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Tempo Social

Print version ISSN 0103-2070

Tempo soc. vol.4 São Paulo  2008


Pioneering generations in São Paulo sociology (1934-1969)


Gerações pioneiras na sociologia paulista (1934 -1969)



Luiz Carlos Jackson

Translated by Anthony Doyle
Translation from Tempo Social, São Paulo, v.19, n.1, p.115-130, Nov 2007.




This article examines lines of research and works consolidated during the period when the social sciences were being institutionalized in São Paulo, basing its interpretation on the social and political ties established between agents (individuals, groups and institutions) involved in this process, both inside and outside the intellectual field being formed. As part of this examination, the analysis focuses on a number of careers, looking to bring to light the meanings that guided social practices in this context.

Keywords: São Paulo School of Sociology; Intellectual field; Careers; Works.


Este artigo interpreta linhas de pesquisa e obras consagradas durante o período de institucionalização das ciências sociais em São Paulo a partir dos vínculos sociais e políticos estabelecidos entre agentes (indivíduos, grupos e instituições) desse processo, interna e externamente ao campo intelectual em formação. Nessa direção, algumas trajetórias são privilegiadas na análise, tendo em vista esclarecer sentidos prováveis que teriam direcionado as práticas sociais nesse contexto.

Palavras-chave: Sociologia paulista; Campo intelectual; Trajetórias; Obras.



Investigating the meaning of the intellectual and social experience engendered in São Paulo by the institutionalization of the social sciences, which began with the creation of the Escola Livre de Sociologia e Política - ELSP (Free School of Sociology and Politics) in 1933 and the Faculdade de Filosofia Ciências e Letras - FFCL-USP (Faculty of Philosophy, Sciences and Letters, University of São Paulo) in 19341, requires, first and foremost, some justification. As such, I will separate the analyses conducted by the protagonists of the process from those undertaken by others, mostly from the 1980s on.    

One of the consequences of the university reform that took place at USP in the 1960s and the nationalization of post-graduate courses the following decade was the effective constitution of academic specialities. While thematic or theoretical groupings sparked a certain progressive differentiation from the 1940s onwards, almost all academic output in the social sciences focused on Brazilian modernization, which saw a shift from the original emphasis that had hitherto rallied the national intelligence, namely a drive to understand the constitutive process of our social, economic, political and cultural formation. Analysis of the changes or possibilities (and impasses) of Brazilian social reform or revolution set the near-compulsory direction for all respected lines of research during the period2. The analytical perspectives varied, but the goal was effectively the same for all, which is why, up to the end of the 60s, the relatively small community of social scientists maintained a direct internal dialogue, unlike what came to occur thereafter, when progressive specialization forced a thematic dispersion and the formation of groups as per research area.  

The abovementioned differentiation between works on the history of the social sciences by those who actually experienced the autonomization of the field and those by authors writing during its later internal segmentation resides in the latter's rupture with the former's inherent goal of taking sides in the debate on Brazilian modernization. Nevertheless, it becomes decisive to position oneself methodologically and theoretically within the specific area under construction, in this case the social sciences themselves. In fact, this speciality typically pits two perspectives against each other: one which retains much of the political dimension that situates it closer to the earlier period and its debate on Brazilian development and a history of ideas; and another that insists on the strictly sociological reconstruction of the academic field with a view to devising a sociology of intellectuals.

The core concern of the first of these two orientations is the analysis of texts, contextualized by the suggested interpretations of (and methodological options for) the social processes under study and the wider-reaching historical configurations from which they arose. In the second, precedence is given to the sociological reconstruction of specific means (and their relations with the decision-making centres and development agencies) through which intellectual activity takes place, set against a backdrop of disputes motivated by possibilities of access to and control over the dominant positions in the field of activity in question. Inspired by certain recent works3, the aim of this paper is to try to reconcile these two perspectives while underscoring the prevalence of the latter, which is, as I see it, necessary to the realization of the goals of the former.        

