Where is the money?

Image: Alexander Grombach


Considerations on the personalism and impersonality of money

Through a representative sample of ten classic works of Brazilian historiography, I decided to research the presence, or worse, the absence of a key character in the narratives about the history of Brazil: money.

I examined how many (and which) quotes from him can be found in Menu by Pero Vaz de Caminha (1500), History of Brazil: 1500-1627 by Friar Vicente do Salvador (1627), The Jewish Builders of Brazil (2015) Dutch Brazil (1630-1654) by Evaldo Cabral de Mello (2010), Culture and Opulence of Brazil by André João Antonil (1711), Colonial History Chapters (1500-1800) by Capistrano de Abreu (1907), Casa Grande & Senzala by Gilberto Freyre (1933), Brazil roots by Sérgio Buarque de Holanda (1936), Formation of Contemporary Brazil – Colony by Caio Prado Junior (1942), Economic Formation of Brazil by Celso Furtado (1959).

I found little. However, what was found refers to very relevant episodes “to understand Brazil”. Is this possible without the historical narrative about (the lack of) money?

Hence, what is relevant is the understanding of the reason for this absence or timid presence as not being a relevant theme or as something “dirty” to be thrown into the trash can of history. José Ricardo Martins highlights the search for a Brazilian identity and the desire to understand ourselves as a people being the motivations of the various “interpreters of Brazil”.

According to this article-review, the constitution of Brazilian identity incorporates concepts such as subalternity, sub-citizenship, command and submission, relations of dependency, inequality, passivity, fatalism, familism, cordiality, among other qualifications forged through subaltern colonialism, of patrimonialism, estate domination, coronelismo, authoritarianism and autocracy, restricted democracy, dependent capitalism, physical and symbolic violence, exclusion, servile relations and privileges. These would be the themes present in Brazilian reality (and historiography).

For follow the money (translated into Portuguese as “follow the money”), a catchphrase in the English language popularized to initiate investigations, perhaps the biggest clue found to explain why it does not have an explicit role in Brazilian historical narratives was given, indirectly, in the book of Sergio Buarque from Holland. With respect to the patriarchal family, a central concept in Gilberto Freyre, Holanda identifies the authority of the patriarch going beyond the domestic sphere and extending into the public domain.

This “invasion of the public by the private” does not respect the formal hierarchy of institutions. The traditional patriarchal and personalistic behavior hinders the establishment not only of the democratic State, as reflected by Sérgio Buarque de Holanda, but also, as I think, the impersonality required in dealing with public relations with the monetary payment due, regardless of who it is ( contract.

Family partiality would be incompatible with the impartial attitude towards citizens, required in the republican sphere. Personal privileges must be execrated.

The best known concept in the work of Sérgio Buarque de Holanda is that of “cordial man”. This “Brazilian” would be governed by feelings of love or hate: either in favor of me or against me. It would obey the casuistry of affection and not impersonal norms.

Submissive to the preaching of Catholicism critical of usury, “the Brazilian” received, instead of the impersonality of money, the weight of “sympathetic relations”. This made it difficult to incorporate other subaltern groupings based on salaried work in an impersonal contractual relationship of exchanging activity provided for money.

Worse, the tendency persists of not finding the impersonal relationships required in the republican State and in the market economy to be pleasant. The “please culture” seeks to reduce them to a personal and affective standard, as if everyone were a “friend” when paying. The “cordial man” ends up not clearly distinguishing between the private and public domains. Therefore, when he reaches government power, he is patrimonialist, preferring favoritism and the “jeitinho”, having an aversion to impersonality.

There are serious negative consequences when it comes to dealing with public affairs. Person-to-person relationships, as if they were a favor and not an obligation in the face of a citizenship right, make it difficult to have a more impersonal and rational social order in the country.

The founding myth of the Nation of Brazilians hides its atavistic violence, from the genocide of the natives, passing through the torture of slaves, to the exploitation of the landless and forced to beg for a minimum wage in the cities. Darcy Ribeiro's desire to recognize ourselves as “the New Rome, but better, because washed in black blood, Indian, tropical blood, is illusory. The Mestiça Nation would reveal itself to the world as a civilization dedicated to joy, tolerance and solidarity”.

Nepotism is a term used to designate the favoring of relatives or close friends to the detriment of more qualified and deserving people in the appointment or elevation of public and political positions. Currently, this term indicates the granting of privileges or positions to relatives in the civil service. It is different from favoritism or amicism, as the latter does not even imply family relationships with the favored person, it is enough just to be a friend of a relative of an acquaintance.

Etymologically, this term originates from the Latin nepos, literally meaning “grandson” or “descendant”. The word was previously used exclusively in the context of the pope's relations with his relatives. For this reason, a nepote would be like "nephew of the pontiff" or "papal adviser".

The evil done by inquisitorial intolerance is easily found by reading Brazilian historiography. The Inquisition was established by the papacy during the Middle Ages (XNUMXth century), with the aim of combating heresy, that is, any line of thought contrary to the Catholic Church. Its hallmark was religious intolerance.

