Celso Furtado's dream

Image: Stela Grespan


The alternative proposed by the mature Furtado for Brazil and other peripheral countries did not consist of following the same path as the “developed” nations

Celso Furtado's thought is a tribute to the new cultural and intellectual environment constituted by Brazilian Modernism, which had in Recife, where the then young man from Paraíba studied, one of its main and pioneering centers of articulation (even before the famous Semana de Arte Modern of 1922). It was no longer a question of considering Brazil as predestined to a backward and subordinate position in relation to European nations, as claimed by racist theories with strong influence even among liberal-conservative economists, who attributed our ills to the majority black, indigenous and mixed race components. of our population. The new generations of artists and intellectuals were imbued with the conviction that Brazilian popular culture had original contributions to offer the world, and that our country would find in itself, in the mobilization and creativity of its people, the sap for overcoming underdevelopment. , hunger, illiteracy, inequality and the peripheral condition in the world. Celso Furtado's work would not exist without this vision and this vibrant dream of Brazil that involved his generation, from music to engineering, from visual arts to theater, from literature to economics, from education to politics.

Furtado's original and capital contribution to economic thought would also not be possible outside the social and economic context in which it was elaborated, marked by the accelerated pace of Brazilian industrialization, from the 1930s, and by the progressive and radical organization and politicization of the movements. workers, in the countryside and in the city, as well as youth, sectors of the Church and even part of the Armed Forces (from Prestes until, for example, the sailors' revolt in 1964). Celso and other great Brazilian intellectuals of his time were capable of thinking about the movement of the real because the real was in movement.

“It is necessary to dream, but on the condition that we believe in our dream, observe real life attentively, compare observation with our dream, work scrupulously towards the realization of our fantasies”, said Lenin. The life of the economist from Pombal, who entitled his autobiographical book “Organized Fantasy”, is a case of disciplined application of the recommendation of the Bolshevik leader. The imaginative element of Furtadian work does not consist in ethereal digressions, but in the rigorous analysis of social reality, which also requires revealing the counter-tendencies contained in it and the latent possibilities of its transformation. An exponent of the historical-structural method of interpreting the Brazilian economic formation, averse to static and deterministic explanations of the underdevelopment of Brazil (and also, in particular, of the Northeast), Furtado sought to detect and formulate concrete paths that could lead to overcoming this condition. one of his best-known contributions in this regard was the creation of SUDENE and João Goulart's experience as Minister of Planning, when he prepared the “Triennial Plan for Economic and Social Development”.

Capturing the dynamics of Brazilian economic structures, that is, the way in which they were formed and transformed in history – in the light of the country's peripheral and dependent insertion in the world economy, as well as internal arrangements of power and social stratification – remains fundamental, in scientific level, so as not to be hostages of econometric models that work with ahistorical abstract schemes, based on metaphysical assumptions about human nature. On the political level, the Furtadian method is an antidote for us not to capitulate neither to the defeatist fatalism that ignores the possibilities of structural change in the economy, nor to the pamphleteer voluntarism, which is not concerned with analyzing and conceiving the specific ways in which these changes took place and they can give.

Some of the comments on Furtado's work understand its merit in capturing the dynamics of the historical process, but sometimes ignore the dynamism of his own thought. They value, with good reason, their concern with technical progress, industrialization and technological development, the “internalization of decision-making centers”, the reduction of social inequalities and regional asymmetries. They seem unaware, however, of how their reflection on development matured throughout their works. See, for example, the book “The myth of economic development”, written in Cambridge in 1974. In the words of Master Furtado:

“The lifestyle created by industrial capitalism will always be the privilege of a minority. The cost, in terms of depredation of the physical world, of this lifestyle is so high that any attempt to generalize it would lead inexorably to the collapse of an entire civilization, putting at risk the chances of survival of the human species. We thus have definitive proof that economic development – ​​the idea that poor people can someday enjoy the ways of life of today's rich people – is simply unrealizable. We now know irrefutably that the economies of the periphery will never be developed, in the sense of being similar to the economies that form the current center of the capitalist system. But how can we deny that this idea has been of great use in mobilizing people on the periphery and making them accept enormous sacrifices, in order to legitimize the destruction of a form of culture? archaic and also to explain and do understand the need to destroy the physical environment, to justify forms of dependence that reinforce the predatory character of the productive system? Therefore, it should be said that the idea of ​​economic development is a simple myth. Thanks to it, it has been possible to divert attention from the basic task of identifying the fundamental needs of the community and the possibilities opened up to man by the advancement of science, to concentrate them on abstract objectives such as investments, exports and growth”.

Contrary to what many assume, therefore, Furtado was not a naive “developmentalist”, assuming that industrialization was the remedy for all our problems. What he rejected, on this subject, was the liberal myth that it would be more efficient for us to continue as a primary-exporting nation, with an economy directed from outside. imports. On the contrary, he analyzed it critically, pointing out the social and regional inequalities of our industrial pattern and how it even generated bottlenecks to economic growth; later, he also became increasingly aware of the destruction of the environment, cultures and ways of life of peoples considered “archaic” (such as the indigenous) by the capitalist impetus to transform us all into producers-consumers of goods.

The alternative proposed by the mature Furtado for Brazil and other peripheral countries did not consist of following the same path as the “developed” nations, reproducing their predatory mode of production and consumption and their social problems. It is not a question of proposing that Brazil simply seek to reach the level of income or technological development of these countries, in accordance with the poor quantitative vision that prevails in economics courses, in the economic news and in the speeches of politicians. It is a matter of conceiving, in the light of our cultural richness, of the plurality of peoples who live here and in an intensely democratic way, a project of our own society, and of creating the conditions for its materialization – with technological innovation, yes, but bundled with this project, this collective dream, and not the imperatives of capital, concentrated in centers of decision and accumulation outside the country (and, inside it, in specific regions and in the hands of a few). “The most important thing is to invent the Brazil that we want”, said Darcy Ribeiro, in a phrase that could be subscribed by our honoree.

It should be said, finally, that Furtado's enemies are in power. The doctrines and social forces that he fought for all his life govern Brazil today, leading the nation to the precipice, radicalizing the exploitation of workers in the countryside and cities, the massacre and extermination of indigenous peoples, the black population of the peripheries and slums, destroying the environment like never before, in a fanatical rage for profit above all else.

And the heirs of the master's thought and career from Paraíba, where are they? In this difficult time, may the tributes to his centenary, such as the recent cordel published by a group of sertanejos in Paraíba, be a loud call to his combative reunion, with the furtadian weapons: generous dreams, critical lucidity, big thinking, public spirit and unshakable confidence in the strength of struggle and in the inventiveness of the Brazilian people, and in particular the sertanejo and northeastern people. I close, then, with the final verses of “Ballad for the Andalusian poets of now”, by the poet Rafael Alberti:

"¿No hará ya quien respondera a la voz del Poet?
Who looks at the heart without the poet's walls?
So many things are dead that there are no more than the poet?

Sing loudly. Oiréis que oyen otros oídos.
Look high. You will see that they look at other eyes.
Loud bark. Sabers that throb other blood.

The poet is not more hondo in his dark subsoil.
closed. His song rises to deeper
when, open in the air, you already belong to all men".

*João Telesforo Medeiros Filho is a doctoral candidate in Economic and Financial Law at the University of São Paulo.

Originally published as an afterword to Cordel “We are all going to celebrate Furtado's XNUMXth birthday!".



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