black praxis

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Note on the sociology of praxis by Clóvis Moura

We aim to present the meaning of sociology of praxis in Clóvis Moura, understanding that this is the central notion that ties his entire theoretical project into a methodological unit. Through this notion, exposed in more detail in the first chapters of his book Sociology called into question, Clóvis Moura aims to base and tie his theoretical project to the conceptual mechanism of the materialist dialectic and, therefore, we can say that he seeks to link himself to the Marxist tradition.

“Sociology of praxis” can therefore be tentatively defined here as a codename for Marxism; but just stating this is extremely abstract, what really interests us is understanding how Clóvis Moura builds this concept and, then, giving more content to the Marxism to which he is linked.

The first chapter of Sociology called into question it begins with the concern of presenting the social reasons for the appearance of sociology and, therefore, asks about the historical necessity of its emergence. It is then assumed that sociology, as a scientific project, could not arise in any historical period and cannot be confused with any abstract reflection on society. Sociology appears in the XNUMXth century as a particular moment in the more general process of constitution of bourgeois rationality, in a moment of destitution of the historical conditions that maintained the previous mode of production, feudalism.

In this context, European society was in a rapid process of transformation because those material conditions that made the existence of feudal institutions possible began to dissolve and transform. The historical moment that demonstrated the possibility of human agency was that of the French Revolution, in the ultimate act of the guillotine: the historical rupture it represented was a concrete spade in the metaphysics that established the impossibility of social transformation, based on divine stability, etc. , because from it, men knew themselves as historical agents of transformation and the need to deal with the problem of this rupture was imposed on later philosophies.

Then, through the process of structural modifications of the dismantling feudal society, a historical need is established, that is, that of man “knowing himself in the process of becoming” (MOURA, 1978, p. 23), that is, to rationally understand the conditions of transformation of their own reality, a process that is constituted as a project of domination, as we will see. It is therefore not a matter of constituting logical sets that merely explain those transformations, but of establishing a necessary rational order of those apparently random and contingent transformations so that, in this way, man would be able to fulfill the promise of his freedom and act in history. consciously.

It is, then, a movement in three acts: first, the initial consciousness of man as a Subject of history, historical consciousness. From this conscience, the search for knowledge of the “laws” that organize the historical movement, laws that are for this conscience, rational laws, which means that they can be apprehended by man to allow the thought of his conscious, planned, rational action, in relation to society. And in a third moment, it was a matter of understanding the relationship between the social man and these laws, that is, understanding the real capacity of effecting them, which would then make man an effective agent in history.

Thus, in the same way that philosophy can be defined conceptually as the process of man's reflection on himself, that is, a reflection on the conditions by which this reason can be realized (and hence the Kantian project of a critique of pure reason , practical reason and judgment, as well as the later philosophies that make up German idealism, with its highest development in the Hegelian dialectic), sociology can be defined conceptually as the process of society's reflection on itself. This is the initial concept of sociology: it is, essentially, society's reflection on itself as another of itself.

This reflection initially can only be critical, because it accompanies criticism of the foundations of feudal institutions. However, this criticism cannot be taken to the end in its constitution: it needs to be given a positive form soon, because it must establish on rational foundations the new social relations under construction in this period. It is in this sense that we also affirm that sociology, at this moment, establishes itself as a project of domination, because it is precisely bourgeois relations that are being established in the period – which is evident, given that the European bourgeoisie was constituted as the class dominant in Europe, with the development of industry, and in the world, with the colonization process. Clóvis Moura calls this the “birth trauma” of sociology.

This movement is pregnant with consequences. The identity between the rationalist and positivist project of sociology will seek to be based on the foundations of the natural sciences, whose highest theoretical formulation is Émile Durkheim's project of a functionalist analysis. Logically, in order to establish the positive rationality of the social system, it is necessary that the interpretation of this sociology on the internal negative element of society be reintegrated as a positive element of its theoretical system, in order to then annul the internal contradiction of society and close the appearance of totality of society. its interpretation, returning that contradiction as already reconciled or as reconcilable by technical interventions.

But this cannot occur through the immanent analysis of society, because this does not allow this positivization, “because the objective laws of society are revolutionary” (idem, p. 12). Thus, there is a logical need to produce an external presupposition of its functional stability, given by the organicist analogy. (cf. MONTEIRO, 2022) Social analysis then becomes a purely descriptive and justifying movement: it is about finding, in each social phenomenon, its correlation with the whole that is immediately the justification of its need, which still makes preserve its systematic character and, with it, the appearance of rationality and universality.

Phenomena become “social facts”, immutable and necessary, just because they would be constitutive of that model of society. With this, the immanent criticality that constituted the initial project of sociology is lost and an immutable model of society is constructed externally, an immutability given by the very irrational principle of its constitution, the basic assumption of “sui generis” stability. That impetus for understanding human action in relation to society thus becomes the justification of social coercion as necessary; we return, therefore, to the starting point of men's passivity, now with a supposed explanatory gain that is already the very justification of social conditions. It is from this type of methodology that the proposals and social tools of domination are constituted that guarantee the maintenance of the classes in power; it is also based on this organicist assumption that the notions of race are based on the explanation of social relations.

