Coup as a process

Image: Plato Terentev


Bolsonarist fascism has been defending, with greater intensity, its previous assumption, the private appropriation of common spaces

The crisis provoked by Bolsonarist liberation of illegal mining in Yanomami lands revived the discussion about the relationship between the political project of Brazilian neo-fascism – including its coup dimensions – and the model of wealth accumulation. It is quite visible the fact that, together with the apology of private property, Bolsonarist fascism has been defending, with greater intensity, its previous assumption, the private appropriation of common spaces, with the transformation of accumulation by dispossession – mechanisms of extra-economic coercion who operate the dispossession of peasant and traditionally occupied lands – at the core of their political project.

The idea of self made man associated with the apology of self-entrepreneurship, would apply, in this case, specifically to that of a pre-industrial type, expressed in the figure of the “robbery barons” of the beginnings of modern North American capitalism,[I] or, in the Brazilian case, the bandeirante. Perhaps a variant of the platypus à la Chico de Oliveira could be applied here.[ii] – that of the synthesis between the bandeirante on the agromineral frontier, the militiaman on the urban frontier and the modern landowner, who legalized his possessions, in many cases, in historical time, through land grabbing.

The western should focus primarily on the appropriation of ore (see obsessive reference to niobium, graphene, etc.). Access to resources would be assured, through deregulation, to the powerful, which would include, on the border, the mining bosses themselves, as well as, in the cities, the sovereigns of a deregulated individual space, with circulation guaranteed by weapons. Work, in turn also deregulated, would be subjected to a pre-wage type of freedom, that of being available, without hindrance, to serve the powerful.

It is known that since the neoliberal reforms of the 1980s and 90s, the model of wealth accumulation that was established in Brazil is characterized by its extensive nature, strongly dependent on the export of commodities. The implementation of this model took place along with the adoption of new regulatory mechanisms – namely, government policies, legal and institutional norms – whose purpose was to give coherence and direction to the diversity of territorially expansive actions of the dominant groups.

The institutionalized commitments established by neoliberalism thus sought to reconcile, both at the governmental and private levels, decisions taken in a way that, in principle, was not well coordinated. What would unify such actions would be the prospect of ensuring profitability and making the export agro-mineral complex prosper, attracting new investment resources to it. The search for coordination between the different practices of the dominant agents thus basically turned to the objective of reproducing the social and territorial relations proper to the neo-extractivist mode of accumulation.[iii]

This is because large-scale extractive activity is characterized by the permanent quest to expand its territorial bases, a movement that is based, as a rule, on processes of displacement and instability of the activities of social groups previously installed in the spaces of interest of corporations. Business access to resources coveted by extractive capitalism thus began to promote a separation – through a repertoire of actions with different degrees of violence – between groups of small producers, indigenous and quilombola communities and their respective traditional territorial bases.

Here, of course, the disciplinary dimension of regulation comes into question – that is, the creation of conditions for social acceptance of the large agrochemical or mineral project, in particular through efforts to neutralize the conflict and seek consent from the social groups affected by the business projects. The reformulation of the regulatory regime thus sought to solve the “problem of socialization in reproduction”[iv] through the adoption of a combination of regulatory norms, which aim to coordinate the randomness of the multiplicity of subjects, and disciplinary norms, which seek to order bodies,[v] which, in terms of business vocabulary, means removing “interferences” – popular, of course – in the progress of business.

In the case of the change in the correlation of social forces verified in Brazil from 2016 onwards, what was seen was, on the part of dominant groups, an action aimed at adjusting the regulatory framework to a more favorable regime for the expansion of extractive capitalism practices. The regulatory regime then envisioned by corporations began to be claimed in formats that were less and less committed to the regulatory norms established in the context opened by the 1988 Constitution.

With the rise of neo-fascist forces to the federal government, starting in 2019, what we started to see was a process of deconstruction of the regulatory commitments that had prevailed after the end of the dictatorship and the imposition of a regime that came to serve, in a much more directly, to the purposes of advancing the frontier of land and resource exploration and stripping the groups that occupy areas coveted by extractive companies of their territorial rights. How would this adjustment have been made? By what means and in what direction were regulatory and disciplinary norms changed in order to allow the opening of new frontiers for extensive accumulation in the country?

Among the main strategies of the new regulatory regime, we can highlight:[vi] (i) the legalization of what was illegal: previously prohibited areas were being opened to business exploitation; the occupation of illegally appropriated areas was legalized; the use of chemical substances previously not authorized for health reasons has been legalized; (ii) the constraint and neutralization of state control of illegality: illegal practices were tolerated and indirectly encouraged by the state; (iii) disregard for the territorial rights of groups occupying areas coveted by extractive companies; (iv) the acceleration of the pace of legalization of illegal practices;

(v) the adoption of corporate disclaimer strategies regarding the environmental degradation they promote; (vi) the freezing of the concentrated land structure and the adoption of measures to intensify this concentration through the expansion of monocultures over biodiverse and sociodiverse areas; (vii) the constraint of the application of the remaining regulations in the protection of public lands and rights of peoples and traditional communities on two levels: inside the government machine, by practices of harassment of public servants and, outside it, by persecution of defenders of rights and researchers;

(viii) the adoption of innovative forms of illegality and “deregulation on their own”, in the image of the traditional oligarchic expedient of land grabbing; resorting to certain spurious “dynamic” competitive advantages obtained by the complex of agromineral interests which, instead of arising from virtuous technological and organizational innovations, are based on the appropriation of public lands and work analogous to slavery; (ix) the attempt to culturalize the exploitation of labor and the expropriation of traditional lands, claiming the colonial heritage and neocolonial domination as a traditional custom of the dominant ones;

(x) the privatization of forms of security for corporate assets through variants of a militarization of territorial control, which can extend to the enclosure of areas of exclusion for the general population, and for fishermen and traditional peoples who develop practices of use common resources, in particular; (xi) the intensification and professionalization of legislative and normative activity in the business field with training of staff and insertion in networks of think tanks international; such cadres were available to be, eventually, nominated to occupy positions in the strategic agencies of the executive power itself.

