The transition debate in Brazilian history: The bourgeois paradigm and its critique

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The origins of capitalism in Brazil have been traditionally overlooked by the literature on its developmental trajectory, either considered as an outcome of colonial exploitation or described through a broad notion of ‘bourgeois revolution’. The recent discussion between the consequentialist interpretation of bourgeois revolutions and the Political Marxist critique of the bourgeois paradigm allows for a reassessment of these narratives, with a stronger emphasis on the specific disputes of early-20th-century Brazil. In this paper, I engage with Florestan Fernandes as the main representative of the bourgeois paradigm within Brazil. As an alternative, I present a reassessment of the ‘capitalist transition’ understood as a set of social property relations organised around market dependency. By tracing this form of market dependency through Brazilian historiography, I present a narrative that posits the development of capitalism in Brazil through the nonrevolutionary rise of an industrial bourgeoisie during the Old Republic and the competing strategies of declining (British) and rising (US/Germany) financial imperialism in the 1920s. Therefore, it highlights the role of (geo)political disputes by pointing towards the policy changes introduced by the Vargas regime in the 1930s as a key factor in the transition to capitalism in Brazil.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)263-284
JournalJournal of Agrarian Change
Issue number2
Early online date22 Sept 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2021


  • bourgeois revolution
  • Brazil
  • capitalism
  • Political Marxism
  • transition debate

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