiority to reverse the endemic subordination? Can such questions be posed only from an internal point of view or – because they imply international correlations – do they require syntheses that encompass an external perspective and systemic totalization?

It is known that questions, answers and variants of this suit already belong to the Brazilian tradition. But can the critical theory of uneven and combined development renew them? What is the contribution of Uneven and Combined Development: Modernity, Modernism and Permanent Revolution (São Paulo, Editora Unifesp/ Ideias Baratas, 2020) by Neil Davidson (1957-2020) in this regard? This is what this afterword will try to discuss, mainly regarding the final appendix of Davidson's book, which links modernism to uneven and combined development.


Quickly, to remember: in the wake of the changes brought about by the 1930 revolution[I], Gilberto Freyre, Caio Prado and Sérgio Buarque de Holanda launched themselves to examine the sequelae of colonization, including the social behavior extracted from slaveholding-land ownership – a common thread, in the inner fabric of local despotism, of the incivility that is the hallmark of the property-owning classes Brazilian. Next, in different ways, the research and debate of the formation they were conducted in different areas and by several generations of thinkers and artists, with the content of a study program on decolonization. The subsequent debate specified traits and peculiarities of Brazilian history, which differed from the patterns and mental parameters emulated in advanced countries.

The guideline of critically articulating the peculiarity of Brazilian problems to international dynamics was already implied in the examination of the consequences of colonization. However, it gained new emphasis in post-war capitalist expansion, with the elaboration of the category of underdevelopment by the ECLAC team of researchers, with decisive Brazilian participation[ii]. New debates followed around the notion of dependency, set after the civil-military coup of 1964 in a dramatic escalation of political and ideological clashes[iii]. For readers who have such a roadmap of ideas and discussions in mind, Davidson's book will speak up close and immediately. But not just those.


In fact, among the merits of the book – whose fluency evokes the situation of those who discuss and narrate didactically and politically, to clarify – is that of adopting current terms and accessible sources. Therefore, for those starting out in the “dark jungle” of systematized research, the book also has a lot to say and teach promptly. Davidson's historical presentation of the law of uneven and combined development, as well as its recent debate, offers a pedagogical way for the beginner to reflect organized, historically and dialectically on the attempts – successive and unsuccessful – to modernize not only Brazil, but also from other countries.

In fact, by exchanging ideas and comparatively discussing processes of late and accelerated modernization in different countries – not forgetting the primordial and, therefore, exceptional nature of English modernization, with its pioneering and singular pace –, Davidson establishes a concrete platform. From then on, the young reader will be able to recompose – in a historical perspective – the main lines and the problems that permeated the different cycles of the debates on modernization, crossing and comparing the characteristics of the Brazilian failure with those of other modernizations. By the way, given the focus of the book on the present, the most recent core of the debate opened by the formation – the “dismantling” critique[iv] or the collapse of modernization and dependency enthroned (Collor, FHC and following years) – can also be included in the historical series of themes in review, for later research by the interested party.

But how – some reader who has just finished reading Davidson's chapters and finds himself with this afterword in hand – will erupt, surprised and with some reason –, if the book only mentions the manguebeat in passing – and look there? True, but who, like this editorial contributor, suddenly comes into contact with Trotsky's comments dating from 1912, quoted by Davidson - having already read and discussed many times in class the prefaces of the first (1957) and second edition (1962) ) in Formation of Brazilian Literatureby Antonio Candido[v] –, one cannot fail to recognize in Candido's comments the similarity of concerns and the appearance of a direct response to Trotsky's observations. Really?

Missing links, found links

How to establish the reason for such convergence? The fact is that the pieces fit together, the convergence looms large and invites us to think. One piece of evidence is required: we are facing two historical judgments, separated chronologically and geographically, but possibly provoked by similar or similar structures. After all, what did Trotsky and Antonio Candido coincidentally see?

Back in 1912, as a war correspondent, Trotsky covered the Balkan War for the Ukrainian newspaper Kievskaya Mysl. In addition to the empirical root and circumstances of the notes, he then outlined a diagnosis of the dependency chronicle of peripheral cultures. It is to be calculated that such comment probably derives from the non-conformist and impetuous course of the author's reflections – unleashed after the defeat of the 1905 revolution.

Indeed, Trotsky traced in the essay Results and Outlook (1906)[vi], written in prison, the first draft of the notion of “uneven and combined development” as a systemic mode. In it, he also outlined the related notion of “permanent revolution”, as a critical political theory about the modernization of peripheral economies. In his analysis of the Russian case (as an example of comprehensive value), Trotsky countered the chronic weakness of the subordinate, or rather, peripheral and dependent, as we say – always devoid, he notes, of its own political project –, the agility of awareness of the working class provoked by the dynamics of accelerated modernization, that is, by the process of uneven and combined development. This, in peripheral countries and dependent, it burns or skips stages of the linear development of the productive chain, combining them, in turn, with previous modes and relations that remain. The clash of times and modes in the working mind, according to Trotsky, fosters criticism of capitalism at a different pace from that seen in the old working classes (read English).

Bulgarian mode of reception: borrowed literature

In 1912, in the Balkans, Trotsky, in describing a crucial symptom of dependency culture – a feature that is of direct interest to the Brazilian debate –, noted: “Like all backward countries, Bulgaria is incapable of creating new cultural and political forms through free conflict of its own internal forces: it is obliged to assimilate cultural products already ready that European civilization has developed in the course of its history”. He goes on to say: “Bulgarian literature lacks tradition and has been unable to develop its own internal continuity. It thus had to subordinate its undeveloped content to modern and contemporary forms created under a very different cultural zenith”[vii].

I will spare the reader a couple of comparative quotes, with the respective notes, as Candido's ideas synthesized in the aforementioned prefaces are already well known to the hardened reader. As for the reader I am especially addressing, who is not familiar with the theses of Candido's "classic", about the formation of the Brazilian literary system, I leave the suggestion: go straight to the immense volume of the Formation of Brazilian Literature. There you will easily find, in the author's two prefaces and in the general movement of the book, the parallelism – with a gap of thirty to forty years – of Trotsky's and Candido's diagnoses of dependency cultural development, including modernization under external influences.

A formation: a peripheral saga

A late agreement in sight, the comparison does not disappoint the Brazilian side, although it makes clear our delay in waking up to the problem - certainly due to the absence in Brazil of a nineteenth-century modernization cycle and of a working class comparable to the Russian one in terms of organization . From another angle, the comparison is not even remotely unfavorable to the Brazilian critic in the field alleged by Trotsky – that of the lack of internal continuity of Bulgarian literature – as proof of backwardness.

For, in fact, starting from a similar finding about the discontinuity inherent in peripheral literatures as a symptom of dependence, Candido arrives at the concrete demonstration of a historical response to the contrary – and examines it in detail. In the summary written from 1945 to 1957, he establishes an unprecedented peripheral saga: that of formation – not given, but progressively constructed – of a young and arduously armed literature under external influxes, in a peripheral and dependent country.

In this sense, the effectively accumulated effort, generation after generation, came to raise in Brazil a literary system of which, according to Candido's indication, the greatest proof will have been the mature work of Machado de Assis[viii]. It performed the function of a vault closure, synthesizing the works of predecessors in order to establish literature properly as a system or nexus between works that are reciprocally involved, making up, throughout a historical process, a collection of works endowed with a internal causality systemic.

Assault on Heaven

Let's go back to the Russian side of the parallel. As Davidson recounts, Trotsky returned ten years later, in 1922, to the question of the cultural-historical contrast between “advanced countries” and “backward countries”, as he said at the time. This time, however, from another angle of approach and with a more favorable prognosis. Both angle and prognosis owed probably to the more advanced course, even if still in progress, of Trotsky's reflections on uneven and combined development and, in 1922, of course, also to the new perspectives opened up by the October Revolution, to the first seen consolidated under state form after the 1921 victory in the civil war against the whites.

Thus, the realization that it was possible in certain cases for “backward countries” (read Russia) to skip steps, led Trotsky to a crucial distinction. The distinction, even without development or proof, appears as one of the initial arguments of the essay entitled “O Futurismo”, signed on September 8, 1922. Proof of relevance: the essay was included and referred to prominently in the introductions of Literature and Revolution, both the September 1923 and the second edition of July 1924.

Thus, Trotsky stated, in the second passage alleged by Davidson in the Final Annex: “[…] we observe a phenomenon repeated more than once in history; lagging countries, but with a certain level of cultural development, reflect more clarity and strength in their ideologies the conquests of advanced countries. Thus, German thought in the XNUMXth and XNUMXth centuries reflected the economic achievements of the English and the political achievements of the French. In this way, Futurism reached its clearest expression not in the United States or Germany, but in Italy and Russia.[ix]

A critical-reflective leap of peripheral cultures is clearly indicated. However, as he had done before regarding the determination of the discontinuity internal cultural structure of the “backward” countries, Trotsky also did not unfold the initial observation, in this case, that the synthesis of advanced forms appropriated to the “advanced countries” by the “backward countries” tended to bring reflections with “greater clarity and strength” about of the matters in question than, according to him, in the original state.