The changes that came with the institutionalization of the social sciences in São Paulo defined new conditions for possible intellectual production, initially within the local sphere, though the process broadened progressively in Brazil thereafter, despite the difficulties that bedevilled a similar experiment in Rio de Janeiro in the 1930s. This process4 was made possible by the availability of public and private funding, so vital to the success or failure of the teaching and research institutions created during the period. Another important aspect was the degree of autonomy wrestled from the hubs of political power properly speaking, which in the case of São Paulo proved particularly favourable.      

In Rio de Janeiro, the centre of Brazilian political life in the first half of the 20th Century, the Faculdade de Filosofia, Ciências e Letras (known as the Faculdade Nacional de Filosofia, da Universidade do Brasil, from 1939 on) not only failed to protect itself from the political and ideological disputes of the Getúlio Vargas years, but actually became a forum for such debates. Thus the social sciences as practiced there maintained a much more direct relationship with politics if compared to its São Paulo counterpart. There was no genuine academic life in the former capital, especially because teaching and research were pursued almost separately. While teaching met with some success within the university, research was primarily driven by institutions with no link whatsoever to the official academic structure5. It should therefore come as no surprise that one of the hallmarks of Rio sociology remains, to the present day, a more evident level of political engagement than in São Paulo. These circumstances have fuelled the dispute between the two key hubs of the social sciences in Brazil since at least the 1950s. The Iseb (Instituto Superior de Estudos Brasileiros) was a constant target of São Paulo sociologists, who endlessly decried (rightly or wrongly) the ideological bias of the research conducted at the institute. Today, with the benefit of hindsight, it is obvious that there was a clash between academic projects guided by conviction in the possibilities of sociology's intervention in the process of Brazilian modernization. It was a conflict in which, from the institutional perspective, Rio de Janeiro fared the better, spearheading the movement that would give rise to an international teaching and research structure in Latin America, centralized in Flasco (Faculdade Latino-Americana de Ciências Sociais/Latin-American Faculty of the Social Sciences), with headquarters in Santiago, Chile, and Clapcs (Centro Latino-americano de Ciências Sociais/ Latin-American Centre for the Social Sciences), based in Rio de Janeiro6. Clapcs was run by Luiz de Aguiar Costa Pinto, director of the centre and editor of the magazine América Latina.    

In São Paulo, the historical status quo derived from the state's economic supremacy – driven by the industrialization process and growth of urban centres during the Old Republic – and the political defeats the state suffered in 1930 and 1932 facilitated political investment in an educational reform whose keystone was the creation of the University of São Paulo in 1934 and, consequently, the FFCL. The ELSP (1933) also owes its existence to this context. The mentors of these two schools imagined that the elites formed therein would go on to comprise a political and technical corps engaged in reclaiming for São Paulo the political hegemony of the nation, a connection that would eventually concretize over the long-term, albeit only indirectly. Both curricula were oriented primarily by academic rather than political objectives, which meant that a genuine academia could develop in metropolitan São Paulo, facilitated by opportunities for intellectual work generated not only by the university, but also by the market for cultural undertakings then in full expansion.            

The outline of this burgeoning academic field drafted above allows us to offer some considerations on its specificity. While striving for greater levels of autonomy from the political and cultural spheres, academic life in São Paulo was also born of interaction, to a greater or lesser extent, with precisely those areas. In relation to politics, it must be stressed that both the academic project led by Donald Pierson at the ELSP, which intended to draw an ample empirical panorama of the Brazilian reality through "studies of communities", and that of Florestan Fernandes as chair of Sociology I at FFCL-USP, which envisaged a "sociology of development", evinced a belief in the possibility of direct "applications" of sociological knowledge in public policymaking7.        

