First years of (dis)government

Image: Lucio Fontana


Commentary on the collection organized by Paulo Martins and Ricardo Musse

Today in Brazil we live in what is expected to be the final year of a collective agony that began in 2019 and which has become conventionally called the “Bolsonaro government”. Or would it be better to speak of “disgovernment”? This is what Ricardo Musse and Paulo Martins, organizers of First years of (dis)government, launched at the end of 2021 by the Faculty of Philosophy, Letters and Human Sciences of the University of São Paulo (FFLCH-USP) and which brings together articles originally published on the website the earth is round on the occasion of the midpoint of the current president's term.

But let this “misgovernment” not be confused with the usual meanings of the word, such as “absence of government” or “loss of control”, despite the lack of mastery of the skills necessary for the exercise of the function by Bolsonaro and his staff. More than a “bad government”, another meaning of the word, the deep meaning of the “misgovernment” under which we are living is perhaps more explicitly formulated by Laymert Garcia dos Santos in his article: “In this case, we should understand the expression ' two years of misgovernment' in its positive sense, that is, as two years of a deliberate policy of destruction of institutions, decomposition of the nation and deconstitution of Brazilian society” (p. 220).

As evidence of this destructive intention, some texts recall Bolsonaro’s statement at a dinner offered to representatives of the US right at the Brazilian Embassy in Washington, on March 17, 2019, when he stated: “We have to deconstruct a lot of things, to undo a lot of things and then start doing them again”. It is no coincidence, therefore, that “deconstruction” and other related terms (“destruction”, “decomposition”, “deconstitution” etc.) are practically omnipresent in the book, thus conferring a certain diagnostic unity on the set of reflections that make up this collective work, despite their diversity.

In the native language of Bolsonarism, according to which “communism” or “leftism” is everything that is not a mirror, it was about deconstructing everything that would have been a “communist” or “leftist” work. But, as several articles in the book indicate, it is actually the deconstruction of the 1988 Constitution pact, which pointed to the horizon of building a modern nation that would overcome the evils of a colonial, slave-owning, patriarchal, patrimonialist, authoritarian past. etc., with the rule of law, political democracy, economic sovereignty and social well-being. It is clear, however, that the attacks on this horizon were not lightning strikes from the 2018 election in a previously completely blue political sky, which justifies that the articles are not limited to the two “first years of (mis)government”.

Most go back in time, from the Brazilian social formation to political events of the recent past, and some others move forward, with proposals for a future of overcoming this agony, which, with the current pandemic and its criminally inept federal management, has literally taken on hundreds of thousands of people. of thousands of Brazilians – the mark of 300 deaths was reached at the beginning of 2021 (on March 24), a number that more than doubled almost a year later, approaching 660 today.

To face the challenge of contributing to the public debate by providing elements for understanding the Bolsonarist emergence phenomenon in its complexity, Ricardo Musse (professor of sociology at USP and editor of the website the earth is round) and Paulo Martins (classical literature professor and director of FFLCH-USP) mobilized their wide network of interlocutors, bringing together professors and researchers from within and outside USP (Unifesp, Unicamp, UFBA, UFPA, UFMG, UnB, UFF, UFRJ, CNRS , UFG, UFPB, UFABC) and from varied disciplinary origins (philosophy, law, political science, communication, economics, cinema, letters, sociology, theology, history, education, public health), in addition to some political activists. The result is a rather heterogeneous set of texts with regard to the angle of approaches, the degree of depth of the analyses, the accessibility of the language and also the textual correction (as regards this last aspect, the edition of the book, despite the good graphic design, fails to delegate the review of their articles to the authors themselves).

In addition to the introduction by the organizers and the preface by Vladimir Safatle, there are a total of 41 contributions, from names ranging from the best interpreters and commentators of current reality in the field of political science itself, such as André Singer and Luís Felipe Miguel, to intellectuals from renowned and important for the history of human sciences in the country, such as Marilena Chauí or Michael Löwy. Despite all this diversity, the timid presence of female intellectuals is notable, for example, who, with only three texts, do not make up 10% of the total collaborations.

As Leda Paulani projects, “theses and more theses will emerge, perhaps for decades, in the search to find the most consistent explanation for the national tragedy”, given the undeniable complexity of the phenomenon (p. 227). Which does not mean, of course, that the University has nothing to say on the subject until then, quite the contrary. And the publication of First years of (dis)government it is proof of this, of an academy that seeks to live up to the public commitment that gives it its meaning and reason for existing. Existence, incidentally, always threatened in contexts of authoritarian and obscurantist governments, as is the current one, which implies resistance and struggle against it.

To defeat him, however, Cícero Araujo's warning is worth it: “But those who think that, to defeat him, it will be enough to unite all political currents, right and left, in the next electoral clash, are deluded. Before that, it will be necessary to strengthen the dialogue with the majorities that have no organic connection or will ever have any political force, and that at this very moment are struggling, anxious, to survive the painful days that the country is going through. Which means that many engaged voices will be needed to echo this affliction and bring a clear answer, a very concrete proposal showing how the democratic forces, and only them, will be able to remedy it” (p. 67).

In this task, of “clarifying thought and putting order in ideas”, to resort to a classic formulation by Antonio Candido, the University can and must make its contribution.

*Max Gimenes is a doctoral candidate in sociology at FFLCH-USP.

Originally published on Journal of USP.



Ricardo Musse and Paulo Martins (eds.). First years of (dis)government. São Paulo, FFLCH-USP, 2021, 448 pages.


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