However, even abrupt – like a comparison made in a jet –, the proposed parallel and the assertion of the peripheral critical leap contain aspects of the greatest interest: one of them, only implicit but crucial, concerns the reasons, conditions and way in which the synthesis developed in “backward” countries achieved superior results. How and why? If Trotsky owed, in fact, an effective development of the insight, nevertheless, a deduction by analogy (referred to the theory of the “permanent revolution”) may be provisionally possible, at least to avoid other comparisons, as we will see later.

However, let us deal, first of all, with what was said in all letters in the comparison proposed by Trotsky. And that, once again, fits directly into the Brazilian debate as a lost historical link: the emphatic judgment, in a key of verification, about the superior clarifying power of peripheral syntheses as opposed to "achievements of advanced countries”. How does this have to do with us and the later cultural order?

no stoning

In fact, the 1922 remark, like the 1912 one, was left by Trotsky in a raw state. Moreover, Davidson points out that Trotsky did not come to "explicitly link modernism as a general movement with uneven and combined development"[X]. Taking it a step further, Davidson made this point the motto of his Annex. We will return to this thread of discussion, but for now let us dwell on the fit of Trotsky's prognosis with the Brazilian debate: once again the connection gives food for thought.

The Leap of the Peripheral Cat

Indeed, the 1912 observation would remain a mere opinion or loose and scattered prognosis, were it not for Roberto Schwarz's analysis of the work of Machado de Assis. Of course, it is known that Schwarz follows Candido's suggestion about Machado's synthetic achievement of cumulatively constructed “internal continuity”. Did Trotsky's observation of 1922 have anything to do with the direction of Brazilian research? I leave aside the genealogical dilemma and arbitration of influences. From a larger historical point of view and from the examination of social formations, it is better to establish the structural similarity of the objective questions involved – as well as to focus on the reason for the parallel course of reflections in one case and another –, than to situate the regime of influences of an author about another[xi].

In many respects, what is remarkable and intriguing in light of the question raised by Davidson's book – as a historically and globally panoramic synthesis of the systemic process of uneven and combined development – ​​is that it was only through intensive analysis of late aesthetic form that of Machado's work, by Schwarz, that both Trotsky's 1922 observation and Candido's 1957 indication gained confirmation and effectiveness[xii].

To summarize, Schwarz's analyzes detail, in the aesthetic matter and in the operations of the Brazilian novelist, paradigmatic ways of approaching the external influx, that is, of appropriation and displacement of narrative forms elaborated in “advanced” countries and reused in an innovative way – mainly due to Machado's irony. Thus, forms are carefully cut, dissected, transferred and fitted, as shown by Schwarz's mapping of Machado's narrative process. Such operations, in short, appropriation and displacement, serve to reveal factors and the mode of peripheral misfits in the face of the hegemonic productive order – that is to say, they point out contrasts regarding the organization of work and accumulation – and the standards and civilizational values ​​of the “advanced countries”.

The result obtained by Machado's novels has a critical enlightenment effect on a systemic level, as Schwarz demonstrates: it reveals displacements and subterranean and complementary ingredients of the current productive mode in central countries, constituting a vision of the whole - which includes the reproduction of slavery and other traits of barbarism –, and turns the opposite seen through the optics of liberal bourgeois values. Just one example, among countless others: the emblematic existence in nineteenth-century Brazil – unusual but combined systemically – from a liberal-slave Empire, plus, as Machado’s clinical gaze would note, from the aggravating factor of hand-kissing to the House of Habsburg, something very different from what the Mexicans did[xiii].

Machado presents, unprecedentedly and concretely, the historical malaise and congenital weakness of a subaltern ruling class incapable – as Trotsky would analyze in the aforementioned 1906 essay – of building its own political project, not to mention a nation. In this sense, the fictitious theater of command – a mere “doing that commands” –, which encapsulates the weakness and subservience inherent to the peripheral dominant classes, is represented and at the same time laid bare by the erosion of the credibility of the narrative voice, meticulously put to work. false by Machado, according to the analytical cartography drawn by Schwarz.

In short, in Machado's novels covered by Schwarz's reading, precursory unfolded, from an angle generally denied - that of the specificity of perspective dependent and peripheral –, the interactive relations of a systemic mode of production. The narrative articulation set up by Machado at that time resulted in a superior synthesis in terms of strength and clarity, as Trotsky – without referring to Machado, but to similar cases – later would have to be pointed out sharply, even if in passing. In turn, in the field of political philosophy and history, Trotsky's analysis, since 1906, of the congenital weakness of the bourgeoisie dependent he had the subtlety and perspicacity of a writer and could well drink heavily from Machado, had the books of the latter landed in Russia like the novels in French and English that Trotsky so appreciated[xiv].

objective parallels

In addition to the survey of the original coincidences or tangencies with Trotsky's notes, there are, somehow in parallel to them, the late studies (if seen from the "Russian angle"), but incomparably more encouraged and detailed, by Candido and Schwarz about Brazilian matter (aesthetics and socio-historical) as a dialectical issue of dependency e formation, including pendencies and impasses.

In this sense, it is possible to deduce that the four interpreters considered – namely, Machado, Trotsky, Candido and Schwarz – examined historical-social structures of similar objective content. That is, indicative of the systemic mismatch and the dialectic process that involves operations of imposition, and, from another angle, of appropriation and displacement between peripheral and central cultures[xv].

Here, then, is compiled and elucidated an objective collection of cognitive and critical operations, as well as a set of consolidated aesthetic achievements, involving procedures typical of a peripheral literature provided, in this case, with internal continuity and its own project – unlike the vile heteronomy of the tailed bourgeoisie.

Changing in kids, to conclude the topic, given the objective nature of the processes and the immanent tension of the historical-social structures that challenge the consciences to decipher them, it is possible to deduce and distinguish that the four interpreters, despite being separated chronologically and spatially , reached results that show parallelism or complementarity. It is clear that such a deduction is only possible according to a dialectical and historical-materialist perspective, within which the interpreter does not work absolutely and sovereignly in the forum of his Logos, but dialogically responds to objective critical challenges, arising from the historical-social forms of the surrounding collective matter.

Provisional synthesis and angle change

In short, the law of uneven and combined development precedes and manifests objective effects even when not thought of or referred to. This happens both on the level of economic reality and on the ideological or strictly discursive level, when the discussion of its own traits polarizes or permeates debates on the dependency, without unequal and combined development entering the agenda (Davidson, by the way, repeatedly insists on this aspect, even citing well-known authors such as Fredric Jameson and Perry Anderson, to emphasize that the effects of the process are generally noticed, even when the nature of the process is unknown. law that governs them).

As is known, the original formulation of the law by Trotsky was only explicitly developed in the field of political philosophy, through the doctrine or theory of “permanent revolution”[xvi]. This, let us remember, emphasizes the role and decisive value of the political protagonism of the working class in the “backward countries” for overcoming secular petrifications. This explained the phenomenon of the October Revolution (in a “backward country”), breaking the linearities attributed to Marx[xvii].

The thought-provoking observations about the dependency culture, in the light of the Russian historical process and in the midst of reflections on uneven and combined development, remained merely in a raw state. In any case, Davidson's book focuses on both aspects and provides the Brazilian reader - if he extends his reading on his own in the terms proposed here - a perspective to situate the scope and strategic value of the Brazilian debate on the formation, mainly in the fields of literature and aesthetic reflection.


As we have seen, the compilation of such “missing links” apparently fits the Brazilian debate perfectly and forms a new whole, now visible thanks to the doors opened by Davidson. In this sense, advancing along the path of articulating the Brazilian debate on formation, with Trotsky's diagnoses about the dependency cultural, let us leave behind the question of the origin and development of local reflection on the peculiarities of the Brazilian gap in relation to the so-called advanced economies and cultures – in order to consider, from another angle, the new critical-reflexive body, recently admitted as a dialectical whole.

However, according to a global or systemic perspective, capable of reflexively encompassing the capitalist system as a whole, the passing remarks made by Trotsky on the cultural dialectic between periphery and center – albeit with the fragility of embryos – inoculate tensions in the set of categories and issues of the Brazilian debate. From the new angle, provided by the combination of Russian and Brazilian materials, it is noted that the data brought by Davidson's book, in addition to anticipating and immediately fitting into certain forms of the Brazilian debate, bring with it, after all, also the “theorem” of uneven and combined development, the critical consequences of which stand out, challenging the reader.

In short, in the light of this junction, the question of the destiny of formation Brazilian law in new terms, namely: once the dialectical and historical reasonableness of the law of uneven and combined development is accepted – now fashionable in debates in the Anglo-Saxon world (possibly due to the Chinese challenge) –, how can one refuse its political corollary? According to him, remember that there will be no reform or “bourgeois revolution” in peripheral countries – or, on the other hand, effective modernization in all forms – without the political protagonism of the working class leading the process, since the bourgeoisie subordinate and dependent, atavistically subordinated to external capitals and powers, has and will never have a democratic program or its own project.