Some of the periodicals published at the time were genuinely academic. Sociologia, created by Emílio Willems and Romano Barreto, was the first specialized journal. Up until the late 1940s, the pages of this publication mixed articles by its key contributors – Willems, Pierson and Baldus – all directly linked with the ELSP Post-graduate programme, with the first papers penned by the young students at FFCL-USP – chiefly Florestan Fernandes and Antonio Candido –, who, in the following decades, would join the front ranks of the São Paulo intellectual field. Sociologia reflected the leadership exercised in the social sciences in São Paulo by Donald Pierson and Emílio Willems in the mid-50s, the latter being the only professor with professional ties to both institutions. From that juncture on, the periodicals served as ballast for the leading academics of the day. This was the case with Herbert Baldus and Egon Schaden, the respective editors of Revista do Museu Paulista (new series), from 1947, and Revista de Antropologia, created in 1953. Florestan Fernandes and his group stood apart in this respect, as they never ventured into editorship, though they featured assiduously in almost all of the periodicals then in print.    

Other important publications, such as the cultural magazines (and newspapers) Anhembi and Brasiliense, edited by Paulo Duarte and Caio Prado Jr. respectively, served as a sounding box for São Paulo sociology, academically and politically legitimizing the groups and authors that wrote for them (Florestan and co. were frequent contributors to both). In parallel, Antonio Candido and his Clima8 colleagues edited the Literary Supplement of the O Estado de S. Paulo newspaper, consolidating a standard of cultural analysis around which, as we shall see later, conglomerated the studies conducted by the acolytes of the chair of Literary Theory and Comparative Literature at FFCL-USP. These examples are significant in aiding an understanding of the intricate power-play that articulated political, academic and cultural interests tied up with a market in which the conversion of "currencies" was very common.        

The characteristics of this "state of play" stemmed from a certain ambiguity that emerges in the careers and works of the protagonists of this process9, underscored by a shared experience of the professionalization of academic activity, which, however, offered limited career possibilities in virtue of the prevailing "chairship" system.

While this system was in place at FFCL-USP (1934-1969), there were two chairs of the Sociology10 department, and these polarized the dispute concerning the concepts of teaching and research (frequently mixed up with issues of a political order) that ought to guide the constitution of the social sciences at the institution. The first chair was occupied by Paul Arbousse-Bastide and the second by Lévi-Strauss. The clash between the two over how the course programme should be organized ended in the dismissal of Lévi-Strauss in late 1937. Roger Bastide was hired as his replacement and proved a central figure at FFCL-USP (and on the São Paulo cultural scene) until his return to France in 195411. He assumed the chair of Sociology I at the beginning of the 1940s, with the second chair held by Fernando de Azevedo (Arbousse-Bastide was appointed to the chair of Politics). The chair of Anthropology was created in 1941 and was occupied by Emílio Willems until 1949, followed by Egon Schaden and later João Batista Borges Pereira (in the 1960s).      

The fiercest disputes occurred when Bastide recommended Florestan Fernandes as his substitute in 1954, whereupon the assistants Gilda de Mello e Souza and Maria Isaura Pereira de Queiroz transferred to Philosophy and Sociology II, respectively. Under Fernando de Azevedo (replaced in 1964 by Rui Coelho), Sociology II, whose assistants included Florestan Fernandes (up to 1954) and Antonio Candido (until 1958), was staffed by sociologists with diverse theoretical orientations – Rui Coelho and Azis Simão being prime examples. At Sociology I, on the other hand, prevalence was given to the "scientific" orientation Florestan Fernandes instilled in his disciples, including Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Octavio Ianni, Maria Sylvia de Carvalho Franco and Marialice Forachi. This division proved defining in the development of sociology at USP, riven with disputes both within and between chairs, especially in the case of Sociology I, where conflict was intense after 1964.

The emergence of new third-level courses opened the academic sphere to youths from social classes hitherto excluded from university life. The social mobility enabled by the creation of the university benefitted, above all, the children of immigrants, members of the rural and urban middle classes of São Paulo, and women. It also incorporated the children of traditional families that had gone into decline, especially those that had retained some cultural capital and permitted "leftist" leanings in heirs that had strayed from the expected social plot. It must be remembered, however, that class numbers in the Social Sciences were low (roughly 10 students), especially in the university's first decade, and of these fewer still (one or two per year) obtained any real success at USP.