From the point of view of the concept of sociology, we went from an initially critical project to the impossibility of criticism because it tended towards the naturalization of social relations. In other words, sociology, which initially sought to understand the conditions of transformation of the world, disconnects from the movement of its object and projects an immobilizing justification of its movement onto it. An internal contradiction is then established in its concept, a contradiction between its critical essence, which maintained its immanent and rational connection with the objective becoming of society, and this assumption that produces its contents as positive which, by making that criticism unfeasible, constitutes itself in an irrational connection with its object, because it loses its immanent movement.

Thus, Clóvis Moura points out that, in order to resume the possibility of a rational sociology project, it is necessary to resume its critical project; however, it is not just a question of throwing away the irrational theoretical construct, but of understanding it as part of its own historical development. That is, it is the production of an internal critique of sociology, that is, the denial of these positive contents, because they latently constitute the ideological expression of social domination. It is this turn of the determined critique of objects as ideology that constitutes the sociology of praxis for Clóvis Moura: it is the movement in terms of ideas that expresses the concrete struggle that takes place in the social field, because it is the effect of the same contradiction that is now taking place. know as such. It is the process of becoming aware of sociology as an instrument of domination which, consequently, can turn it into its opposite, as an instrument of liberation.

Thus, it is concluded that Clóvis Moura's sociology of praxis is not an idealistic utopia, but is a critical program established as a determined historical necessity that is born with its procedure designed, because the process of its emergence is its own method. Indeed, the methodological steps that we present here constitute the way in which the development of sociology itself takes place; it is produced here from the dialectical synthesis through which its critical potential is realized. In this way, the production of the moment of the sociology of praxis, an internal reflection of sociology in its immanence, is the necessary form of overcoming the bourgeois ideology internal to it. The sociology of praxis is, therefore, the way to carry out its critique.

As we tried to show on another occasion (cf. MONTEIRO, 2022, pp. 24-31), for Clóvis Moura, the notions of race are formulated by anthropology as effects of the birth trauma of this discipline, which implies the conception that anthropology it is a particular variation of the definition given by him for sociology, because the anthropology of is constituted as a reflection on society. By following the conceptual movement that we have exposed, we come to the conclusion that the material phenomenon of colonialism had, as its theoretical effect, the production of an external assumption of a stable normality. This assumption is based on the notion of race as the stabilizing and immobilizing explanatory key of the social movement.

In this sense, for Moura, modern racism is born from the “confluence of capitalism with the biological doctrines of the struggle for life and the survival of the fittest” (MOURA, 1994): it seeks to give the appearance of science to the justification of the domineering project of capital. As a consequence of this movement, we have that race is a sociological or anthropological category and, therefore, has its form: it has, in itself, the critical possibility, but it can only effect it from the critique of itself. This notion is constituted as an ideological mechanism that seeks to move the contradiction between social classes to the field of nature and, therefore, implies the naturalization of the social domination of capitalism.

A black praxis, in order to be constituted, implies an internal critique of itself, because it is necessarily the process of becoming this critique: it must then be a critique of the notion of “black” as it materially functions in class society ( cf. Injustiças de Clio; Black: from good slave to bad citizen; Sociology of the Brazilian Black; etc.) seeking its denaturalization. With this, the aim is to overcome the abstract opposition between blacks and whites that constitutes their logic, homological opposition to irrationalism that only affirms the phenomenon without understanding its systematic and contradictory articulation in a systematic and contradictory world, that is, the point of view of view of the totality that Dennis de Oliveira talks about.

“Black” and “white” are an ideological opposition that structures the social relations of the colonial world and constitutes it as a social structure, which implies that the critique must be outside the opposition, that is, a negation of the opposition as such, aiming at overcome it. It could not, then, be a matter of seeking an immediate positivization of the notion of black in relation to a reverse negativity of the notion of white – which, incidentally, constitutes precisely Clóvis Moura’s criticism of Teatro Experimental do Negro –, but of deepening the black negativity as a way of constituting a new social relationship.

This process, obviously, cannot take place within the scope of theory, but of social practice. Theory has its place in sticking to the critique of the ideological traps of language in the world of classes and outlining instruments that inform the practice of constituting the new and, in this sense, it does not have, and cannot have, a positive character, but rather characterizes it. if by the corrosive criticism that impels the thought to the formulation of a conscious transformation. This is the logical nucleus that underlies and organizes the proposal of Clóvis Moura's work and that allows him to think of a “radical dialectic” of black Brazil.

*Joao Pedro Monteiro is a master's student in sociology at the University of São Paulo (USP).


MONTEIRO, Joao Pedro de Sa. The Black Dynamics in Clóvis Moura. Completion of course work (Bachelor in Social Sciences) — Universidade Federal Fluminense, Niterói, 2022. Available at>

MOURA, Clovis. Sociology called into question. São Paulo: Livraria Editora Ciências Humanas Ltda, 1978.

MOURA, Clovis. Racism as an ideological weapon of domination. In: Principles Magazine, nº 34, p. 28-38, Aug/Oct 1994. Available at

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