"And now Jose?"

Finally, such coupling subjects the lexicon of ideas in circulation in Brazil to lapses and tensions that are, if not new, long forgotten. Tests are required. The internal contrast between current materials in Brazil seen in the light of uneven and combined development requires revision in urgent need of the relegated or archived Brazilian debate. In other words, spurred on by reading Davidson's book, young readers will have their first contact with the Brazilian debate on formation, as well as the hardened reader will return to it – but both will do so with new eyes, due to the comparison with Russian materials.

But, as the well-known poetry of 1942 asks – “and now…?” Readers, even those versed in poetry, should be so kind as to reread the poem in question by Carlos Drummond de Andrade, which seems ready ipsis litteris to the present day, from the post-debacle of the “transition” and the political-science-fiction of the so-called local democracy[xviii].

creaks and whispers

As we have seen, in the context of the critique of cultural dependency and from the reflection on the aesthetic form, the Brazilian materials emerge with freshness and pride from the test posed by the recently incorporated Russian materials, retaken by Davidson. Indeed, it is the studies by Candido and Schwarz that guarantee the insight, longevity and fecundity of Trotsky's intuitions, rescued by Davidson, which, from mere passing prognoses, come to take the air in a Brazilian environment of propositions of study in germ , although left to chance in the face of other known urgencies (which are beside the point).

Inversely, in terms of historical-social forms elaborated as critical constructs for the examination of Brazilian peculiarities, in turn, the checks carried out from an international perspective show adverse results for current Brazilian consensuses: flaws, cracks, creaks and blind spots of several orders – in fact, some of which are phenomena pointed out, in Brazil, by the recent critical literature on the debate. Indeed, especially since the consolidation of the neoliberal adjustment of the Brazilian economy, there are countless texts from the last cycle – for example, by Francisco de Oliveira, Roberto Schwarz, José Luiz Fiori, Otília and Paulo Arantes, to name only the most emblematic – that critically dissect the end of the cycle of formation and the collapse of the project, several times revised, of Brazilian modernization. In short, the formation gave in dismantling, as it is visible. Therefore, the critical review of the original and subsequent terms of this debate poses an unavoidable challenge for the Brazilian debate, otherwise it will become an ostrich.

Sphinx and ostrich: habitat and habits

Indeed, examinations in the light of the critique of uneven and combined development – ​​always very attentive to the dynamics of each class – soon distinguish absences, aphasias and mute obsessions of the ostrich. In fact, the radicalized “middle-class” intelligentsia (Antonio Candido's acute observation) notoriously prioritized as critical objects, in terms of economic and social sciences, the analysis of the unilateralisms of international trade and financial flows; international barriers to industrialization and local capital accumulation[xx]; the inconsistencies of newly formed national institutions; and so on. On the other hand, in the context of economics, sociology, historiography, among other fields, debates on the formation: underdevelopment, dependency etc. they brought a lower degree of considerations about worker-peasant alterity (except in the case of the critical Marxist current that acted in exile, Marini and others) and the opacity of misery; similarly, little has been heard from the voices of manual labor, from ethos basically afro and feminine. These manifested themselves in a marked way in MPB, but rarely in debates in the human sciences.

In short, within the scope of economics, the social and political sciences and, to sum up, the parameters of historical and critical interpretation, it was dealt preferably with what concerned the leitmotif of owners, between medium and large. On the other hand, rare or intermittent attention was paid to the forms of extortion of the workforce in Brazil, not to mention the neglect of the persistence of traces of slavery, now updated in the “legalization” by Congress of “slave” companies in the labor market. outsourced and in informal work – whose scenes are disturbingly close to those of Debret concerning slavery in post-Independence Brazil[xx]. An exception – not isolated, but emblematic in the matter – was the study by Jacob Gorender that made clear, from the outset, the effort to go against the current[xxx].

Rethinking Modernism with Trotsky and Davidson

Leaving behind the issue of national impasses – grafted as a possible link with the Brazilian debate –, let us return to the starting point for the thesis of Davidson's Final Annex, that is: to Trotsky's 1922 comment. living history from which he elaborated the thesis of the correlation between modernism and uneven and combined development.

One finds in the living matter of Trotsky's commentary an obscure point, but one of latent interest: the historical necessity or force – because that is what Trotsky implies – which leads to peripheral syntheses resulting, as he says, “with greater clarity and strength”, compared to the original forms appropriated to “advanced countries”[xxiii]. Put as data or initial picture of the issue, there is a mismatch between “advanced” and “backward” countries. But beyond that, it also underlies, as an ingredient at first sight incognito, the author's mute intuition (posed at this point as an enigma for the reader), involving the question of the way of appropriation and displacement, as can be deduced, from the “advanced” forms.

If, by indirectly evoking the historical necessity or force manifested in the formation of peripheral syntheses, which would be potentially stronger, Trotsky did not explain what he had in mind, however, with the reader's permission, we can now supply the explanation through a parallel development of the commentary via the example of a vector similar history. This, in fact, was studied by Trotsky, albeit in another context. Except for a lapse, I follow in the footsteps of Davidson, who completed Trotsky with the Annex thesis.

From the outset, it is a matter of moving forward or conceiving an operative working hypothesis, in order to reveal a decisive nerve in Trotsky's commentary on the historical course of relations between dependency cultural.

Thus, when outlining the commentary on cultural mismatch and its re-elaboration at a higher level through the appropriation of advanced forms, Trotsky probably had in mind the historical-political thesis that he had already outlined since the 1906 essay, on uneven but systemic development and world of capitalism, with peculiar impacts on the late modernizations of the periphery.

Davidson returns to this thesis repeatedly throughout the book. Let us briefly recall: in the peripheral economies the contraction of historical time – dictated by the combination of archaic social forms and advanced technology brought from abroad to modernize production – makes it possible for the working classes to become aware and organize themselves on a faster and more acute scale than than that verified among the oldest fractions of the working class, typical of central economies. (It is unnecessary to detail, by the way, the historically organic ties of English syndicalism with the gradualism of the Fabianist doctrine from the embryo of the political apparatus of the Labour Party).

Translating and abbreviating, as a working hypothesis, the scheme intuited by Trotsky, possibly based on his reflections on the permanent revolution, could be the following: a peripheral cultural vanguard in the image of the workers' political vanguard could operate syntheses or transformations in the forms appropriate to the advanced cultures, which would revert in a shock the historical relations of dependency. Let Hegel and Marx say so, coming from such a process themselves – as can be deduced from Trotsky's observation in the 1922 essay on futurism.

historical necessity

Two ingredients built into the scheme and not yet mentioned are decisive for understanding Davidson's use of the intuition underlying Trotsky's comment. The first of them concerns the content of the process of reversal of dependency reflexive, obtained by transforming the periphery of forms appropriate to “advanced cultures”.

Such a movement would have, for Trotsky, the content of a historical necessity or force. This is what can be clarified with a comparison of Trotsky's comment with other assertions and maneuvers, aiming in a certain way at an analogous objective, that is, the reversal of the relations of dependency cultural; however, in this case, according to exceptional procedures or limited to authorial acts.

exception decolonization

In the essay “The Argentine Writer and Tradition” (1953), Jorge Luis Borges stated: “I believe that Argentines, South Americans in general, are in an analogous situation [to that of Jews and Irish people]: we can handle all issues Europeans, handle them without superstition, with an irreverence that can have, and already has, fortunate consequences”.[xxiii] A brief comment on the same articles was made by film critic Paulo Emilio Sales Gomes, when he referred to “our creative inability to copy”[xxv].

Comparing Trotsky's comment with the two witty judgments of Borges and Paulo Emilio shows that the latter seek to explain or mine the South American cultural "comparative advantage" with an eye on the artist's individual sphere and through the course of accidental events, consubstantiated, in the case of Borges, in a license for irreverence and, in the case of Paulo Emilio, in happy discoveries in the course of deficient imitations, etc. Thus, for the latter, it would be the marginal position of the South American artist vis-à-vis the main thrust of the European tradition, granting him freedom and, in one way or another, originality vis-à-vis the greater tradition.

In summary, in this order of consideration, predicates, attributes and distinctive qualities of peripheral art, or, to sum up, its inventive power, come about like an accident along the way and an exceptional cultural phenomenon. Certainly, the inference may sound summary in the face of Paulo Emilio's thinking, as he presented much more comprehensive and articulated political statements, for example, in “Cinema: Trajectory in Underdevelopment”[xxiv]. Nevertheless, the position of the Brazilian critic, although broader and more complex, does not rule out, for better or for worse, resorting to a hint of primitivism and minority underlying the boutade quoted. (Already in the best of cases, he certainly understands the contagious generosity that his students know, and the empathy with the vigor of anarchy that gave him the condition of interpreter, par excellence, of the libertarian cinema of Jean Vigo[xxv].)

Accident or trend?