This reality is indicative of certain prevailing aspects of the society of the day, determined by close social contact and stiff competition, through which social affinities and differences were expressed in the formation of intellectual groups and friendships, amorous relationships and rivalries12; all set within a rigid hierarchy established by the chair along with new procedures of intellectual and professional legitimization (especially PhDs) 13. On this level, the interventions of members of foreign teaching missions (the French at FFCL and the Americans at ELSP) were decisive. Hence emerged a new crop of disputes and alliances no doubt responsible for defining the teaching and research programmes that gradually installed academic lineages in the social sciences in São Paulo.      

Both at ELSP, with the arrival of the new head, the North-American Donald Pierson, in 1939, and later at FFCL-USP, especially after Florestan Fernandes assumed the chair of Sociology I on an interim basis in 1954, what prevailed was an interest in setting a new standard for intellectual production based on professionalism and a scientific bent. The counterweights to this model of proper academic life were the more eclectic intellectuals who worked part-time whilst pursuing other activities, as well as the literati and bachelordom. Two aspects that were crucial to the success of the academic projects of both men were the availability of funding (provided through the ELSP by the Smithsonian Institute until the mid-50s) and the mounting of research teams whose members were united by similar themes and approaches. Under Pierson, the ELSP was the São Paulo institution that did most to champion "the study of communities". The project envisaged the development of an extensive empirical panorama of the Brazilian reality that could yield theoretical generalizations and political reforms. Whilst numerous works were produced and published, the explicit and implicit goals (of occupying a position of hegemony in the field in formation) were never completely met. The reason for this relative failure can be traced back to Pierson's dismissal and the Smithsonian support that left with him. Add to that the negative reception of Emílio Willems' Cunha (1947), spearheaded by Caio Prado Jr. in a review published in Fundamentos (1948) and undersigned by Florestan Fernandes that same year in a paper entitled "A análise sociológica das classes sociais" (A sociological analysis of the social classes), which signalled a latent rift between the two schools, a dispute resoundingly decided in favour of FFCL-USP.        

The divergence between the two schools did not entirely reside in the empirical grounding of their research programmes (based upon an inductive metatheoretical model), or indeed their theoretical fundaments (based on a deductive metatheoretical model); there were political differences as well. For the sociologists from USP, the ELSP represented a conservative political and academic project. This is precisely the decisive point of Caio Prado Jr.'s review of Cunha, in which he evinces the correlation between "empiricism" and political conservativism, a charge also implicit in Florestan Fernandes' article and in later papers by Octavio Ianni and Maria Sylvia de Carvalho Franco. Such circumstances reinforce the direct intertwining of the social sciences with politics so typical of this not-fully institutionalized "state of play". 

In that same article, the young sociologist gave a foretaste of the Brazilian "sociology of development" that would guide the academic output of the team under the jurisdiction of Sociology I, in syntony with the intellectual and political post-war context.  Yet it was on the issue of "racial relations" - a theme on which Florestan Fernandes was coordinated by Roger Bastide in the well-known Unesco-sponsored study – that he and his two foremost disciples, Fernando Henrique Cardoso and Octavio Ianni, took the first concrete steps toward the "Economy and society in Brazil" project undertaken in the early 60s.  

Before going into deeper analysis of the self-styled "São Paulo sociological school", and with a view to fleshing out the context that little bit further, I will first make a brief digression into the research project coordinated by Roger Bastide, resulting in the book Brancos e negros em São Paulo (Blacks and Whites in São Paulo), edited by Paulo Duarte. Recommended by Donald Pierson, to whom Alfred Métraux had initially offered the job, Oracy Nogueira worked in near-isolation from the rest of the group, which also included Virginia Leone Bicudo and Aniela Ginsberg. The first edition of the book (1955), under the title Relações raciais entre negros e brancos em São Paulo: ensaio sociológico sobre as origens, as manifestações e os efeitos do preconceito de cor no município de São Paulo (Racial relations between blacks and whites in São Paulo: a sociological essay on the origins, manifestations and effects of colour prejudice in the municipality of São Paulo), was a complete compilation of the reports drafted by the team. The second edition, published as part of the Brasiliana Collection in 1958, under the title Brancos e negros em São Paulo: ensaio sociológico sobre aspectos da formação, manifestações atuais e efeitos do preconceito de cor na sociedade paulistana (Whites and blacks in São Paulo: a sociological essay on aspects of the formation, present manifestations and effects of colour prejudice in São Paulo society), contained only the text co-written by Roger Bastide and Florestan Fernandes. The difference is significant and underscores the hierarchy already visible in the subtitle added to the first edition. It is worth remembering that Oracy Nogueira's research covered the municipality of Itapetininga, not São Paulo, and that the analytical slant of the work of the two women on the team was psychological rather than sociological.       

