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New Left Review I/25, May-June 1964

Octavio Ianni

Political Process and Economic Development in Brazil (Part I)

Political process and Economic development in Brazil—I

In the last 40 years, the people of Brazil have broken stifling traditional constraints on their life, and have begun to develop their productive forces, to renovate their social institutions and to frame innumerable projects for the mastery of their own future. As they turn away from the bleak and narrow horizons of a colonial existence, the Brazilian people are visibly enriching their own economic, political and cultural life and are taking their destiny more and more into their own hands. To understand the importance of this change, it must be realized that in the last decades Brazil has been transformed from a predominantly agrarian into a predominantly urban and industrial civilization. A society dominated by tradition and by a communal way of life has been radically remoulded—into the rational patterns of the capitalist universe. A society whose basic political institution was coronelismo—rule by ‘colonels’—has seen the rise of populism, an intermediate stage in the development of the political consciousness of the propertyless masses. [1] ‘Colonel’ in Brazil did no necessarily mean a member or ex-member of the armed forces. It was an honorary or courtesy title given to big landowners, the lords of rural society, who by virtue of tradition and economic position appointed nearly all the deputies in parliament until the 1930 revolution, and thus controlled the political life of the country.. Social classes remain unstructured and therefore lack crystallized visions of the world. Thus today, political organization reflects the ambiguities of a social system in transition.

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Octavio Ianni, ‘Political Process and Economic Development in Brazil (Part I)’, NLR I/25: £3

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