In summary, compared to the two positions – referred either to the authorial sphere of action, or to incidents along the way –, Trotsky's comment reveals another content and foundation: it is explicitly political and organically derived from a historical and collective process. Endowed with the scope of a historical judgment, subsume already verified episodes of reversal of dependency (namely, German thought of the 18th and 19th centuries, and Italian and Russian futurism) into a larger process, with the aforementioned content of historical force or necessity.

I insist, to specify: for Trotsky, the syntheses elaborated in the peripheral countries, as long as they are based on a certain economic and cultural accumulation and according to a systemic and critical perspective, possibly from the vanguard, tend – not by accident, but in general – overcoming the original forms of “advanced” cultures, constituting gains in clarity and strength.

But how and why? Proceeding with the proposed analogy with the formation of workers' consciousness, according to Trotsky, the superior strength of peripheral cultural syntheses would be explained as inherent to the critical experience of the process of uneven and combined development, given, according to the analogy, by tensions, shocks and cognitive challenges; finally, by the contraction of historical time, elaborated autonomously or independently of mental schemes and objectives imported and reproduced as such by convention or subordination.

In conclusion, in this case, according to the terms even elliptically put by Trotsky, it is not an authorial “comparative advantage” or a poetic license eventually accessible to those in a situation of minority, but a historical force expressed collectively and necessarily linked to the critical experience of uneven and combined development. Hence the boat and, along with it, Davidson's motto.

Whether such a deduction is right or wrong, the reader should note that this was precisely the path of our book, without additions. It was the living matter of Trotsky's intuition that Davidson gathered to take his step forward and explicitly state what Trotsky only implied, but did not get to state with all the letters: that the modernism, read “modern art” (as we say, in French), has intrinsic correlation (as stated in the final Annex) with uneven and combined development.

The Other Side of Trotsky's Intuition

Without further ado, I want to draw the reader's attention to another angle on the issue. This time, with regard to one more intuitive ingredient, premise or bluff, as you wish, acting on the axis of Trotsky's assertion and without which it would not be sustained. It was precisely the tension or effort of this aspect of the question, like a beam or a hidden letter (at first sight hidden, but now not so much so), that Davidson measured, noted and used in order to take his step, establishing what I want to call “historical formation” of modernism.

Drawing on the same support as Trotsky's comment, Davidson's proposition takes a leap forward in terms of current conceptions of modernism in central countries. For now, the question to be overcome is: what is the functionality of the silent premise or, if the reader wants it, of Trotsky's trump card? Or, on the other hand, what is the ingredient incorporated in Trotsky's commentary, alongside the so-called need or historical force, finally, the face value of the letter, false or not, to found your argument that predicted the unique strength of peripheral syntheses?

Nothing less, nothing more than the wild card that allowed him the transition or passage – neither immediate nor evident – ​​between heterogeneous universes, namely, in this case, a synthetic connection between aesthetic forms and historical-social forms. Hence, because of this interaction – whether through ex-voto, mixing or negotiation –, which occurred in the case in question amid the internal or cognitive tensions inherent to uneven and combined development, the syntheses born in the periphery flourished (in a systemic critical perspective and from a avant-garde, in keeping with the parallel evoked above with the working-class avant-garde); syntheses that Trotsky judged comparatively superior, in terms of clarity and strength, compared to the mental and aesthetic forms originating in “advanced” countries.

Front and back of intuition

Thus, once the content of such intuition has been distilled, the core of the decisive question for the thesis of the final Annex is laid bare. In other words, was such a wild card or voucher – namely, the means or manner of synthetic connection between aesthetic and historical-social forms, able to be condensed as critical aesthetic and cognitive material (hypothesis on the hidden side of the intuition that integrates and makes Trotsky's commentary viable) – which also led Davidson to deduce the connection, subject to subsumption in the previous one, between modernism and uneven development and combined[xxviii].

In summary, like two sides of the same coin, Davidson's thesis has an inseparable front and back, just like Trotsky's observation in 1922 from which it derived, that is: the link between modernism and the uneven and combined development of One side; and on the other, the wild card of synthetic connection between aesthetic and historical-social forms. It is this dubious key or letter, if the skeptical reader so wishes, that it is convenient to examine and discuss due to its decisive value in the Brazilian debate, as will be seen.

Modernism and uneven and combined development

Whether or not the above deductions are correct, as well as the finding about the nexus between modernism and uneven and combined development, Davidson's step has two implications.

First: at the end of the day, in addition to completing Trotsky's unfinished journey in these matters, Davidson's thesis implies a critical and reflexive totalization involving heterogeneous domains, namely, aesthetic elements and not aesthetic, as argued. This in itself constitutes a rare thing, which draws attention today, the enthronement of partial and fragmented perspectives in which the same seeks the same.

Second: Davidson's thesis – according to which modernism, as a specific form of art and thought, responds dialectically to the tensions of uneven and combined development – ​​installs the discussion about art on a new historical level, even more evident if contrasted with the one that has been in force for the last forty years or so, dating from the rise of the so-called “single thinking”, summarized in the formula: “there is no alternatives”. Concretely, it leaves behind the duality, always present at the heart of art history and criticism, which opposed universalisms and cosmopolitanisms versus localisms and particularisms.

A lot of ink flowed – enough ink to dye a raging river –, in the thread of the discussions that apparently separated the supporters of one and another perspective into two opposite sides. The polarization in question shaped, remember, not only the debate between postmodernists and modernists, but, well before that, between Herder and Winckelmann, in German idealism.

Both trends were based on a common ground, according to which the aesthetic form would be an exclusive matter for the artist's deliberation, ensconced, as it was thought, in the feud of his hypothetical autonomy.

Davidson's thesis, in opposition to the idea of pure form – supposed as a purely mental and free phenomenon such as I think – installs the discussion of art in another field, concretely thickened by the materiality of the historical-social process. In this, it is given and observed – beyond the I think and the body of the author or, in short, the authorial instance – the dialectical correspondence between aesthetic forms and historical-social forms. The premise is valid in the terms proposed by Davidson for modernist art, but it is not restricted to it within the framework of uneven and combined development, thus opening the way to the consideration of the so-called “contemporary art” in analogous terms.

key card

Here the decisive importance of the verse or the second face of Trotsky's intuition stands out. That is to say, without presupposing the wildcard of the connection between aesthetic and historical-social forms, there would be no way to suggest elaboration on other bases, that is, the transformation of forms appropriate to “advanced” countries, nor would there be any way for Davidson to argue the link between modernism and the process of uneven and combined development.

It remains that, if Trotsky did not make such a connection explicit, Davidson does not either. Similar to the legacy of Trotsky's intuition, the enigma lies, therefore, in the thesis that modernism appeared linked to uneven and combined development, via the mental tensions derived from it. However, how and how did this happen? The present book, in fact, does not bring the answer. However, it should be noted, the punctual enigma does not devalue the aim and instigating content of Davidson's study. On the contrary, it equips and encourages the interested party to advance on their own. This is what the Brazilian reader can and has, in fact, to do, and for that purpose the following pages are intended, committed to finding out: was this a strategic bluff by Trotsky, or not? Did he, in fact, have a valid card in his hand? What did the later historical course show?

Dotted line: scenes and traces of continuity

To recapitulate and summarize the journey made so far, it is convenient to resort to an image-synthesis: that of a dotted line. Glimpsed no doubt due to the perspective opened up by Davidson's book, an imaginary dotted line unites Trotsky's intuition in the 1922 remark (which contains, as we have seen, the mute premise of a link between aesthetic forms and not aesthetic) to a hidden unknown. The unknown now manifests itself as such, once it touches the consciousness of the reader who, later on, can, thanks to his position and current perspective, unravel the condition of possibility of Trotsky's assertion. It is an affirmative hypothesis about the possibility of such a connection – between aesthetic forms and social –, made possible by a means of connection. But how would such a connection take place? What is the alleged face value of the link inducing means? What is its tenor or nature anyway?

Let's put it in other words, for the sake of precision and to fix the process of emergence of intuition in conscious representation: intuition, mute premise or wildcard, in any case, resumed as a whole in Davidson's thesis, in fact, results in a question or question. doubt now open. This came to us from Trotsky's intuition in a raw and inconsequential state until further notice, but now it reappears enlivened by Davidson's thesis in the Annex – that of the link between modernism and uneven and combined development.

Thus, Trotsky's unspoken premise, previously merely latent in the 1922 commentary, when objectified, now transmutes into a question posed by Trotsky's reader, via Davidson. The question resulting from the path taken and which it is possible to scan and seek to scrutinize is: how does such a thing happen? synthetic connection, uniting the heterogeneous domains of aesthetic and non-aesthetic forms?

Social contract

Just as important as Davidson's book – to glimpse the dotted line and translate the mute legacy into an explicit question, putting the hidden card of Trotsky's intuition on the table –, in the journey made so far, was the notion of “objective form” ( to name the ox), developed in the Brazilian debate. The notion of “objective form” answers, unfolds and completes what Trotsky's observation intuited without saying. It thus offers the retrospective point of view from which Trotsky’s gesture is explicitly distinguished – whether it was a bluff or a strategic move, in any case, a move that he intuited without saying at that time: 1922.