The intricate power-play revealed in the case in hand is not limited to the asymmetry of the disciplines (sociology and psychology) or the themes (rural and urban), but extends to a gender gap and the fierce dispute between the two institutions, which prevailed over any possible biographical and theoretical affinities. The backgrounds and careers of Florestan Fernandes and Oracy Nogueira allow for certain approximations. Both had to breach considerable social barriers, being radical examples of beneficiaries of the restricted but relevant mobility afforded by the opening up of new academic careers. Another point of tangency is their leftist militancy. Florestan Fernandes' biography is more widely known14. Oracy was born in Cunha, São Paulo, in 1917, to a pair of primary schoolteachers. He therefore belonged to a portion of the middle class that was better endowed with cultural capital than economic means and which sought some measure of social ascension through the educational success of their children.          

This opportunity arose at the ELSP, where he took a degree in 1942 and defended a master's degree thesis on tuberculoses – Vozes de Campos do Jordão (Voices from Campos do Jordão). In 1945, as part of an interchange agreement with the ELSP, he undertook a doctorate at the University of Chicago, an endeavour later aborted, as his political activism would see him denied re-entry to the US. From 1950 onwards, Oracy's career somewhat accompanied the decline of the institution at which he had gained projection and he resigned his post shortly after Pierson's return to the United States. On this note it is telling that his "Report on Itapetininga" would only be republished some four decades later.       

I will now move on to a comparison of the texts written by Florestan Fernandes, Roger Bastide and Oracy Nogueira, which reveals some quite unexpected aspects. If I am not mistaken, it was Fernanda Peixoto who first noted the gulf between the interpretations suggested by the French sociologist and those of his disciple. In fact, the historical sociology of racial prejudice conducted by Florestan strayed some distance from the analysis focused on the constitutive processes of the mulatto's mangled subjectivity that interested Bastide. The course chosen by the latter encompassed at once the vision of Gilberto Freyre in his Sobrados e mocambos (The Mansions and the Shanties) and the project of Gaston Richard in France, who strove to overcome the rigid opposition between sociology and psychology inherited by the Durkheimian tradition. Nevertheless, it is strange to note the analytical affinity with Oracy's report that a less context-bound reading of the work allows to emerge.       

However, possible accommodations by virtue of convergent habitus or likeminded interpretations failed to take hold, subordinated as they were to the logic of contention that prevailed between these two institutions, locked in a dispute for hegemony in the fledgling sociological field. In this light, and given the abovementioned editorial strategy, the result was an eclipsing not only of Oracy, but also of the women involved in the project, whose writings were consigned to the background. In terms of gender relations, the situation was further exacerbated by the professional glass ceiling women had to contend with, which all but excluded them from the traditionally higher ranks. Nevertheless, this gender tilt was a process riven with conflict.          

No woman ever held the chair of sociology, anthropology or politics. In 1954, when Bastide returned definitively to France, he recommended Florestan Fernandes as his replacement. This might appear to have been the obvious choice, legitimized by the sociologist's academic and political achievements prior to his ousting in 1969, but the fact is that Gilda de Mello e Souza was the first assistant to the chair, had already completed her doctorate and was therefore eligible for the post. The tardy recognition of her works, especially O espírito das roupas (The Spirit of Clothes), is largely owing to their female authorship, converted into the book's core argument15, which speaks of the anguish of woman engaged in breaking the barriers imposed upon her by male domination. The triumphs that came of her enviable wealth of cultural capital were not enough to catapult her into a leading position in her field. Indeed, her career was always marked by a certain marginalization – in Grupo Clima, in Sociology and in Philosophy –, probably determinant of the range of perspectives that run through her work, ingratiating her to the contemporary reader. It was a condition that afforded some distance and freedom of composition, a counterweight status recognized today in the epithet of "essayist" used to qualify an intellectual whose entire professional life was spent in the university sphere.      