The Spanish Inquisition, also known as the Tribunal of the Holy Office, was established in Spain in 1478. Its main objective was the expulsion of Jews and Muslims from its territory. It was only abolished during the reign of Napoleon Bonaparte, between 1808 and 1812, and definitively extinguished in 1834.

Already the Jews refugees in Portugal soon, in 1497, had to convert from Judaism to Catholicism. The “new Christians”, to escape the torture methods of the Portuguese Inquisition in order to obtain confessions justifying death, migrated to Holland or the inhospitable Portuguese colony in the Americas.

In 1624 it had approximately fifty thousand white inhabitants. Up to a third of the settlers are estimated to be “Marranos” (New Christians). During Dutch rule in northeastern Brazil (1630-1654), the practice of Judaism was permitted there. After all, Holland was not part of the intolerant countries under the laws of the Inquisition.

However, new administrators, designated by the West India Company as Maurício de Nassau's replacement, raised taxes, began to collect old debts from the planters and cut the budget for new financing. This charge made debtors begin to organize opposition to the Dutch. The Portuguese, with the informal support of the Portuguese king, began to seek supporters for the movement, promising them forgiveness of debts contracted with the Dutch and Jews.

This “Christian default” is a long legacy from the ghettos of Italian cities in the Renaissance. Catholics resorted to the Jews when they needed to borrow and to the Inquisition when it was time to repay them. They did not comply with the contracts signed in voluntary servitude to credit. To this day, they abhor this impersonality…

Most Jews returned to Holland or emigrated to the West Indies. There, by offering a better quality and cheaper product, it began to compete with Brazilian sugar. A small group ended up landing in a Dutch colony in North America, called New Amsterdam, future New York, at the time just a trading post for the West India Company, organized in Amsterdam by shares. Twenty-three Jewish-Brazilians were the pioneers in building the first Jewish community in North America.

Manhattan was gradually urbanizing. Jews acquired the right to participate in the affairs of the region. Participated in the American War of Independence. In 1792, twenty-four merchants and brokers created the New York Stock Exchange. Among them were three Jews, including one of “Brazilian” origin. The rest is the story of the largest capital market economy in the world…

These few references to money, in Brazilian classical historiography, say a lot about the need to get rid of the false “founding myths”, incapable of leading to less unequal, if not egalitarian, national cohesion. History studies the changes and permanencies that have occurred in society. He perceives the relationship between the past and the present, for example, the poor Brazilians continue without money.

*Fernando Nogueira da Costa He is a full professor at the Institute of Economics at Unicamp. Author, among other books, of Brazil of banks (EDUSP).

the earth is round exists thanks to our readers and supporters.
Help us keep this idea going.
Click here and find how

See this link for all articles


  • About artificial ignoranceEugenio Bucci 15/06/2024 By EUGÊNIO BUCCI: Today, ignorance is not an uninhabited house, devoid of ideas, but a building full of disjointed nonsense, a goo of heavy density that occupies every space
  • Franz Kafka, libertarian spiritFranz Kafka, libertarian spirit 13/06/2024 By MICHAEL LÖWY: Notes on the occasion of the centenary of the death of the Czech writer
  • The society of dead historyclassroom similar to the one in usp history 16/06/2024 By ANTONIO SIMPLICIO DE ALMEIDA NETO: The subject of history was inserted into a generic area called Applied Human and Social Sciences and, finally, disappeared into the curricular drain
  • Strengthen PROIFESclassroom 54mf 15/06/2024 By GIL VICENTE REIS DE FIGUEIREDO: The attempt to cancel PROIFES and, at the same time, turn a blind eye to the errors of ANDES management is a disservice to the construction of a new representation scenario
  • Hélio Pellegrino, 100 years oldHelio Pellegrino 14/06/2024 By FERNANDA CANAVÊZ & FERNANDA PACHECO-FERREIRA: In the vast elaboration of the psychoanalyst and writer, there is still an aspect little explored: the class struggle in psychoanalysis
  • Letter to the presidentSquid 59mk,g 18/06/2024 By FRANCISCO ALVES, JOÃO DOS REIS SILVA JÚNIOR & VALDEMAR SGUISSARDI: “We completely agree with Your Excellency. when he states and reaffirms that 'Education is an investment, not an expense'”
  • Volodymyr Zelensky's trapstar wars 15/06/2024 By HUGO DIONÍSIO: Whether Zelensky gets his glass full – the US entry into the war – or his glass half full – Europe’s entry into the war – either solution is devastating for our lives
  • Introduction to “Capital” by Karl Marxred triangular culture 02/06/2024 By ELEUTÉRIO FS PRADO: Commentary on the book by Michael Heinrich
  • PEC-65: independence or patrimonialism in the Central Bank?Campos Neto Trojan Horse 17/06/2024 By PEDRO PAULO ZAHLUTH BASTOS: What Roberto Campos Neto proposes is the constitutional amendment of free lunch for the future elite of the Central Bank
  • The strike at federal Universities and Institutescorridor glazing 01/06/2024 By ROBERTO LEHER: The government disconnects from its effective social base by removing those who fought against Jair Bolsonaro from the political table