The dotted line, therefore, when taking beyond the point of the referred question, brings – in an intermittent straight line, but with an unmistakably progressive and now visible meaning –, with one more jump, the observation of 1922 to the notion of “objective form”, built on the periphery. This was configured as a concept in such a finished, demonstrated and relevant way that it can function as a watershed in the global aesthetic debate, for those who become aware of it, in view of the general horizon that Davidson's Annex now allows to distinguish. In this framework, and aligned according to a historical perspective among other aesthetic propositions put forward, say, from 1968 to now (to take a historical landmark), the objective way appears, in summary, with the function and reference value of a contrato social the aesthetic form.

Objective form: definition and preliminaries

Indeed, Schwarz placed the objective way as a form endowed with a “practical-historical substance” (1991)[xxviii]; or even as “the social nerve of artistic form” (1997)[xxix]. More recently, in 2003, in the course of a retrospective movement to uncover the bases of his construct referred to Antonio Candido's "materialist notion of literary form", from which the "objective form" explicitly derives, Schwarz thus presented Candido's notion :

“Instead of opposing formal invention to historical apprehension, segregating these faculties and their respective domains, he [Candido] sought their articulation. The form – which is not evident and is up to the critics to identify and study – would be an individual ordering principle, which both regulates an imaginary universe and an aspect of external reality. In varying proportions, it combines artistic fabrication and the intuition of preexisting social rhythms. From another angle, it was about explaining how external configurations, belonging to extra-artistic life, could pass into fantasy, where they became structuring forces and showed something of themselves that had not been in sight. It was also a question of explaining how criticism could retrace this path in turn and reach one sphere through the other, gaining knowledge in relation to both. The shuttle requires a structured description of the two fields, both the work and the social reality, whose connections are a matter of reflection[xxx]".

I leave the task of further details to the interested reader. Rather, the purpose of recalling here the notion of “objective form”, as well as its antecedents linked to a “materialist notion of form” – both corresponding, by default or not (it matters little), to Trotsky’s intuition in 1922 –, aims to to the demonstration that was outlined in Brazil, in the mid-1960s and especially in response to the civil-military coup of 1964, a reflective vector and critical essayism, shall we say, a critical system aesthetic-cultural endowed with internal continuity and in connection with the expansion and radicalization of democracy through social struggles.

The objectified configuration of such a vector is enough to indicate that the Brazilian problematic is of a different typology from that observed by Trotsky in the Balkans in 1912, when he pointed out the emblematic borrowing of literary forms, with no other perspective than debt and emptiness. Thus, in the Balkans, Trotsky saw, as he noted in 1912, remember, symptomatic signs of dependency.

There are certainly signs of chronic dependency in Brazilian relations with hegemonic economies and cultures. But this picture coexists with episodes of a different order, such as those referred to in another key by Trotsky in his 1922 commentary on the Futurist movements, when he pointed out the occurrence and the open possibility of peripheral syntheses whose clarity and strength were and can be superior to those of the forms origins from hegemonic cultures.

historical malaise

Therefore, a distinct picture is defined, that of dependence with some internal accumulation, which eventually came to understand the formation of a cultural system[xxxii], able even to enunciate its own crisis or terminal cycle, depending on the nucleus of debates about the dismantling, mentioned above.

The system in question rests, as it is supposed, on its internal continuity, not exclusively on debts contracted according to accepted conventions, but – given its own dynamics, even if interspersed and intermittent – ​​on some different type of recourse to the forms of cultures” advanced” – as occurred in the case of Machado in the transition from the XNUMXth to the XNUMXth century, as demonstrated by Schwarz.

They constitute differences placed before the Bulgarian situation, in any case striking, regarding the historical dynamics and the mode of relationship with the hegemonic cultures - differences that need to be established and whose significance needs to be specified, since the etiology of the historical malaise in Brazil is diverse. Hence the priority, here, for the diachronic distinction of the critical vector formed and developed in the Brazilian debate.

Scenes from a critical process

Schwarz is clear and precise when pointing to Candido's “materialist notion of form” as the origin and root of his own construct. In this sense, Schwarz's "objective form" derives specifically from an essay by Candido published in 1970: "Dialectic of Malandragem" (1970)[xxxi]. In it, the author tried to establish the aesthetic form as a structural reduction and formal condensation of social rhythms, analytically observed in the process of internal development of the artistic form. However, where did Candido's find come from?

Certainly, its construct did not have a sudden epiphany or an extraterrestrial root, alleged by “Vieira's snap”. Quite the contrary, for a dialectical thinker attentive to history like Candido, ideas respond to debates and are materially and socially induced, according to collective and cumulative terms. In this case, Candido's essay was directly opposed to the vogue resulting from the convergence between the so-called "language tour”, hegemonic at that time in fields Anglo-Americans, and its similar from French universities: structuralism and language sciences associated with it (semiology, semiotics and derivatives).

The large external influx, which enraptured supporters in many departments of Literature and Human Sciences in peripheral countries, spread the axiom of the moment in hegemonic cultures: that of divorce and segregation that separates aesthetic forms, handled in the laboratory as if they were pure, those of extraction not aesthetic, of spurious origin – namely economic and socio-historical – thrown into the sea of ​​oblivion by the generalized mania of denying the very force of reality.

The turn

But, against opponents of such size, on what material bases was Candido's fencing based? If, according to Schwarz, “as always, there is preparation for the revelations”[xxxii], what was she, in this case? Or, in other words, how prepared, in that context of discredit of the Lukacsian encyclicals, the resistance strategy and the counter-offensive in favor of the “materialist notion of form”?

What historical-social process induced Candido and Schwarz not to retreat to the already traditional position of heteronomous form – to propose the establishment of the complexity of form in the work's own immanence – permeated, however, by the historical-social process? What is the regime of such permeability? What order of reciprocity could be established between the aesthetic form and the configuration of the historical-social process? And the latter, in turn, how did it differ from the linear-stage scheme (for which it appeared as an effect of generic historical causes)? In this sense, in what terms could the historical-social process appear as an open problem, unlike the infamous litany of the Third International (which the elders should remember)? How could Candido's and Schwarz's formulations escape such litany, according to which the heteronomous form, subject to abstract generalities and class norms, should convey – and woe to her if she didn't! – the logic of a supposed universal historical linearity?

But let us return to the decisive point to be unraveled in the web of ideas that preceded the formulation of a social contract of aesthetic form: what kind of critical and reflective accumulation preceded and constituted the tendency of which Candido's reflection on the post-1968 transition was, at that time, the flagship, advocating the aesthetic condensation of social rhythms?

Let's do it by steps. On the one hand, part of the answer most likely lies in an essay by Schwarz from 1970 (see below), which does not refer to Candido's essay, but whose elaboration, in parallel and simultaneously, unveils – without directly mentioning the connections – the historical context in the midst of which Candido's counter-offensive against the Holy Alliance of pure form.

On the other hand, Candido, in effect, was not a sniper, but a thinker always keeping an eye on historical-social trends and a founder of a school, concerned with acting historically, organizing ideas and collective representations, including. Let us take, first, Candido's part in critical accumulation. Thus, reports Schwarz, in the 1970s Candido “encouraged a graduate seminar in which modern critical theories were reviewed”[xxxv]. By programmatic providence, the discussion was naturally projected several steps ahead of the dilemma of Borges and Paulo Emilio. In this way, he avoided the pendular duality between being or not being to, instead, lead to the preparation from a collective critical perspective, independent of the dominant theoretical schemes.

It was interspersed with these seminar debates that Candido’s paradigmatic reflection on the historical dialectic between literary form and economic underdevelopment crystallized, and, in particular, on the “materialist notion of form” (the outline of which had begun after the 1964 coup d’état). ). This new judiciary platform, experienced in Candido's essays, outlined a basic critical scheme from which the parameters of the Western tradition, by which peripheral matter was measured until then, became precisely measured according to the latter. The shift in perspective thus achieved was a remarkable critical achievement, charted and historicized by Schwarz[xxxiv]. Indeed, through the exemplary critical script outlined in Candido's essays, it was necessary not only to obtain the distinction of what we were not, but rather to confront - from the peripheral experience itself - with terms, concepts and forms of hegemonic traditions and, unfolding the criticism of dependency, establish the peculiar vicissitudes of decolonization as a permanent or open task[xxxiv]. Combining the method of seeing the dominant forms inside out and combining aesthetic and social findings, in Candido's wake, is what other studies would do from now on, starting with those of Schwarz.

However, no matter how big Candido's critical leap was, the size, power and content of a process by a single author or contingent intellectual result cannot be gauged from a greater historical point of view. In fact, if it were only for one, how to explain and enable other results? In short, the background of collective critical historical truth would not be worth anything - that is to say, in the case in question, extraction, mode and reason for being, in the long term, of confrontation with the dependency. In addition to contingencies, it is first necessary to establish where he was born or came from – in fact, in what soil and environment did he put down roots? – the prolonged collective critical effort, of which Candido was the cause, but also just one of the voices.

