University of São Paulo: For Caio Prado Júnior, the economy is inseparable from history

IT’Sin history, in the concrete facts of the formation and evolution of our nationality, which is the basic and essential material necessary for the understanding of the current Brazilian reality and its interpretation with a view to the elaboration of a policy destined to promote and stimulate development. Today’s Brazil is still closely intertwined with its past and, therefore, cannot be understood except in the perspective and in the light of that past. Economic development and growth constitute an essentially historical theme and, contrary to the treatment given to them by economists, they cannot be included in analytical models with a high level of abstraction.


These sentences are taken from the first chapter of the book History and Development – ​​The Contribution of Historiography to the Theory and Practice of Brazilian Development , by Caio Prado Júnior (1907-1990). The work opens the Caio Prado Júnior Collection, by Editora Boitempo, which announces the re-edition of books and essays by the São Paulo intellectual (read the text below) .

History and Developmentwas originally written in 1968 as a thesis for the professorship contest for the Chair of the History of Brazilian Civilization at USP. The contest did not take place due to the removal of professors from USP, enacted based on Institutional Act Number 5 (AI-5), of 1968, which included the name of Caio Prado Júnior, although he was not a professor at the University. The book would only be released in 1972 by Editora Brasiliense – founded in 1943 by Caio Prado Júnior, Monteiro Lobato and other intellectuals – and would have two more editions, in 1978 and 1989. Now, the Boitempo edition includes a preface by the sociologist and professor at USP Florestan Fernandes (1920-1995) – published in the 1989 edition – and an unpublished afterword signed by economist Leda Paulani, professor at USP’s School of Economics, Administration and Accounting (FEA).

Against orthodox theories
In the first pages of History and Development, Caio Prado Júnior criticizes the ideas of the North American economist Walt Whitman Rostow (1916-2003), an exponent of orthodox economic thought in the 1960s. According to these ideas, underdeveloped nations would be at a stage prior to the stage reached by the core capitalist countries and, for them, reaching that stage would only be a matter of time. For Caio Prado Júnior, the models used in orthodox economic analysis are just the mathematical expression of the economic facts as they unfolded in societies that reached a high degree of maturity in the capitalist relations of production. “It soon becomes clear how such models are poorly suited, or not at all, for the visualization and analysis of facts that are not precisely those on which they were built, that is, the characteristic facts of a mature capitalism”, writes the intellectual. “This refers, in a flagrant way, to countries of our socioeconomic structure that, although framed in the general system of capitalism, are far from presenting a structure, an economic behavior and even production relations that, as a whole, can be identified with what happens in highly mature capitalist societies.”


Then, Caio Prado Júnior is dedicated to exposing the “march” of Brazilian history, in order to identify “the fundamental meaning that conditioned our formation, evolution and particular way of being”. Resuming theses defended in the Formation of Contemporary Brazil– his main work, published in 1942 -, he highlights the importance of sugar production for the colonial economy, focused on export, cultivated on large properties, based on slave labor and directed directly by the owner. “It is large-scale exploitation, which, combining extensive areas and numerous workers, constituted a single collective organization of work and production”, explains Caio Prado Júnior, recalling that this agrarian economic structure implemented in the 16th century crossed the centuries without virtually no modification. “It is within this framework that the whole of the colonial economy will be arranged; and on this basis Brazilian society will be organized.”

The inexistence of an internal market – muffled by the economic structure exclusively focused on exports -, the precarious nutrition of the Brazilian population, the exhaustion of the colonial regime and the impacts of the Industrial Revolution and the new international order in the 18th and 19th centuries are other factors. themes treated by Caio Prado Júnior in History and Development. “According to our author, even though the social structure has become more complex, Brazilian society preserved these primeval traits, above all the usual economic inferiorization of its working and popular classes”, states economist Leda Paulani in her afterword, referring to to Caio Prado Júnior’s analysis of the class structure that, according to him, Brazil inherited from its colonial past. “What can be deduced, therefore, is that without the transformation of this situation, the restricted character of the internal market would not disappear, development would not come and the Brazilian economy would remain a mere marginal and peripheral appendage of the developed center.”

History and Development – ​​The Contribution of Historiography to the Theory and Practice of Brazilian Development , by Caio Prado Júnior, Editora Boitempo, 144 pages, R$ 45.00.

Collection includes unpublished collections by the São Paulo intellectual

The Caio Prado Júnior Collection, by Editora Boitempo, will publish at least seven volumes with texts by Caio Prado Júnior. “The demand from readers for several works by the São Paulo intellectual has been great, since some of his works have not been republished for decades”, writes in the presentation of História e Desenvolvimento – the first volume of the series, released at the end of last year – the Professor Luiz Bernardo Pericás, from the Department of History at the Faculty of Philosophy, Letters and Human Sciences (FFLCH) at USP, who is the coordinator of the collection. “Hence the importance of this initiative, which will bring to the public lesser-known facets of one of the most important interpreters of our reality, making available to new generations from the writings of Caio Prado Júnior’s youth to his articles from the stage of maturity.”

After History and Development , it is planned to publish, in the second half of this year, a volume with two essays, USSR, A Novo Mundo and O Mundo do Socialismo , written in 1934 and 1962, respectively, after the intellectual’s trips to Eastern Europe. .

Another volume in the series will be Sketch of the Fundamentals of Economic Theory , a book published in 1957 in which Caio Prado Júnior shows the need to formulate an economic theory that considers the characteristics of underdeveloped countries.

O Structuralismo de Levi-Strauss and O Marxismo de Louis Althusser, two essays from 1971, will form another book in the Caio Prado Júnior Collection, which will also include Guidelines for a Brazilian Economic Policy , from 1954.

Two volumes of the collection will be dedicated to unpublished collections organized by Pericás. One of them will bring together articles by Caio Prado Júnior published between the 30s and 70s in different newspapers and magazines, such as Novos Rumos , Fundamentos e Encontros com a Civilização Brasileira . The other collection will consist of all the articles by the intellectual published in Revista Brasiliense , founded by Caio Prado Júnior, which circulated between 1955 and 1964.

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