Cardoso, Fernando Henrique (1931–)

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Cardoso, Fernando Henrique (1931–)

Fernando Henrique Cardoso is a Brazilian statesman and sociologist who became well known as an academic exponent of dependency theory, which he later disavowed. He was president of Brazil from 1995 through 2002.

Cardoso studied sociology with Roger Bastide and Florestan Fernandes at the University of São Paulo, and taught there until the 1964 military coup, after which he left Brazil. While in exile in Santiago, Chile, Cardoso contributed signally to dependency analysis at a moment when importsubstitution industrialization (ISI) seemed to have failed. The structuralist economist Celso Furtado had already asserted the connection between development and underdevelopment, and argued that economic phenomena had to be understood in a historical framework. In the mid- and latter 1960s Cardoso and his collaborator Enzo Faletto extended the analysis into social relations. Pessimistic about development led by national bourgeoisies as a result of his earlier research, Cardoso saw dependency as a historical situation not solely determined by a dynamic capitalist center, but one in which a complex internal dynamic of class conflict also existed in dependent countries of the less-industrialized periphery. He accepted the structuralists' argument that the center gains more from exchange than the periphery through the latter's deteriorating terms of trade. But he stressed mutual interests among social classes across the international system-in particular, those of the bourgeoisies of center and periphery. Cardoso and Faletto linked the failure of populism with the stagnation of ISI, viewing authoritarian regimes as necessary to secure political demobilization of the masses.

Yet unlike some other contributors to dependency theory (notably Andre Gunder Frank and Ruy Mauro Marini), Cardoso emphasized shifting alliances and a range of historical possibilities. For Latin American economies controlled by local bourgeoisies, he saw the option of associated dependent development. Like other dependency theorists he saw the international system, not the nation-state, as the proper unit of analysis; development and underdevelopment were locations in the international economic system, not stages. Cardoso also denied that dependency theory (for him, a variety of Marxism) could be made to yield a useful method of quantitative analysis, but saw it as a framework for historical analysis of a specific dialectical process.

Cardoso returned to Brazil in 1968, opposed the military dictatorship, and became head of Centro Brasileiro de Análise e Planejamento (CEBRAP), a social science research institute in São Paulo. He was elected to the Brazilian senate in 1983 on the ticket of the Partido do Movimento Democrático Brasileiro (PMDB). In 1988 he helped form the Partido da Social Democracia Brasileira (PSDB), a group that split away from the PMDB.

Following the impeachment of President Fernando Collor de Melo, Cardoso became foreign minister in the cabinet of Itamar Franco, Collor's successor, in October 1992. In May 1993, Cardoso was named finance minister, the most powerful cabinet post. In this capacity, he began the process that brought Brazil's rampant inflation under control by introducing a new unit of currency, the real, and its success made him the leading candidate for the presidency. In October 1994 Cardoso was elected by direct popular vote, having publicly disavowed many of his theses about dependency.

Cardoso broke inflation partly through budget cuts and higher taxes, but chiefly by borrowing abroad and later by selling state assets to cover revenue shortfalls. Inflation fell from 2,400 percent per annum in 1994 to 9 percent in 1999, and Cardoso ended indexation, his predecessors' device for raising prices and wages together to avoid relative distortions. Yet during the Cardoso years, overall GDP growth was unimpressive and erratic, buffeted by the Mexican, Asian, Russian, and Argentine financial crises of 1993 to 2001. Brazil could attract foreign capital only with high interest rates, which provided the prop for a high exchange rate for the real. As a consequence Brazilian goods were less competitive in the world market, and high domestic interest rates discouraged private investment. In the late 1990s the government took over a number of failed state banks and Brazil's international debt increased sharply.

Privatization of electricity and telecommunications also increased government revenues. Even the national oil monopoly, Petrobrás, privatized some ancillary operations. Through a combination of peasant mobilization by the Movimento dos Sem Terra and government legal action, some 600,000 families gained title to land in the Cardoso administration. Although the government instituted a number of other social reforms (e.g., the Bolsa Escola, to keep poor children in school) it was unable to reform the national pension plan, a costly fiscal burden at state and national levels. Government weakness arose from Cardoso's absorption in amending the constitution to permit his re-election in 1998, and from his fissiparous coalition in Congress, which remained unstable throughout his second term. He was succeeded by Luis Inácio Lula da Silva in 2003. Cardoso remained one of the leading figures in the PSDP, and the country's most prestigious elder statesman. As of 2007, he was also active in international circuits concerned with North-South relations, lecturing frequently in foreign universities.

See alsoBrazil, Political Parties: Party of Brazilian Social Democracy (PSDB); Dependency Theory; Economic Development; Inflation.


Baer, Werner. The Brazilian Economy: Growth and Development. 5th ed. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2001.

Cardoso, Fernando Henrique, and Enzo Faletto. Dependency and Development in Latin America. Translated by Marjory Mattingly Urquidi. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1979.

Cardoso, Fernando Henrique, with Brian Winter. The Accidental President of Brazil: A Memoir. New York: Public Affairs, 2006.

Goertzel, Ted G. Fernando Henrique Cardoso: Reinventing Democracy in Brazil. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 1999.

Love, Joseph L. "The Origins of Dependency Analysis." Journal of Latin American Studies 22, no. 1 (February 1990): 143-168.

                                   Joseph L. Love

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Cardoso, Fernando Henrique (1931–)

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