Let us then consider the other side. Indeed, it is erroneous in historical terms to take a fact by itself or in isolation. Surrounding the elaboration of the work, at the same time collective and authorial, which resulted in the notion of materialistic way, there was indeed a vigorous movement of ideas whose echoes certainly reached and impelled him. As much as Schwarz's study, "Culture and Politics, 1964-69"[xxxviii], makes no mention of Candido’s text, this one either – focused on a XNUMXth century novel – mentions the boiling broth, mainly of non-academic origin, that surrounded the writing of his essay on a work by Manuel Antonio de Almeida, Memories of a Militia Sergeant (1852)

Discretion and silence, in this case, had a foot in the circumstances. However, looking retrospectively at the two essays from 1970, links of correlation and complementarity stand out – as well as the connection between both with the debates around and in previous years, focused on in Schwarz's essay. In this way, the latter highlights the organicity and broad spectrum of a cultural movement in response to the civil-military coup of 1964, which encompassed, in the same course of systematically developed critical vigor, works of music, cinema, theater, architecture, visual arts , journalism, social and human sciences, not to mention street demonstrations against the dictatorship.

If interested, go to Schwarz's original text. There, it will also be necessary to come across the reasons why Brazilian arts and aesthetic reflection in the 1960s and 1970s made a turnaround and a leap forward, surpassing similar productions carried out at that time in central countries. How and why?

The basic response scheme, as thesis and demonstration, is laid out in Candido's essays, formulated without fanfare.[xxxviii] and referring to the housing and life of the “from below” in the mid-XNUMXth century, in a territorial capital that had just left the colonial condition by an operation that undoubtedly followed the general course of dismantling the old colonial order (but a course that also included, in the specific case of Brazil, a bit of warp in monarchical circles, making the Brazilian slave Empire an exception and a distinct stain on the new map of the nations of the three Americas).

forward regression

The leap forward in artistic and essay production, not only in Brazil, but also in various peripheral areas in the 1960s and 1970s, had an impact on core cultures. This is because, with all the progress verified at that time regarding the analytical elaboration of forms in hegemonic cultures, his voluminous theoretical and artistic production appeared relatively relegated compared to the peripheral one, due to the acceptance beforehand of its critical-reflexive confinement in a restricted and sectoral sphere. Only in rare and exceptional cases was the analytically advanced art of the hegemonic countries willing to think about the whole. (I am not referring here to the case of the then vigorous and pluralistic European cinema that escaped and resisted in various ways, for reasons that do not fit to be discussed here, as diktat look of pure form, triumphant in the visual arts and letters.)

On the other hand, peripheral works of art from the 1960s and 70s, against the grain of the dominant analytical tendency in hegemonic cultures, but without neglecting the analytical procedures developed in central countries, reflexively synthesized and totalized formal analytical practices, appropriate to the aesthetic experiences of central countries. , combining them with reflection on the historical-social process under way in the periphery. In that historical period, as we know, the chronic imbalance of peripheral economies was compounded by the spread of civil-military dictatorships in Latin America. As a result, Latin American art, in addition to aspiring to be reflexively totalizing and, as a result, to operate in parallel with essays and research in the human sciences, then became, in hiding or in exile,[xxxix], openly and explicitly combative[xl].

“Negative art” and “open projects”

In short, the intrinsic link between aesthetic form and social-historical forms, as shown by Schwarz's essay on the period 1964-69, had a preliminary history in Brazilian arts, which attested to a trend, then in progress, towards the reconstruction of realism. This vector preceded and prepared, even if in a transversal way, the accumulation whose critical balance gave rise to the reflective attacks of Candido and Schwarz.

At first glance, it was mostly an artistic trend, more than an essay, in terms of the number and characteristics of occurrences. However, such primacy of the artistic did not deprive her of a reflective mode, since at the time many artists, in addition to operating in their fields of expression, frequently conceptualized and wrote, regularly developing and debating their own ideas.

A striking point in the trajectory of such a vector was given by the notion of open project (open project), developed by Hélio Oiticica and Antonio Dias, in a text written by 4 hands in August 1969 in London, where Oiticica had settled[xi]. So, Project-book – 10 Plans for open projects (Project Book - 10 Plans for Open Projects)[xliii] established a program that, along 10 propositions for the realization of works according to open, specified and named structures, assumed the principle of a constant porosity of the work of art to the surrounding reality – but not only, since less tangible historical structures in the space of the artistic intervention were designated by subtitles or titles, most of the times ironic.

In this sense, their project envisaged the possibility of a direct connection between artistic and historical-social forms, in line with Oiticica's notions of “environmental art” and “suprasensorial” art, based on the idea of ​​an aesthetic form open to the surroundings. , beginning or ending with public intervention. Even when the conceptualization or verbal denomination as such came expressly from Oiticica, it, in fact, responded to an impulse and to a process of thought and collective debate in the arts. In this way, Oiticica's terms and ideas were adopted as they were, even by a critical reflection with the edge of that exercised by Mário Pedrosa[xiii].

So too, in turn, the project book and, before him, the essay “General Scheme of the New Objectivity” (1967)[xiv], written by Oiticica – which explicitly presents a platform for the reconstruction of realism in Brazilian visual arts in historiographical and critical terms – both bear the decisive visual mark of Dias' work. As organic acts of an ongoing development, all of this comes from the perspective of reconstructing realism, present in Dias and Oiticica's work since the exhibition Opinion 65 (MAM-Rio, 1965), when the tendency to overcome pre-1964 geometric abstractionism emerged[xlv].

In the case of Dias, mainly, the commitment in favor of the reconstruction of a realistic discourse in painting went hand in hand with the strategy of moving direct and sharp confrontation with artistic discourses in vogue in the central countries. Dias' strategy was openly agonistic, without fear or shyness invecting the celebrated and critically successful opposing currents.[xlv]. Thus, in a note possibly dated 1967, at the beginning of his Notebook 1967 - 69, Dias formulated the notions of “negative art” and “painting as art criticism”[xlv]. Both notions appeared in Dias' works from the outset as functional, since they were directly applied to the operations of appropriation e displacement through irony of the forms captured from the globally dominant pictorial discourses at the time: “conceptual art” and “minimal art”, both in the key of “language tour".

Operations of this nature constituted a constant in Dias' work, who jumped to the forefront at the age of 21 in the inaugural show of the New Figuration movement (Opinion 65, MAM-RJ), by appropriating typical Pop-Art clichés not only to denounce the American imperialist and warmongering policy and the Brazilian dictatorial government supported by the United States, but to overcome the aphasia of trends (concrete and neoconcrete art ) arising from geometric abstraction in the face of the new national situation posed by the civil-military coup of 1964[xlviii].

Such maneuvers did not, in fact, bear any direct trace of visible debt with Trotsky's 1922 comment. However, without a doubt, they owed a lot – Davidson would probably say, if he had the works of Nova Figuração and Nova Objetividade Brasileira under his eyes – to the tensions inherent in uneven and combined development.

Around the corner

Note to the reader, in conclusion, that Davidson's book gives the impression of being tailor-made for the Brazilian debate. However, it was made in Scotland, in Glasgow. Davidson, in turn, when sending these texts in October 2018 to be published in Brazil, had never been to South America[xlix].

The reason for this apparent prodigy is none other than the reflective scope of the law of uneven and combined development. It prepares and approximates a critical perspective elaborated in Scotland – and contrary to any Brazilian discussion – of terms and lines engendered in the Brazilian debate, as I hope I have managed to show. In summary, for reflection, the power of proposing the law of uneven and combined development encompasses and synthesizes, beyond peculiarities and localisms, the unity – in inequality – of the aspects of the peripheral capitalist development process. Thus, aspects experienced in Scotland allow reflection, which comprises the dialectical unity of unequals within the same arc, to carry out a synthesis with different aspects verified in Brazil.

As a result, through such a synthesis, the Brazilian reader acquires the possibility of revisiting the history of the successive modernization cycles that took place here as moments in world history. This history, which, before being of Brazil and other countries, is actually the history of classes, as the prism posed by the law of uneven and combined development clearly specifies what is proper and characteristic of the dynamics of each of the fundamental classes. Analogously, it makes it possible to integrate specific segments into the historical course of each one of them, in different regions of the world – including the cycles of debates and Brazilian art recalled here –, to the world history of the systemic production of goods, placed as the history of the classes that bring interests opposites.

In other words, one has the opportunity, largely thanks to the breadth and timeliness of the data, as well as the clarity of the historical analysis and the recent contradictions, gathered in Davidson's work, to distinguish in act and exercise what XIV was about.a of theses About the concept of history, by Walter Benjamin, when he alluded to the tiger on whose back and “under the sky free of history” one could experience the dialectical leap “towards the past”. A leap that, by “exploding the continuum of history”, leads to the heart of the present as “now-time”[l].

To conclude, Davidson's book suggests that this species of tiger (not Asian, but dialectic), contrary to popular belief, is not on the verge of extinction. Something else or something else, diverse and ulterior, is the mutation or passage – without a dotted line –, from the leap of the peripheral cat to the leap of the tiger in question.[li].

