The New Society Emerging in Brazil

Quotes from an Interview with Fernando Henrique Cardoso

On August 8, 1999, O Globo published an interview of Cardoso by Jorge Bastos Moreno, in which Cardoso outlined his views about developments in Brazilian society.  He thought that a "silent" middle class was emerging which voted, but which was not represented in the traditional political channels.  Here are translations of Cardoso's quotes in the interview.

The New Society.  I have not referred only to a new middle class.  I have referred to a new society.  By saying that it is new, I am not saying that it is better, worse or equal to the new society. I am only affirming that there have been many changes and that these changes have modified the relationships between social groups and classes.  In the first place, there has been an immense segmentation or even fragmentation of the old classes.  This has been the consequence of shifts which have taken place, over the last few decades, in the economy, the culture, and the educational system, along with profound changes in a number of important social values.  In this new society, certain segments have certainly lost status and prestige, while others have gained, and still others have remained at the margin.   Many of those who had considerable prestige have not only lost it, but have lost their central role in the dynamic centers of the new society, and in the centers of decision making.  Let us have some examples.  With respect to the working classes, at the same time as a new strata of workers developed, after World War II and especially in the last 30 years, there has been a very great acceleration in the industrial development of Brazil.  New dynamic centers have been formed, particularly in the Center-South of the country.  This new class was symbolized by Sao Bernardo, by the ABC Paulista.  This new strata was counterpoised to the old working class, which up until then was concentrated in the textile industry, in the construction industries, in the more traditional industries.  This new class gained an enormous initiative, particularly in the decades of the 70s and the 80s.  And the old classes of workers, the old labor unions, those of the printers (graficos), the textile workers, etc., lose political dynamism, feeling pushed aside by the steel workers, the bank employees, the chemical works, and so on.

Crisis in the Industrial Suburbs of São Paulo.  Today we see that in the ABC of São Paulo [industrial suburbs of the city of São Paulo which developed major steel, auto and other heavy industry in the 1970s and 1980s] there is a crisis.   This is not to say that the ABC is not going forward, but it is advancing in other sectors.  Primarily the service sector.   This does not mean that the working class which is unionized and integrated into the system has disappeared.  It continues.  The political and labor representatives of this class, which were formed in the 1970s and 1980s, are still present.  But they do not fully incorporate even the traditional working class, because these, over time, have been losing predominance in the social and political life of Brazil.  Nor do they represent the new sectors that, although existing in the interior of São Paulo, of Paraná, of Santa Catarina, of Minas, of Rio Grande do Sul, and even of the Northeast.  In those states there is a growth of sectors of the working class who do not have the same, let us say, influence in the decision making processes that was exercised by the sectors of the working class that were new in the 1970s and 1980s.  These continue to participate [in the political process], but they are not the carriers of new dynamism.  And there are new kinds of occupations, which are not exactly categories of employment.  For example, the whole sector of information services [informatica], the also new sector of training, many cultural activities, in which there are workers in the broad sense of this term, who are not workers in the strict sense of the term and who have an enormous presence and very little representation, very little labor organization.

Changes in the Labor Market.  It is well known that a large number of workers are leaving the formal labor market, characterized by stable employment in an occupation, to join the informal labor market.  In the past, this informal market was thought of as a species of sub employment.  But this is no longer necessarily the case.  There is an informal market which is not sub employment.  At times, as some studies have shown, informal workers have incomes which are larger than their co-workers in the formal sector.  Despite this, labor legislation does not cover them.  The rules that regulate working conditions are applicable to the more traditional sector.   Nor are these informal sectors represented by labor unions, despite their heavy weight in the labor force.  I do not wish to say that there is not sub employment.  Obviously, sub employment does exist:  there is an other great category of the Brazilian population which is not included either in the informal sector, in regular activities which are well remunerated, nor, obviously, in the formal sector.

Dislocation in the Countryside.  In the countryside, there has been an enormous dislocation of populations.  Even to the point of exclusion.  The movement of the landless-farmers [sem terra] is an example.  And the exclusion is not only in the countryside.  The movement of the landless-farmers - to the extent that there has also been a strong movement of agrarian reform, of settling families in the countryside, of programs providing support to these sectors, such as Pronaf and Procera - these measures have diminished the mass of pressure from this group.  As a result of this change, the social movements from the countryside, such as the MST [Landless Farmers' Movement], have turned to recruiting in the cities.  There they recruit those who, because they are in the cities, are excluded from the new dynamism in the country side, or at times even from the inertia in the countryside.

The Old Middle Class.  The bureaucratic middle classes, that is to say those which are tied to the State, have lost their central political role, and a great part of the ability to exercise political pressure which they had in the past.  But they still exercise pressure, particularly the bureaucratic middle classes tied to state enterprises.  They react, for example, against privatization, against the transformations which are occurring also in the relationship between the State and the productive private sector.  These sectors of the middle class adhere to a series of conceptions which for them correspond to the national interest, but in reality correspond to their own interests, to their desire to retain comfortable positions in the bureaucratic Brazil of the past.  These sectors probably will lose - they still have the ability to express themselves, but they will lose - political centrality.  To the extent that Brazil continues to modernize, new poles of dynamism will emerge.

The New Middle Class.  On the other side there is a new middle class.  Consider Rio de Janeiro.  All the development, not only in the automobile sector - an automobile industry even more modernized than that in the ABC - but overall the petroleum and telecommunications industries, all this opens new opportunities, not only for workers, but for people of the middle class, all this has opened new opportunities, not only for workers, but for people of the middle class.  A middle class which is is now certainly tied to the most modern part of the productive sector.  There are, also, not options for the professionalization of the middle class.  For example, all the sectors related to information services, to the area of advertising and public relations, in fact, to many activities tied to the dynamism of contemporary society.  This is without mentioning the new middle classes that work in industry, in the fields of engineering, design, creative work, in technological development, which are also an important part of the activity.  In São Paulo, look at how this is happening in the space and aviation industries.  In São José dos Campos there is a strong rebirth of technical sectors of the middle class that were without opportunities in the past and which have returned to have or begun to have great opportunities.  This is spreading throughout the modern interior of Brazil, which includes São Paulo and also a good part of Minas, parts of Goiás, of Paraná, of Santa Catarina, of Rio Grade do sul and of Rio.

Unfortunately, my source did not send me the final page of this interview, which is why it ends abruptly.  I do not know how much was left, butbased on the commentary I suspect the most important points have been covered here.