Wanderley Guilherme dos Santos

Image Elyeser Szturm

By Candido Mendes*

The presence of Wanderley Guilherme dos Santos in our spiritual life has a double dimension. We owe him the advancement of our critical thinking of modernity, along with the implantation of the social sciences in the insertion of Brazilian development. It is the dimension of relevance that leads him to search for meaning, in the best dramatic perspective and in the vision of the entire universe of power. There is no other inquisitive mode of the text Who will carry out the coup in Brazil?

Wanderley participated in this unfolding of the didactic canons of our understanding in the middle of the last century and in what was then the laboratory of Iseb, the Instituto Superior de Estudos Brasileiros. In this teaching, he joined Álvaro Vieira Pinto, as his assistant, in the chair of History of Philosophy, in the newly created faculty (of the same qualification) at the University of Brazil. Alongside the titleholder, he participated in the pioneering spirit of our epistemological reflection, for which Vieira Pinto gave us the study of the counterpoint between critical consciousness and naive consciousness, in our exit from colonial dependence.

In the long-term unfolding of this commitment that emerged from the Isebian framework, pursued by the military dictatorship, Wanderley moved to Candido Mendes University, when the University Research Institute of Rio de Janeiro (Iuperj) was founded, which had him as its first director. We tried to maintain what Iseb had proposed, as the truly prospective dimension of our “what to do”, in the demand for the project of a Brazil “for itself”, from which the nationalism of the 1950s emerged, in arguably founding terms.

What always marks Wanderley's thought is the broad claim of Erasmus of Rotterdam, when he always finds, in the knot of social tensions, the clamor for the universal and, in the sense that Baudrillard gives it, the effective phenomenology of the event. This is demonstrated by the cardinal points of his research over these decades: electoral competition and comparative parliamentary renewal; crisis and sequences of political organization; globalization, definitions, measures and evidence; costs of status quo and costs of class action failure; natural democracy and governability.

The scale of discourse of texts such as Decades of amazement and a democratic apology ou The former Brazilian leviathan. Wanderley always ensured the absolute contemporaneity of his meditation, in the United States, during his doctorate at Stanford and, later, as a visiting professor at Madison and as holder of the Edward Tinker chair at Stanford. The permanent impact of his message is born of a heuristic, almost in the temptation of the parable, added to the explanation. For no other reason, it can focus on concepts such as “social inertia”, “collective failure” or the “calculation of conflict”.

And, in this at ease with the logic of extreme situations, he goes to the paradoxes in the reading of the systemic organization, within our historical process, and in the focus of total social phenomena, such as liberalism and the framework, always non-reductive, of the debate of ideologies, based on the fullness of their praxis.

Ensuring the wisdom of the paradox, Wanderley's thought is, more than ever, demanded by the acceleration of the new contemporary counterpoints brought by Isis, by secularization, by institutional tiredness or by the new international configurations, measured by the breakdown of the globalizations of modernity in emergence and claim for differences in the collective identity of postmodernity.

*Candido Mendes he is rector of Candido Mendes University and member of the Brazilian Academy of Letters.


Wanderley Guilherme dos Santos. Who will carry out the coup in Brazil?. People's Notebooks Collection, vol. 5. Brazilian Civilization, 1962.

Available in https://www.marxists.org/portugues/tematica/livros/diversos/quem.pdf

Wanderley Guilherme dos Santos. Decades of amazement and a democratic apology. Rio de Janeiro, Rocco, 1998 (https://amzn.to/3YXLsEp).

Wanderley Guilherme dos Santos. The former Brazilian leviathan. From dispersed voting to concentrated clientelism. Rio de Janeiro, Brazilian Civilization, 2006 (https://amzn.to/3YJzgGZ).

Wanderley Guilherme dos Santos. The calculation of the conflict. Editora UFMG, 2003.”

See this link for all articles