The legacy of Raymundo Faoro

Image of Marina Gusmão, Besouro.


The cordial gym, Faorism and the Lava Jato operation.

I wrote an article a few weeks ago – “The end of Lava Jato and the pathetic Barroso” – in which, in the wake of the vote on the suspicion of Judge Sérgio Moro, I argued that there was a judicial faorism in the operation, that is, in the eagerness to contribute to the change of political orientation in the federal government, Lava Jato tried to implement a pro-market vision through the punitive path (Cf. .

The article was quoted in a text by Rodrigo Ghiringhelli de Azevedo, which basically criticizes two aspects of my argument: first, for disrespecting the classics, a criticism that is part of the very well-established tradition of laudatory essayism in Brazil that tries to pass by social sciences. Second, it mobilizes two authors to defend the idea that Lava Jato was nothing more than an operation guided by the attempt to implement a systemic procedural law in Brazil, based on the idea that there is no rule of law without such an element.

It would be the case to ask Joaquim Falcão, whom Ghiringhelli cites, or the author himself, if systemic procedural law includes political pressure on the STF, collusion with false testimonies (which were not even taken) or the ten measures against corruption that significantly narrowed the institute of habeas corpus. In a meeting between João Roberto Marinho and Deltan Dallagnol at Falcão's own house, they discussed these matters without realizing that one day Deltan Dallagnol himself would use habeas corpus to defend himself, showing that the center of the so-called systemic procedural conception, nothing more it was more than a form of violating due process, as China or even Japan regularly does.

However, in this article I intend to discuss the second thesis of the laudatory essayist's critique of Faorism. According to the PUC-RS professor, I would have launched "a thesis without foot or head … in a light way, to take advantage of the Lava Jato debacle to settle accounts with one of the great interpreters of Brazil”. To defend his argument, he makes use of a text by Juarez Guimarães to explain that the center of Raymundo Faoro's concerns was based on the impediment, by the bureaucratic establishment, of the emergence of a contractual tradition of a republican nature in Brazil. Let's analyze Faoro and Guimarães' argument.

Raymundo Faoro, right on the first pages of the power holders, makes the following statement: “The king (of Portugal), as lord of the kingdom, had an instrument of power, the land, at a time when rents were predominantly derived from the soil. Predominance, as will be seen, does not mean exclusivism, nor the dynamic, expressive seat of the economy. The Crown managed to form, from the first blows of the reconquest, immense rural patrimony … whose property was confused with the domain of the royal house, applying the product to collective or personal needs, under circumstances that poorly distinguished the public good from the private, private good of the prince”.

Here we have what would be the origin of the Portuguese State, forged in the war and directed by a king with large territorial domains that starts to appropriate the structure of the State as if it were his own. Faoro offers, it is worth saying, the interpretation that this would be the patrimonial state in its Weberian sense, and completes his analysis by introducing what would be the bureaucratic status: “Patrimonial state, therefore, and not feudal, that of medieval Portugal. Patrimonial state already with pre-drawn direction, fond of Roman law, steeped in tradition and ecclesiastical sources, renewed with the jurists sons of the School of Bologna. Machiavelli's old lesson, which recognizes two types of principality, the feudal and the patrimonial, since the latter, in its relations with the administrative framework, has not lost its relevance and significance. In patrimonial monarchy, the king towers over all subjects.

Two questions are relevant here regarding the interpretation of the patrimonial State and its bureaucratic status. The first is that attempt to say that the content of a political institution is found in the analysis of its origin. In fact, the Portuguese State was forged in the war and in fact the king at first held large tracts of land. It would still remain to show that this characteristic that Faoro identifies in the first century of the first millennium was in fact reproduced in the Portuguese political formation until the discovery of Brazil and from there it was transplanted to Brazil. To be able to demonstrate this fact, Faoro would have had to make use of a second element of Weber's work, the so-called social strata that conduct ideas. It is not clear, in Raymundo Faoro's analysis of Brazil, what these extracts would be or how these ideas would have been transplanted to the Portuguese colony. In the absence of an interpretation, the transference of the court itself would be the Weberian half sole used by Faoro.

In order to discuss Brazil's independence and the imperial political structure, Raymundo Faoro ignores a set of analyzes on privatism in Brazil, including Nestor Duarte's or even Gilberto Freyre's, and arbitrarily postulates the presence of liberal ideas on farms and local units of power or even among the bandeirantes. If liberalism in Brazil has always been a big misunderstanding, I have no doubt that the misunderstanding started there.

