For Social Peace in Brazil: Industrialists and the Remaking of the Working Class in Sao Paulo, 1920-1964.
One aspect of Brazilian studies that excites controversy and debate surrounds labor. Barbara Weinstein's excellent new study of Sao Paulo's industrialists contributes to the discussion by breaking from the traditional historiography in two ways. First, Weinstein rejects the idea that the discourse of the industrial class was simply a mask for labor control strategies, proposing instead that it was a means by which industrialists remade themselves. Second, in For Social Peace, the author asserts that the vision of the "intellectually flawed and politically inept" industrialists that had dominated studies of Sao Paulo industrialization is mistaken (9). Rather, Weinstein shows an intelligent and cunning group of industrialists who sought to lead Brazil to recreate itself along urban-industrial lines.
A theme that runs throughout For Social Peace is how rationalization, a strategy of productivity rather than labor control, was implemented by industrialists. This was a slow process and some of the most influential proponents of "perfect organization," such as Roberto Simonsen and Roberto Mange, were not easily able to put their ideas into practice (13). Weinstein does not see this difficulty as a result of worker intransigence although the evidence she proposes (from the printer's newspaper, O Trabalhador Grcifico) is not extensive enough to move beyond the suggestive.
Weinstein's discussion is particularly strong in its examination of the public discourse. She describes how industrialists connected with intellectuals in the 1930s to create a wideranging elite language of rationalization, focusing on how the state might play the pivotal (and perhaps even-handed) role in capital/labor relations. Much of Weinstein's documentation comes from those at the top, and she shows how industry and politics merged in the years prior to the establishment of the Estado Novo. This evidence makes her argument on the power of elite discourse particularly convincing, especially when targeted on the establishment of the SENAI (National Service for Industrial Training--1942) and SESI (Industrial Social Service--1946).
One of the most fascinating chapters of For Social Peace examines how industrialists and their allies sought to reconstruct the image of workers in the 1950s. Digging deeply into a traditional discourse that suggested that Brazilian workers were morally degraded (as both workers and consumers), Weinstein neatly links the 1950s (a period of ostensible democracy) to the first half of the 1940s when the Vargas dictatorship was deeply enmeshed in a brasilidade (Brazilianization) campaign. Casting her net in creative ways, Weinstein shows that industrialists constructed everything from carnival to gender within a pattern of elite discourse unrelated to the political system of the moment. Since the brasilidade campaign emerged in large part from the eugenics movement of the 1920s, Weinstein makes a critical contribution to the scholarship by showing continuity, rather than change, in twentieth-century Brazil. In a final, substantive chapter, Weinstein demonstrates continuity into the 1960s when social peace was redefined along the "national security" lines of the military dictatorship.
While the histories of SENAI and SESI form the base of For Social Peace in Brazil, Barbara Weinstein has done much, much more than an institutional history. By probing the discourse of the industrialist elite, and by putting to the test much of the canon surrounding the group, she has produced an important new look at modern Brazil.
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|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||Jun 22, 1998|
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