Wanderley Guilherme dos Santos – II

Image: Elyeser Szturm

By Ricardo Musse*

The book Decades of amazement and a democratic apology (Rocco, 1998), at first glance, is restricted to a reissue of three important essays by Wanderley Guilherme dos Santos. The first two “Liberal praxis in Brazil” and “Liberal praxis and regulated citizenship”, written in the 1970s, apart from minimal additions, maintain the wording of the time. “Of the oligarchy and its institutional masks” consists, in the author’s words, “in a concise, revised and updated version of the reflections” published in Return: Institutional Masks of Oligarchic Liberalism (Opera Nostra, 1994).

It seems clear that Wanderley Guilherme dos Santos did not resist the temptation, driven by the generalization of the habit of gathering scattered articles in a book, to reorganize his already published work. But this is not just a subjective demand. Once grouped, these three essays form a distinct object, a constellation that emerges with the freshness of a new and, I would almost say, unprecedented work.

Therefore, it is not convenient to ignore the reorganization introduced in Decades of amazement and a democratic apology. The joining of the three texts establishes a relationship of proximity and estrangement between them that makes the set something different from a mere regrouping of articles on liberalism. The author's decision to keep the original version of the old articles triggers, in turn, another association: assumed in their historical dimension, the essays are of interest as much for their topicality and pertinence as for their historical, documental value.

The essay “A praxis liberal no Brasil”, certainly one of the best known and discussed works by Wanderley Guilherme, was originally published in Bourgeois order and political liberalism (Two Cities, 1978). A kind of balance sheet of doctrine and liberal political action in Brazil since 1822 is outlined there.

One of its central theses maintains that few authors in the country have noticed or highlighted the historical character (and therefore, to a certain extent, accidental) of the association between concepts related to civil and political rights and the establishment of market societies. Thinking that they were two sides of the same coin, Brazilian liberals always moved within the restricted space of a false dilemma, a recurrent ambiguity brought to light for the first time by Oliveira Vianna in the 1920s: “how to build a liberal political system without a liberal society?

Once the landmarks of liberalism in Brazil have been marked out, starting from its paradoxes, Wanderley Guilherme attempts a mapping of this strand, in which two apparently conflicting currents stand out, “doctrinaire liberalism” and “instrumental authoritarianism”.

Confident in the indissolubility between basic freedoms (of association, thought, demonstration and political organization) and “the social and economic organization that equates the maximization of individual profits with the maximization of general well-being”, both aim at the same end, the implantation of the market society in Brazil, in ways, or better, through different emphases.

While doctrinaire liberals believe, in an idealistic sense, that political liberalization alone is enough to implement economic liberalism, “authoritarians” believe that only an authoritarian political system would allow for the demolition of barriers and transition to an authentically liberal social system. The tenuity of the difference between these two positions, their “at the limit” convergence, was demonstrated throughout Brazilian history both by the authoritarian action of the “doctrinaires” who rose to power and by the performance of the most characteristically liberal party in Brazilian history: the UDN.

The second essay, published a year later in Citizenship and justice (Campus, 1979), takes up – in the midst of well-documented historical research on Brazilian union and social security legislation – some topics, partially developed in the previous article, in particular, the role of the State.

If in Europe the liberal State has never neglected, at least, to guarantee the operation of the market as an efficient mechanism for the allocation of goods and values, why, among us, do we always resort to the utopia of a non-interventionist State?

Wanderley Guilherme's answer, advanced in the first essay, is that the main actor in this play, the class capable of simultaneously molding the State apparatus and society according to the logic of the market, the national bourgeoisie, did not attend. In Brazil, the bourgeoisie did not emerge as an organized class because, instead of being integrated through the mediation of a national market (and a State capable of regulating it), it was forged through the mediation of an international market whose operation was always in charge of other national states (England and then USA).

Even so, from 1840 onwards, “a protectionist ideology emerged that related true political autonomy to economic autonomy, economic autonomy to industrialization, industrialization to nationalism, and, finally, nationalism to state intervention or economic protectionism”. The social balance of these two political strategies, however, is complementary. Whether in the Old Republic or in the post-1930 State, the effort of social regulation (on the initiative of Congress or as demands of organized workers) turned, above all, to the regulation of the cumulative process and almost never to the implementation of compensatory social policies. , matrix of the State of Social Welfare.

The main consequence, drawn by Wanderlei Guilherme, of this concentration of demands in the cumulative process was the creation, from 1930 onwards, of what the author calls “regulated citizenship”. The State, while encouraging (and regulating) the differentiation of the productive structure, industrial accumulation, established a system of “social regulation” that was coextensive with it. In it, the right to citizenship prevails only within an occupational stratification scheme defined by legal norm, that is, it depends on the regulation of the profession, the existence of the professional card and the public union.

In the third article, Wanderley Guilherme changes his tone, but not his convictions. According to himself, “he replaced the aseptic style of historical reconstruction with argumentative rhetoric adjusted to contemporary conflicts”. Thus, the democratic apology almost takes the form of a libel against attempts at political reform, defended by businessmen, journalists, politicians and social scientists, who propose the introduction of mixed district voting, the reduction of the number of parties, the extinction of the compulsory voting and changes in elective quorums and parliamentary decisions. In this “impetus to manufacture social architectures”, Wanderley Guilherme sensed the threat of an “institutional return”, in a new guise, to the oligarchic regime.

It is possible to unravel in each essay, beyond the author's convictions and activism, fragments of the political debate of the time. The first essay, for example, takes a position on the ideological matrix of the military regime, an issue that at that time concerned not only the lines of continuity of Brazilian conservative thought, but also the question of its duration and the type of society that was emerging at the time. . The second essay, in turn, refers to the discussion on corporatism, national-developmentalism, the infamous “populism”, in the terminology of USP sociology.

The relevance of the book is based both on the fact that these questions remain open and are decisively important in the choice of future directions for the country, as well as on the comprehensive historical reconstruction that configures a kind of summary of Brazilian political history. However, in addition, the three essays explain the core of Wanderley Guilherme's thinking, with increasingly relevant diagnoses and prognoses.

The decisive question of Decades of amazement and a democratic apology, based on the Weberian premise that economics and politics follow their own logic, is expressed in the motto “why, in Brazil, archaic politics did not make the modern economy unfeasible and why the latter, when robust, did not immediately get rid of the former” ?

It is not completely without interest to compare Wanderley Guilherme's answer with the thesis proposed, among others, by Robert Brenner, according to which, in the emergence of capitalism, the adoption of innovative economic behaviors occurred in spite of any calculation about its consequences. policies.

The persistence, for so long, of this misunderstanding is revealing. To what extent, after all, are the limitations of the political sphere not a result of economic concentration and the profile of income distribution? Are the attempts at return not linked, here and there, to a new centralized economic order concentrated in monopoly corporations and dependent on the movements of a world market?

*Ricardo Musse He is a professor in the Department of Sociology at USP.

Revised version of article published in Journal of Reviews.

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