Raymundo Faoro, a thinker of democracy

Marina Gusmao, Fragments.


Response to Leonardo Avritzer's article.

I published on the blog Faces of Violence, from the newspaper Folha de São Paulo, an article where I present three aspects that I consider relevant in the debate about Operation Lava Jato in the field of Social Sciences, focusing my analysis on the position expressed by Leonardo Avritzer, who maintains that behind the procedural violations and the media activities of its operators would be a pro-market and punitive vision, inspired by the work of Raymundo Faoro.

Avritzer responded to my article on the site the earth is round (The legacy of Raymundo Faoro). I consider it relevant to discuss Faoro's work and its relevance, which is why I present the rejoinder here, continuing the debate. But, unfortunately, before getting to what really matters, it is necessary to clear the ground on some preliminary questions raised by Avritzer. Perhaps the result of a hasty reading of the article, the professor from Minas Gerais begins by presenting two arguments that have no basis in what I wrote.

Avritzer claims that I criticize him "first of all, for disrespecting the classics". And as a result, he links me to the “very well-established tradition of laudatory essays in Brazil, which tries to pass itself off as social sciences”. Any more careful reader will realize that at no time was my criticism directed at “disrespecting the classics”, which would be ridiculous to say the least. And from this reading of what is not written, wanting to link myself to a laudatory tradition is a rhetorical way of disqualifying the interlocutor, without discussing his arguments. An argumentative style that does not contribute to qualifying the debate on the content of what is being discussed, but very much in vogue in the post-truth era. I propose that we resume the debate of ideas, leaving aside the labels that divert the debate from an ethically sustainable argumentative rationality between researchers who should respect each other (which is what I propose to do, due to the respect I have for the person and the work of Avritzer).

Even more serious, when reading Joaquim Falcão's name in my article, Avritzer starts to consider that, since he is mentioned, I would automatically endorse his opinions about the Operation. He even claims that it would be “this corporatism of a judiciary that despises democracy and the rule of law, which Ghiringhelli and Falcão defend”. To then state that I would be among those who support “liberal practices in bar conversations and articles in the press, but refrain from supporting the right of defense and due legal process or social ascension through education”. As for the first statement, any more attentive reader would realize that my reference to Falcão, as well as to Cláudio Beato, was in a critical sense of his approach, presenting, then, what I called “another reading key”, presented, among others, by Roberto Kant de Lima and Pedro Heitor Barros Geraldo (Jota, 05.03.21), and by myself and Arthur Costa (Faces da Violência, 01.04.2021). As for the second, I allow myself not to answer, since I consider it an attack without any basis, as anyone who has already read what I wrote about Operation Lava Jato can testify.

If I were a representative of laudatory essayism, and a defender of Lava Jato's procedural standards, everything would be resolved, Faoro would be condemned and the dispute would be closed. It must be recognized that this is not the case. The subtitle of Avritzer's article refers to the “cordial academy” (bringing up another of our interpreters from Brazil). Avritzer does not clarify what he means by this, but I believe that what characterizes the “cordial academy” is the difficulty in carrying out a frank and honest public debate between peers, when disagreement is taken as a personal attack, and the result is always the attempt to disqualify the opponent, with arguments ad omnim. Let's leave this “cordiality” aside, and let's discuss the content, which is what matters.

In content, Avritzer seeks to substantiate (now yes) his “thesis” on Faoro's work. In summary, Avritzer questions the permanence of patrimonialism and the bureaucratic status forged in the origin of the Portuguese State, and its transposition to Imperial Brazil. It points to a fundamental mistake in Faoro's analysis of independence and Empire, because, according to him, Faoro treats slaveholder farmers as liberals. But when quoting Faoro, it is clear that what he is saying is that there is a contradiction between the absolutist monarch and the private interests of landowners, which implies a “liberal impulse, associated with the farm and local power units”. Faoro himself clarifies that this is much less a liberal ideal than the particularist interest of rich and powerful landowners in reducing the king's power, but “without generalizing political participation to the poor classes”.

From this and other at least hasty interpretations of excerpts from Faoro's work, Avritzer concludes that he would have inaugurated a simplified liberalism and defended by non-liberals, involving only the rejection of the State. And he adds that the author of Os Donos do Poder identifies liberalism with privatism, without civil equality in relation to women, voting and labor relations. Both Faoro’s work and his political trajectory contradict the thesis, but to support it in his actions, Avritzer accuses Faoro of having placed “the OAB in 10 different places in the Constitution, opening space for a legal corporatism and for peer protection structures that we see every day and that generate distortions in the criminal process”. How Faoro did this, having been president of the OAB only from 1977 to 1979, Avritzer does not clarify. How the references to the OAB in the Constitution distort the criminal procedure is also not clear (although it is a necessary debate). But these are arguments presented to disqualify the attacked author, not his work.