* Luiz Renato Martins he is professor-advisor of PPG in Economic History (FFLCH-USP) and Visual Arts (ECA-USP); author, among other books, of The Long Roots of Formalism in Brazil (Chicago, Haymarket/HMBS, 2019)


Neil Davidson, Uneven and Combined Development: Modernity, Modernism and Permanent Revolution. Organization and critical review: Luiz Renato Martins. Presentation: Steve Edwards. Foreword: Ricardo Antunes. Translation: Pedro Rocha de Oliveira. São Paulo, Editora Unifesp/ Cheap Ideas, 2020.


[I] See Antonio Candido, “The Meaning of Brazil roots” [1967], in Sérgio Buarque de Holanda, brazil rootssil [1936], São Paulo, Companhia das Letras, 1995, pp. 9-24; See also Idem, “The Revolution of 1930 and Culture”, in Education by Night & Other Essays, São Paulo, Ática, 1987, pp. 181-198.

[ii] See Francisco de Oliveira, Venturosa Navigation: Essays on Celso Furtado, Sao Paulo, Boitempo, 2003.

[iii] For documents of the direct confrontation around the issue of dependency, see Fernando Henrique Cardoso & José Serra, “Las Desventuras de la Dialéctica de la Dependencia”, Mexican Magazine of Sociology, v. 40, extraordinary issue, Mexico City, Unam, 1978, pp. 9-55. For Ruy Mauro Marini's response, see RM Marini, “Las Razones del Neodesarrollismo (Respuesta a FH Cardoso y J. Serra)”, Mexican Magazine of Sociology, v. 40, extraordinary issue, Mexico City, Unam, 1978, pp. 57-106, available at: . For a current summary of the issue, see Claudio Katz, The Theory of Dependence, Five Years After, Buenos Aires, Battle of Ideas, 2018.

[iv] See, for example, Roberto Schwarz [1994], “Fim de Século”, in Brazilian Sequences: Essays, São Paulo, Companhia das Letras, 1999, pp. 155-62; Francisco de Oliveira [2003], “Politics in an Era of Indeterminacy: Opacity and Reenchantment”, in The Age of Indeterminacy, São Paulo, Boitempo, 2007, pp. 17-45.

[v] See Antonio Candido [1957/1962], “Preface to the 1st Edition” and “Preface to the 2nd Edition”, in Formation of Brazilian Literature: Decisive Moments 1750-1880, Rio de Janeiro, Ouro sobre Azul, 2009, respectively, pp. 11-15; 17-20; see also note 6 below.

[vi] See Leon Trotsky [1906], Results and ProspectsOn The Permanent Revolution and Results and Prospects, intr. by Michael Löwy, London, Socialist Resistance/IMG Publications, 2007, pp. 15-100.

[vii]  Cf. Leon Trotsky [1912], “In a backward country”, in George Weissman & Duncan Williams (eds.), The Balkan Wars, 1912-13: The War Correspondence of Leon Trotsky, trans. Brian Pearce, New York, Monad Press, 1980, p. 49. Emphasis mine.

[viii] On Machado's historical role in this regard, see Candido, Formation of Brazilian Literature, pp. 436-7; on the notion of literary system and the basic articulation of works among themselves, see “Introduction”, in ibid, pp. 25-39.

[ix] Cf. Leon Trotsky [1922], “El Futurismo”, in Literature and Revolution, preliminary note, selection of texts, translation and notes by Alejandro Ariel González, introduction by Rosana López Rodriguez and Eduardo Sartelli, Buenos Aires, Ediciones Razón y Revolución, 2015, p. 285. The quotation made by Davidson in the Appendix is ​​referred to in note 10, p. 269. To shorten the passage, the author replaces part of Trotsky's text with a paraphrase. However, here, due to the strategic interest of the passage, I have quoted it in its entirety based on the most recent edition, which is also the most complete.

[X] Cf. Neil Davidson, “Annex”, in Unequal and Combined Development, op. cit., p. 268.

[xi] However, on Candido's trajectory and his appreciation of Trotsky, one can consult Roberto Schwarz, “Antonio Candido (1918-2017)”, in Anyway: Interviews, Portraits, Documents, São Paulo, Bookstore Duas Cidades/Editora 34, 2019, pp. 410, 414.

[xii] See Robert Schwarz, To the Winner the Potatoes [1977], São Paulo, Duas Cidades/Editora 34, 2000; Idem, “Complex, Modern, National and Negative” [1981], in What time is it?, São Paulo, Companhia das Letras, 1989, pp. 115-125; Idem, A Master on the Periphery of Capitalism, São Paulo, Two Cities, 1990; Idem, “The Poisoned Poetry of Dom Casmurro”, in two girls, São Paulo, Companhia das Letras, 1997, pp. 7-41; Idem, “Readings in Competition” [2006] and “A Viravolta Machadiana” [2003], in Martinha versus Lucrécia: Essays and Interviews, São Paulo, Companhia das Letras, 2012, respectively pp. 9-43, 247-79.

[xiii] On the series of chronicles by Machado that caused discomfort in Brazilian monarchical circles at the time of the execution of the Austrian prince Maximiliano by the Mexican republican army, see Luiz Renato Martins, “The returns of regicide”, in The Conspiracy of Modern Art, ed. Steve Edwards, trans. Renato Rezende, Chicago, Haymarket, 2018, p. 104. I would like to thank Iná Camargo Costa for recommending Machado's chronicles.

[xiv] In order to better specify the historical function attributed to literature in the matter in question, allow the reader who follows the thread of these pages a moment of attention to the touching declaration of love for literature and the plastic arts, written by Trotsky in the midst of the turmoil of 1939 : “It is good that in the world there is not only politics, but also art. It's good that art is inexhaustible in its possibilities, like life itself. In a certain sense, art is richer than life, since it can grow and shrink, apply bright colors or, on the contrary, limit itself to a gray pencil, it can present the same object from different angles and illuminate it with different lights. Napoleon there was only one. But its artistic representations are innumerable./ The Peter and Paul Fortress and other Tsarist prisons brought me into such intimate contact with the French classics that for more than three decades I have been following more or less regularly the outstanding novelties of French literature. Even in the civil war years I used to have some recent French novel in the carriage of my military train”. Cf. Leon Trotsky, “A New Great Writer/Jean Malaquais, Les Javanais, Novela, Éditions Denoel, Paris, 1939”, in Literature and Revolution, P. 852.

[xv] For a historical survey and analytical detailing of structurally similar processes verified in the colonial period of Portuguese America, even if less acute from the point of view of authorial mastery and the literary qualities of the works involved, carried out in the colonial context, read, for example , by Antonio Candido, “Literature and Underdevelopment” [1970], in Night Education, pp. 140-162.

[xvi] See Leon Trotsky, The Theory of the Permanent Revolution / Compilation, apres. Gabriela Liszt and Marcelo Scoppa, trans. Mario Larrea et al., Buenos Aires, Ceip Leon Trotsky, 2005; see also Michael Löwy, The Politics of Combined and Uneven Development: The Theory of Permanent Revolution [1981], Chicago, Haymarket, 2010 (ed. bras. The Politics of Uneven and Combined Development: The Theory of Permanent Revolution, trans. Luiz Gustavo Soares, São Paulo, Sundermann, 2015).

[xvii] See Leon Trotsky, “Appendix 1-2-3,” in History of the Russian Revolution [1930], trans. Max Eastman, New York, Pathfinder, 2012, pp. 1401-1504.

[xviii] For details on the transition debacle, see Luiz Renato Martins, “El Colapso Político del PT y la Guerra Civil Declarada”, Web tool, no. 26, Aug. 2019, available at: . Published in Portuguese as “The Civil War Declared” and “The War Continues”, The Earth is Round, 21 and 26 May 2020, respectively, available at: It is .

[xx] See Roberto Schwarz, “A Marx Seminar”, in Brazilian Sequences, pp. 86-105.

[xx] See Rodrigo Naves, “Debret, Neoclassicism and Slavery”, in The Difficult Form: Essays on Brazilian Art, São Paulo, Ática, 1996, pp. 40-129.

[xxx] See Jacob Gorender, Colonial Slavery, São Paulo, Editora Ática, 1988.

[xxiii] See note 9 above.

[xxiii] Cf. Jorge Luis Borges, “The Argentine Writer and Tradition”, in Complete Works, Volume I: 1923-1949, trans. Josely Vianna Baptista, São Paulo, Globo, 1998, p. 295. Second note on p. 288, “the text constitutes the shorthand version of a lecture given at the Colegio Libre de Estudios Superiores (1953)”.

[xxv] I use here the sequence proposed by Roberto Schwarz, when quoting this passage by Borges and, shortly afterwards, the words of Paulo Emilio. See Schwarz, “Antonio Candido (1918-2017)”, pp. 409-10.

[xxiv] See Paulo Emilio Sales Gomes, “Cinema: Trajectory in Underdevelopment”, Argument – ​​Monthly Culture Magazine, no. 1, Rio de Janeiro, 1973, pp. 54-67.