Understanding the farmer of the early XNUMXth century as a liberal is the same as understanding the Uberista of the XNUMXst century as an entrepreneur. That is, there is a fundamental misunderstanding in Raymundo Faoro's analysis of independence and empire, in the idea of ​​a liberalism without economic freedom, without horizontal social relations on the farm and with slavery. Impossible that these slave masters were liberal, as they were not at the same time in Spanish America,[1] erroneously interpreted by the author in the passage below: “The passage from the exporting businessman to the lord of lace and products coincides with the transmigration of the court, in 1808. The internal maturation of the colony is added to an accident of European politics, separating the tenuous, but already alive, yearning for emancipation from liberal tendencies, a unique and non-existent separation in Spanish and English America. An absolute king performs, presides over, protects the nation in emergency, pruning, repelling and absorbing the liberal impulse, associated with the farm and local units of power. Liberalism, in fact, less doctrinal than justifying: the rich and powerful landowners take care to reduce the power of the king and the captain-generals only to increase their own, in a new division of government, without generalizing political participation to the poor classes”.

Thus, the misinterpretation of liberalism leads to an even more misinterpretation of Brazil's independence process. Brazil's independence was not able to constitute a liberal or contractual society for at least two reasons: for a centralizing tendency that Faoro points out and, mainly, for the non-existence of a structure of minimally horizontal sociability at the local level. Liberalism, which in Brazil is always simplified and defended by non-liberals as involving only the rejection of the state, seems to have been inaugurated by Faoro.

the author of the power holders simplifies liberalism and identifies it with a privatism without any notion of civil equality, either in relation to women, or in relation to voting, or in relation to work. This is the criticism that I make of Faoro and that Rodrigo ghiringhelli tries to refute, for not understanding it. He mobilizes in his favor the writings on Faoro by my UFMG colleague Juarez Guimarães, an intellectual whom I respect, but who, like ghiringhelli joins the laudatory tradition of the classics of essayism. ghiringhelli mentions Guimarães' interpretation of Faoro, according to which the author's objective would be “build a long-term narrative based on the criterion of political freedom, understood in its republican key, as self-government by autonomous citizens”.

What Faoro intends “is the historical critique of the State founded without a democratic social contract”. I agree with Guimarães that the Brazilian State was founded without a political contract of self-government. I also believe that Guimarães would hardly agree with Faoro that the only reason that would explain such a fact would have been the transfer of the royal court to Brazil. He simply refrains from critically examining Faoro's work in the light of critical social science.

In other words, the issue I touched on in relation to Faoro and which is indeed related to the Lava Jato operation is the presence of a fragile liberalism identified with an anti-State tradition and not with the valuation practices that created a contractual society with elements republicans. These practices were misidentified in early XNUMXth century Brazil by Raymundo Faoro and continue to be misidentified here in Brazil by those like Joaquim Falcão and Rodrigo Ghiringhelli who insisted on identifying Lava Jato with the rule of law or systemic procedural law, whatever it is.

To me it seems more like an intra-oligarchic punitive pact with ramifications at all levels of the judiciary. It is easier to understand Lava Jato based on another Faoro, which Ghiringhelli also briefly mentions: the one that, during the constituent national assembly, placed the OAB in 10 different places in the Constitution, opening space for legal corporatism and for peer protection structures that we see every day and that generate distortions in the criminal process.

It is this corporatism of a judiciary that despises democracy and the rule of law that Ghiringhelli and Falcão defend. Identifying it with liberalism seems natural for those who adopt liberal practices in bar conversations and articles in the press, but refrain from sustaining the right of defense and due legal process or social ascension through education. This is an additional dimension of crude liberalism that is associated with the tradition of laudatory essayism and creates an idea of ​​quasi-messianic extracts, substituting for the absence of liberal actors and practices in the country. The work of Raymundo Faoro is at the base of these misconceptions.

*Leonardo Avritzer He is a professor at the Department of Political Science at UFMG. Author, among other books, of Impasses of democracy in Brazil (Brazilian Civilization).


[1] There were stronger liberal impulses in Spanish America than Brazil, but these impulses were strongly contradictory with the dominant ideas in the centers of the viceroyalties in Mexico and especially in Peru where strong anti-monarchist and anti-liberal tendencies predominated. The same is true in relation to Cuba, which did not even become independent because it had the same contradictions linked to slavery as Brazil. See Claudio Véliz. The Centralist Tradition of Latin America (Princeton University Press) and Roberto Pineda. “”, at


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