Avritzer's argument is in fact too tenuous to account for such a complex and influential work in the debate on the Brazilian State, its origins and historical process. Others have already done it more competently, among them Juarez Guimarães, quoted by me in the previous article. But I refer here to another article, by Fábio Konder Comparato (Raymundo Faoro Historiador, 2003). Remembering that from the beginning “the interpretation that Faoro gave of the History of Brazil deeply irritated the Marxist critics, since it made the methodological resource to the class struggle unnecessary”, Comparato shows that, for Faoro, “Brazilian society – like Portuguese, moreover – was traditionally shaped by a patrimonialist group, formed, first, by the high officials of the Crown, and later by the functional group that always surrounded the Head of State, in the republican period. Contrary to what was erroneously said in criticism of this interpretation, the governing functional group, highlighted by Faoro, never corresponded to that modern bureaucracy, organized in an administrative career, and whose members act according to well-established standards of legality and rationality. It is not, therefore, a question of that stratum of civil servants found in situations of “legal power with a bureaucratic administrative framework” of the Weberian classification, but of a stratum group corresponding to the traditional type of political domination, in which power is not a public function, but rather an object of private appropriation”.

In other words, in Raymundo Faoro, Brazilian history is not examined as a simple succession of class struggles, or adjustments and mismatches between social groups. He introduces the notions of status, caste and social class in an innovative way, shedding light on the various aspects of our formation, in which our 'modernity' appears to be tied to traditional forms of social and mental organization: a status-oligarchic and substratum culture. slaveholder who still commands the present.

Making an original use of Weberian concepts, Faoro shares with him the concern with the configuration and the path followed by their respective national societies, the constitution of relevant political actors capable of directing society and the contrast between rigidity and plasticity of social relations. But as Faoro himself states, in the preface to the 2nd edition of Os Donos do Poder (1973), “it should be noted that this book does not follow, despite its close relationship, the line of thought of Max Weber. Not infrequently, Weberian suggestions follow a different path, with new content and different colors. On the other hand, the essay distances itself from orthodox Marxism, above all by supporting the autonomy of a layer of power, not diluted in a schematic infrastructure, which would give economic content to factors of another nature”. Returning to Guimarães (Raymundo Faoro, Pensador da Liberdade – 2009), it is possible to state that “in Faoro, the critique of the patrimonialist State is not made from an elitist paradigm of democracy, which is found in Weber, but from a logic of universalization of rights and duties. That is, there is a permanent tension between its analytical bias and its normative horizon.”

For Faoro, the Avis Dynasty, formed in 1385 to start the Portuguese State, represents a symbiosis between the interests of royalty and commerce and constitutes a centralized state power, with an economic base in land ownership, representing an “early modernity”, whose persistence ends up being fatal, as it develops economically as politically oriented capitalism, a patrimonialist form of power organization. In Weber's line, what Faoro wants to stress with the notion of politically oriented capitalism is a type of mercantile and profit enterprise that grows not in the formalization and impersonalization of the rules of competition, production, commerce and distribution, but through the privilege, the favored access, privately incorporated income and the burden absorbed by the State. Any resemblance to contemporary Brazil is not mere coincidence.

Regarding the bureaucratic establishment, it is Gabriel Cohn who warns us that, “although merchants and financiers had benefited, a new actor emerged to occupy an advantageous position in the social and power structure that was being constituted: that of experts in laws and command techniques. . Associated in a group that proved indispensable to the government of the king-owner, its members laid the foundations for the molding of a social entity capable of reproducing itself indefinitely, through the application of a principle of internal agglutination and external differentiation according to a conception of associated honor to belonging to the group. Here we have a case of what Faoro, following Weber, calls the estate. (Gabriel Cohn, 2008, p. 4)

Assuming a bureaucratic character, with the incorporation of traits of a body focused on management, this is what guarantees it relative independence from society, through which it acquires power over it, acting, fundamentally, in the interest of its own perpetuation. As a specific social configuration that covers society like a shell and does not allow the emergence of antagonisms, the full definition and expression of fundamental social actors is muffled by the bureaucratic stratum, which does not become a class, but blocks the emergence of the enterprising liberal bourgeois class . In this sense, Faoro interprets the military dictatorship as a new stage of strengthening and perpetuating the bureaucratic status, perceiving militarism as an expression of the bureaucratic status and guaranteeing the monopoly of political power for the distribution of positions.

At the end of the 70s Faoro sees in Lula and in the emergence of the new unionism a perspective of modernization and rupture with the bureaucratic establishment. Faced with the historical primacy or monopoly of initiatives by political society over civil society, Faoro soon noticed the novelty, as he brought new political actors to the stage in the institutional field in the 80s and 90s. Faoro died in 2003, which prevents us from knowing how would you interpret the PT governments, in their greater or lesser proximity and commitment to the bureaucratic status and with the patrimonialist practices of relationship between the State and private interests.

Finally: from Faoro's work we can seek important analytical elements, as well as a political perspective committed to the affirmation of democracy in Brazil. The need to break the shell of the bureaucratic establishment via the liberal bourgeoisie (provided it is constituted as such), as well as through democratic radicalization, with the mobilization of those who have historically been outside the power structures, such as the new working class on the rise from the 70s onwards. And highlighting the cultural dimension, of social relations linked to a state morality (this one is very enlightening to think about the relations between delegates, prosecutors and judges in Lava Jato). In any case, the issues raised in Os Donos do Poder and in Faoro's writings do not allow for a hasty reading, since, as can be seen, they still serve as an important reference for the entire democratic field, with a view to breaking with traditional structures of patrimonial power and estate that insist on reproducing and perpetuating.

*Rodrigo Ghiringhelli de Azevedo, sociologist, is a professor at PUC-RS.


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