5938 - Brazilian Elites, 1880-1950

This paper will accomplish four goals. First, it presents a review of the ways in which “elite-hood” has been conceived in the historical literature on modern Brazil, ranging from “hard” definitions (largely based on political-power-based metrics) to softer ones (in which the implicit or explicit assumption is that political power and economic standing are coextensive). Second, under the heading “Political Elites in Brazil, 1880-1950,” it presents a summary history of political “elite-hood” centered on habitat: for the first ten years of this period, there was a national political elite whose members were Rio-based and who served at the pleasure of the royal family; for the next forty-odd years, political elites emerged from or served at the behest of regional political groupings based in Brazil’s provincial units; from 1937 onward, a process of centralization began whose architects may have wanted to reimpose Rio’s dominance but who were forced by reasons of personnel and power to treat with regional political groupings to a far greater extent than their monarchical predecessors. Third, under the heading “Economic Elites in Brazil, 1880-1950,” it offers an interpretation of economic “elite-hood” that is similarly centered on habitat but that presents a different trajectory, or, rather, it presents no trajectory at all: put simply, there was no such thing as a national economic elite during this period, as even the country’s most influential captains of industry, agriculture, finance, commerce, and urban real estate operated on exclusively local or regional bases. A final section considers “Other Elites” in the context of what the panel coordinators call “el ingreso pleno…en la sociedad de masas.” Brazil’s entry into mass-society status was halting and uneven, but even at its postwar incipience one may discern the emergence of bureaucratic, managerial, and professional elites who would prove enormously influential in the shaping of subsequent Brazilian history.

Keywords: Brazil, Elites, History

Author: Woodard, James (Montclair State University, Ud States of Am / USA)


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