We know that the “neoextractivist State” has been showing itself, since the beginning of the neoliberal reforms, as a deregulating State, which opens borders and releases, for the agromineral business, practices previously considered illegal. What changed with the advent of its “ideological phase”, openly authoritarian, is that the governmental discourse began to legitimize the self-regulation of the practices of occupation of the territory by the corporations themselves (to the point of considering the practical extinction of the Ministry of the Environment). and to justify the pertinence of the expropriation of the dispossessed. What happened was the establishment of a new pattern of division of the work of domination between the State and capital.

In line with the conception of the State thought of as a liberating agent for the circulation of capital – in terms of neoliberal thinking originating from the 1938 Paris Colloquium[vii] – favorable conditions were created for the corporations themselves to directly manage eventual obstacles to their transit in the field; namely, provide, through properly business mechanisms, measures that lead to the dispossession of peasant, indigenous and traditional communities that demand their permanence or the resumption of their lands. Such mechanisms are experienced in different ways, which can range from the silent compulsion of economic relations to extra-economic coercion.

An apparently untied thread would remain with regard to the international compatibility of the constituent parts of the neoextractivist regulation, namely, the mismatch between the predatory reputation of the agromineral business and the environmentalized image intended by important sectors of importing countries of commodities. This mismatch could come to be reflected within the dominant groups themselves, supposedly divided between those who intend to environmentalize their reputation and those who don't care about international pressure in this regard. The available information suggests, however, that both international pressure and the internal strategic differentiation of the agromineral complex have not been showing signs of materializing in the concrete field of contracts and political action.

We know that regulatory regimes, with their norms and coordination mechanisms, are always crossed by a historical tension even within the dominant groups. This tension results from the relationship between the field of experience of these actors, the horizon of their expectations and the current regulatory framework.[viii] In periods of stability, dominant groups keep their horizons of expectation more or less contained within established regulatory frameworks; the stability of a regulatory regime is, as a rule, seen as favorable to the exercise of the anticipation capacity of the dominant actors.

In certain circumstances, however, these groups may envisage the possibility of carrying out, to their benefit, a change in the regulatory framework. In the Brazilian case, from the 2016 parliamentary coup, tension was established within the system of norms itself, with permanent threats of implosion of the very idea of ​​a regime agreed within the dominant groups, with the perspective that it would be replaced by the direct exercise of police-military and paramilitary violence.

In this case, the disciplinary dimension of the norms would impose itself on the coordination function of the regulation, giving meaning to the hypothesis that the dismantling of environmental and territorial regulations may have served as a trial balloon for a more radical deregulation that came to target the democratic rules themselves. forms of the political system.

*Henri Acselrad is a retired full professor at the Institute of Research and Urban and Regional Planning at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (IPPUR/UFRJ).

*Juliana Neves Barros and pprofessor at the Center for Culture, Languages ​​and Technologies at UFRB.


[I] Thief barons is the name given to businessmen who became millionaires using illicit, dishonest, violent and disloyal methods in the financial, steel, railway and oil markets in the United States in the second half of the XNUMXth century. They are, in turn, considered benefactors and humanitarians from the perspective of certain ideologues of ultraliberalism. Howard Zinn, “Robbers Barons” XNUMX years ago…Le Monde diplomatique, February 2023.

[ii] With the notion of “platypus”, sociologist Francisco do Oliveira intended to designate the apparently odd combination of highly developed and financialized sectors with the dimensions of an unequal society with extreme poverty, F., de Oliveira, Critique of Dualistic Reason – The Platypus, Boitempo, SP, 2003.

[iii] We call neo-extractivism the model of accumulation that is based on the subordinated international insertion of national economies through productive specialization in goods that are intensive in natural resources, the ecological submission of peripheral societies to global capitalism and the appropriation of extraordinary incomes by large extractive and financial corporations. .

[iv] Michel Aglietta, Regulation and crises of capitalism – l´expérience des États-Unis, Calmann-Levy, Aris, 1976.

[v] “The element that will circulate from the disciplinary to the regulatory, which will apply to the body and the population, allowing to control at the same time the disciplinary order of the body and the random facts of a multiplicity of subjects will be the norm", M Foucault, From the power of sovereignty to power over life, in Genealogy of Racism, Madrid, 1992, p. 262.

[vi] Juliana Neves Barros "OState of intimidation` in Brazil and the role of extractive corporations”, Savior, mimeo. 2022.

[vii] C. Laval and P. Dardot, La nueva reason del mundo, Gedisa, Barcelona, ​​2010, pp. 67-75.

[viii] Catherine Paradeise, Production and savoir regulation regimes, Seminar SIAP, Paris-Est Marne-la-Vallée University, Department of Sociology, 2005


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