Simonsen, Roberto Cochrane (1889–1948)

views updated

Simonsen, Roberto Cochrane (1889–1948)

Roberto Cochrane Simonsen (b. 18 February 1889; d. 25 May 1948), Brazilian economist and industrialist. Raised in the port city of Santos, Simonsen studied engineering at São Paulo's Escola Politécnica. He graduated in 1909. In the 1910s, as director of a construction company in Santos, Simonsen experimented with methods of scientific management as well as with new forms of labor negotiation.

In the 1920s and 1930s, Simonsen became Brazil's most prominent advocate of industrialization, and emerged as the leading spokesman for São Paulo's powerful industrialist federation. In 1933 he founded the Escola Livre de Sociologia e Política; his appointment as professor of economic history at this institution for advanced study in the social sciences led him to compose his most famous work, História econômica do Brasil, 1500–1820 (1937).

By the late 1930s Simonsen had become a supporter of the authoritarian regime of Getúlio Vargas, participating in several national economic commissions in which he called for protective tariffs, state intervention, and economic planning to promote industrial development. Simonsen energetically defended this position at the end of World War II, when Brazil faced intensified foreign competition and U.S. pressure for a return to liberal trade policies.

With the transition to electoral politics, Simonsen successfully ran for the federal senate in 1947. As senator he continued to promote the interests of industry, calling for the suppression of the newly legalized Communist Party, which he considered the chief threat to "social peace." Simonsen died while delivering an address to the Brazilian Academy of Letters, to which he had been elected in 1946.

See alsoVargas, Getúlio Dornelles .


The best collection of Simonsen's writings is Evolução industrial do Brasil e outros estudos (1973). A brief biography emphasizing Simonsen's professional accomplishments can be found in Heitor Ferreira Lima, Três industrialistas brasileiros (1976), especially pp. 141-185. On Simonsen's role in promoting industrialization, see Warren Dean, The Industrialization of São Paulo, 1880–1945 (1969), and Marisa Saenz Leme, A ideologia dos industriais brasileiros, 1919–1945 (1979).

Additional Bibliography

Carone, Edgard. A evolução industrial de São Paulo, 1889–1930. São Paulo: Editora SENAC São Paulo, 2000.

Weinstein, Barbara. For Social Peace in Brazil: Industrialists and the Remaking of the Working Class in São Paulo, 1920–1964. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996.

                                       Barbara Weinstein