Faoro, Raymundo (1925–2003)

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Faoro, Raymundo (1925–2003)

Brazilian jurist and essayist Raymundo Faoro was born April 27, 1925, in Rio Grande do Sul, of Italian forbears. Faoro received his law degree in 1948. He served as state prosecutor (procurador do estado) in Rio de Janeiro from 1951 until his retirement, and headed the Brazilian bar association (Ordem dos Advogados) as president from 1977 to 1979, during the military dictatorship. Faoro secured the reinstitution of habeas corpus and helped restore a constitutional regime through public advocacy and political journalism.

Faoro published his best-known book, Os donos do poder (The Masters of Power) in 1958; but it had a greater impact during the dictatorship, when it appeared in a revised and much-expanded edition in 1975. Faoro was the first to apply Weberian analysis to Brazilian history, and his book has joined a short list of celebrated essays on the nature of Brazilian society. Donos surveys the national experience, focusing especially on the political estate (estamento, Weber's Stand). For Faoro, this group controlled the state, which he saw as fundamentally unaltered from its Portuguese prototype.

Regarding civil society, Faoro broke with conventional historiography, which characterized nineteenth-century conservatives as owners of large estates. Faoro viewed them rather as controlling "mobile wealth": slaves and credit. It was not conservatives but liberals, he held, who predominated among latifundistas. Merchants and creditors allied with the political estate after independence in 1822. Excepting the early Empire (1831–1837) and the Old Republic (1889–1930), when relative decentralization strengthened landed elites, the political estate and its commercial allies succeeded in dominating civil society through a centralized state.

The political estate has shaped the stratified character of Brazilian society; it has been impervious to the needs of the people, but also inattentive to the demands of powerful economic interests. State dominates civil society, but the ruling estate has no clear national project. Donos is obviously influenced by Weber in its interpretation of bureaucracy, but departs from him in its ahistorical claim for the unchanging continuity of the patrimonial state. It offered an explanation of the enormous power of the contemporary Brazilian government, authoritarian and heavily engaged in parasitical enterprises when the second edition appeared. The work challenged dominant Marxist currents, among which political sociologist Nicos Poulantzas's (1936–1979) interpretation of the "exceptional capitalist state" and its "relative autonomy" was then popular in Brazil.

Donos do poder and other social and literary studies secured Faoro's election to the Brazilian Academy of Letters in 2000. Brazil's ministry of justice building was named for him in 2003.

See alsoJudicial Systems: Brazilxml .


Faoro, Raymundo. Machado de assis, a pirâmide r o trapézio. São Paulo: Companhia Editora Nacional, 1974.

Faoro, Raymundo. Os donos do poder: Formação do patronato político brasileiro, 2nd edition. Porto Alegre, Brazil: Editora Globo, 1975.

Love, Joseph L. Review of Machado de assisa, piramide e o trapezio by Raymundo Faoro. Hispanic American Historical Review 58, no. 4 (November 1978): 753-755.

Schwartzman, Simon. "Atualidade de Raymundo Faoro." Dados 46, no. 2 (2003): 207-213.

                                        Joseph L. Love