[xxv] VIEW Idem, Jean Vigo and Vigo, AKA Almereyda, Sao Paulo, Cosac Naify/Sesc, 2009.

[xxviii] From the outset, for skeptics and thirsty for concrete cases, it is worth consulting the notion of “alternative modernism”, proposed by the North American historian David Craven on similar bases: the law of uneven and combined development and works elaborated from peripheral experiences . See David Craven, “The Latin American Origins of Alternative Modernism,” Marxist Criticism, no. 37, Campinas, Cemarx-IFCH/ Unicamp, 2013, pp. 137-54; see also the introductory note: Luiz Renato Martins, “A Dialectical Criticism in the Visual Arts”, ibid, pp. 133-35; and, in more detail, Idem, “Notes on Modernisation, from the Periphery: On David Craven's Alternative Modernism”, in The Long Roots of Formalism in Brazil, ed. Juan Grigera, intr. Alex Potts, trans. Renato Rezende, Chicago, Haymarket, 2019, pp. 221-31.

[xxviii] Cf. Roberto Schwarz [1991/1992/1999], “National Adequacy and Critical Originality”, in Brazilian Sequences, P. 31. For data from the two initial publications, in 1991 and 1992, which preceded the book publication in 1999, see Idem, P. 247.

[xxix] See Schwarz, two girls, P. 62.

[xxx] Cf. Schwarz, “About Adorno (Interview),” in Martina versus Lucrécia, P. 48.

[xxxii] See Schwarz, “Seven Breaths of a Book,” in Brazilian Sequences, pp. 46-58.

[xxxi] See Antonio Candido, “Dialectic of Malandragem” [1970], in The Discourse and the City, Rio de Janeiro, Ouro sobre Azul, 2004, pp. 17-46. See also, for developments of ideas by the author himself [1973/1991], “From Cortiço to Cortiço”, ibid, pp. 105-29. On the extract versions of this essay – which originally dates from 1973 (thus in direct continuity of concerns with the preceding essay, from 1970), but which was only published in its original full form in 1991 –, see Candido, “Nota sobre os Ensaios (Item 4)”, ibid, P. 282.

[xxxii] Cf. Schwarz, “About Adorno (Interview),” p. 48.

[xxxv] “The seminars discussed, among others, texts from Russian formalism, from the structuralists, from Adorno, the Literature and Revolution, by Trotsky”, narrates Schwarz. For details and the inversion of critical perspective programmatically and collectively stimulated by Candido, see Schwarz, “Antonio Candido (1918-2017)”, pp. 408-13.

[xxxiv] “Note here the counter-hegemonic inversion […]. Now the western tradition both measures the Brazilian matter and is measured by it, to which it is accountable, which is new”. Cf. ibid, P. 412.

[xxxiv] See, for example, the especially illustrative confrontation established in Roberto Schwarz, “Arm of Iron over Lukács”, in be that as it may, pp. 117-54.

[xxxviii] Due to the dictatorship, the essay was originally published in the July 1970 issue of Modern Times. See Roberto Schwarz, “Remarques sur la culture et la politique au Brésil, 1964-1969”, Modern Times, no. 288, Paris, Presses d'Aujourd'hui, jul. 1970, pp. 37-73. Republished as “Culture and Politics: 1964-1969: Some Schemas”, in The Father of the Family and Other Studies, São Paulo, Paz e Terra, 1992, pp. 61-92. By the way, the reader can now have access to an ex officio document, from the cellars of the dictatorial State, now published under the ironic title of “Os Behind the Scenes”, on the initiative of Schwarz himself. This is the record of the test of Modern Times, carried out in 1972 by a collaborator of the political police. See Schwarz, be that as it may, pp. 11-14.

[xxxviii] See note 32 above.

[xxxix] In order not to restrict the debate to the Brazilian case, a striking example, both in the scope of formal conquests and in that of reflective totalization, of the consortium with investigations in the social and political sciences and, finally, of the combative commitment, was the Argentine documentary The Hour of the Horns (1968), by Fernando E. Solanas and Octavio Getino, made underground and awarded at the IV Festival del Nuovo Cinema, Pesaro, 1968.

[xl] Another example from Argentina, contemporary and complementary, originating from the experience of the visual arts and which even interacted with The Hour of the Horns, was the collective and multimedia series of interventions entitled tucuman burns – carried out from August to November 1968 by a group of about twenty artists associated with sociologists from the Centro de Investigaciones en Ciencias Sociales and a combative union dissidence (CGT de los Argentinos). The process culminated in two exhibitions held at the union headquarters in Rosario (November 3 to 17, 1968) and Buenos Aires (closed abruptly by the regime shortly after the inauguration, on November 25, 1968). For an overview, details and documentation about the project tucuman burns, see Ana Longoni & Mariano Mestman, Del Di Tella to “Tucumán Arde”, Buenos Aires, Eudeba, 2010, pp. 178-236; see also Ana Longoni, Vanguardia and Revolution / Art and Izquierdas in the Argentina of the Sixties, Buenos Aires, Ariel, 2014 [GM]. I would like to thank Gustavo Motta for his suggestion and very timely incorporation of this reference into the work.

[xi] On details of the four-hand project, see Gustavo Motta, On the Razor's Edge - Diagrams of Brazilian Art: from 'Environmental Program' to the Model Economy, master's thesis, São Paulo, Graduate Program in Visual Arts, School of Communications and Arts (ECA), University of São Paulo (USP), 2011, pp. 169-81, available at: .

[xliii] See Hélio Oiticica, “Special for Antonio Dias' Project-Book” (Aug. 6-12, 1969 – London) and A. Dias, “Project-Book – 10 Plans for Open Projects”, notes for the album What the series is about? (by Antonio Dias), in Antonio Dias, Anthony Dias, texts by Achille Bonito Oliva and Paulo Sergio Duarte, São Paulo, Cosac Naify/APC, 2015, pp. 94-7.

[xiii] Read, in this key, Pedrosa's text, dated 1966, “Environmental Art, Post-Modern Art, Hélio Oiticica”. Undoubtedly inspired by the epic resourcefulness and experimental radicalism with which Brazilian arts were being worked at the time, Pedrosa stated: “Today, when we reach the end of what was called 'modern art' (inaugurated by the Damsels d'Avignon […]), the judgment criteria for the assessment are no longer the same […]. We are now in another cycle […]. To this new cycle of anti-art vocation [...] (By the way, let's say here that this time Brazil participates in it not as a modest follower, but as a precursors. […])”. Cf. Mário Pedrosa, “Environmental Art, Post-Modern Art, Hélio Oiticica”, Correio da Manhã, Rio de Janeiro, 26 June. 1966, republished in Aracy Amaral (org.), From Portinari's Murals to Brasília's Spaces, São Paulo, Perspectiva, 1981, p. 205; and in Otília Arantes (org.), Academics and Moderns: Selected Texts, vol. III, São Paulo, Edusp, 1995, p. 355. See also Otília Arantes, Mário Pedrosa: Critical Itinerary, Sao Paulo, Cosac Naify, 2004.

[xiv] See Hélio Oiticica, “General Scheme of the New Objectivity”, New Brazilian Objectivity, Rio de Janeiro, Museu de Arte Moderna, April 6-30, 1967, preface by Mario Barata, Rio de Janeiro, Gráfica A. Cruz, 1967, psn For the republication of this text, as well as Oiticica's writings relating to to the notions of “environmental art” and “supersensory” art, see Idem, Hélio Oiticica/ Museum is the World, org. César Oiticica, catalogue, Rio de Janeiro, Beco do Azougue, 2011.

[xlv] See Luiz Renato Martins, “A Nova Figuração como Negação”, Ars, Sao Paulo, vol. 4, no. 8, 2006, pp. 62-71, available at: .

[xlv] For details on Dias' offensives, once installed in Europe, see Luiz Renato Martins, “Art Against the Grain”, in The Long Roots of Formalism in Brazil, pp. 73-113.

[xlv] See Antonio Dias, Notebook, 1967-69. For the facsimile reproduction of the notebook pages, with the notes on “negative art” and “painting as art criticism”, see Paulo Miyada (ed.), AI-5 50 Years: It's Not Finished Yet, homonymous exhibition catalog, São Paulo, Instituto Tomie Ohtake, 2019, pp. 24-7.

[xlviii] On the construction movement of a new realism, in response to the 1964 coup, see Luiz Renato Martins, “Trees of Brazil”, in The Long Roots of Formalism in Brazil, pp. 73-113.

[xlix] In December 2018, Davidson came to São Paulo to teach a short course at the congress of students of the Graduate Program in Economic History, at the University of São Paulo (USP), in which he summarized the chapters of this book in three lectures.

[l] See Walter Benjamin, Thesis XIV of “On the Concept of History”, in Michael Löwy, Walter Benjamin: Fire Warning, trans. Wanda NC Brandt, trans. from theses Jeanne Marie Gagnebin and Marcos Lutz Müller, São Paulo, Boitempo, 2005, p. 119.

[li] Thanks a lot for Gustavo Motta's sharp review.

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