Furtado, Celso (1920–2004)

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Furtado, Celso (1920–2004)

Celso Furtado (b. 26 July 1920; d. 20 November 2004), public administrator, economic development theorist, economic historian, and educator. Born in Pombal, Paraíba, Brazil, Celso Furtado received an M.A. from the University of Brazil (1944) and a Ph.D. from the University of Paris (1948). As director of the Economic Development Division of the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America (ECLA) from 1949 through 1953 in Santiago, Furtado argued that developing Latin American economies required agrarian reform and import-substituting industrialization. In 1953 he was given the chance to advance these ideas when he became head of a Joint Study Group established by ECLA and the Brazilian National Bank for Economic Development. The group's seven-year plan for Brazil, reported in 1956 and 1957, became the structure of President Juscelino Kubitschek's economic development program.

After teaching at Cambridge (1958) and returning to Santiago, Furtado joined forces in Brazil with the Working Group for the Development of the Northeast. Furtado prepared a plan calling for colonizing frontier areas, boosting electricity supply, changing the agrarian structure, industrialization, and creating the Development Superintendency for the Northeast (Sudene). Sudene was established in 1959, with Furtado serving until 1964 as its superintendent. In 1961, at Furtado's prompting, President Jânio Quadros initiated a system of fiscal incentives to encourage Brazilian companies to invest in the Northeast. In July 1961, Furtado met with U.S. President John Kennedy and, by some accounts, persuaded him that the Northeast could be a showcase for the Alliance for Progress. In 1962, the U.S. Agency for International Development pledged $131 million to develop the region.

Late in 1962, President João Goulart named Furtado Brazil's first minister of planning. The Goulart administration's attempts to slow inflation through fiscal reform failed, and in June 1963 Furtado resigned. Ten days after seizing power in 1964, Brazil's generals included Furtado on the list of those deprived of their political rights, causing him to leave the country.

Furtado was a visiting professor at Harvard, Cambridge (1973–1974), and Columbia (1977), a professor at the Sorbonne (1965–1979), and in 1980 became director of research at the College for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences at the University of Paris. He was later invited to participate in the Government Planning Commission, and was the minister of culture under José Sarney (1986–1988). He was a candidate for the Nobel Prize in Economics, and in 1997 was elected to the Academia Brasileira de Letras. His principal books include Formação econômica do Brasil (1959; The Economic Growth of Brazil, 1963), Formação econômica da América Latina (1969; Economic Development of Latin America, 1970), Teoria e política do desenvolvimento econômico (1967), Um projeto para o Brasil (1968), O mito do desenvolvimente econômico (1974), Transformação e crise na economia mundial (1987), and O capitalismo global (1998).

See alsoAgrarian Reform; Brazil, Organizations: Development Superintendency of the Northeast (SUDENE); Brazil, Organizations: National Bank for Economic Development (BNDE); Economic Development.


Dell, Edmund. Brazil: The Dilemma of Reform. London: Fabian Society, 1964.

Mallorquín, Carlos. "El institutionalismo norteamericano y el estructuralismo latinoamericano: ¿Discursos compatibles?" Revista Mexicana de Sociología (January 2001): 71-108.

                                     David Denslow