The continuity of the academic project installed at USP by Roger Bastide, grounded in a sociology that sought to understand phenomena connected to the interpenetration of western and Afro-Brazilian cultural forms and social practices, was scuppered by the appointment of Florestan Fernandes as successor to the chair. Moreover, due to the freedom he granted his students and disciples, his intellectual legacy was scattered, retained directly in only the works and careers of Maria Isaura Pereira de Queiroz and Gilda de Mello e Souza. No small achievement in itself, given the importance of the work of these two sociologists and by the group Maria Isaura assembled at Ceru, but it was not enough to make Bastide's oeuvre as influential in Brazil as it became in France in later decades. In terms of constituting an intellectual tradition in São Paulo, this conjunct of facts resulted in a relative devaluing of the sociology of culture, at least until the mid-70s.        

In the particular sphere of sociology, what prevailed in São Paulo between 1954 and 1969 was an orientation set by the thematic and theoretical repertoire of Florestan Fernandes and team. The group's early works, on the racial issue, plotted the course for the later output, focused on the sociological analysis of dependent capitalism and the formation of a Brazilian class structure. This itinerary would be followed directly from the beginning of the 1960s, facilitated by the creation of Cesit. The centre hired researchers with direct ties to the group's research project, entitled "Economy and Society in Brazil: a sociological study of underdevelopment". The good relationship established with the Governor Carvalho Pinto also helped secure the necessary research funding16.

While there were already some internal disputes, mainly derived from the formation of the "Capital Group" – which would reinforce the Marxist leanings of the work of Fernando Henrique Cardoso and Octavio Ianni -, and which Florestan Fernandes was not invited to join, this internal wrangling would escalate after the military coup of 1964. The brief analysis that follows focuses on this crisis from an internal angle, whilst not ignoring the discomfort caused by the dictatorship. Such an analysis demands, off the bat, a look at the social composition of the team recruited by Florestan Fernandes. The second step will be to understand the group's specific mode of operating, using the contemporaneous academic project headed by Antonio Candido at the Faculty of Letters as a comparative counterweight.     

In relation to the first point, the social heterogeneity of the group may have been cause of some internal tension, largely due to disparities in economic, cultural and gender capital. I believe that two recruitment criteria can be identified in the way the group was assembled: first and foremost was intellectual competence and work capacity, and second was an effort to recruit individuals from a relatively less privileged social background. These criteria were by no means the sole cause of the disputes, but rather blended with the more direct academic (and political) flashpoints. On this note, certain aspects warrant mention.     

The chair system most likely caused insecurity among assistants and tutors, who found themselves subordinated to chair-holding "bosses" upon whom their career advancement often depended. As such, personal rapport was enormously important. At Sociology I, under Florestan Fernandes, the choice of themes and approaches was also restricted, as these had to be directly linked to the study programme that oriented the team's entire output. This configuration is essential to understanding the internal tension that flared within the group after the 1964 coup. That same year, Fernando Henrique moved to Chile to work at Cepal, leaving his assistant post vacant. The group felt his absence, particularly because it weakened their resistance to the military dictatorship, but also because of what it meant academically. In 1964 Florestan Fernandes consolidated his permanence at the helm of Sociology I by successfully defending his thesis A integração do negro na sociedade de classes (The integration of the Negro in class society). There was no contest in this case, unlike what happened that same year at Sociology II, where Rui Coelho saw off a challenge from Florestan Fernades' second assistant, Octavio Ianni, who had substituted Fernando Henrique (who would have disputed the chair had he been in São Paulo), in a thwarted attempt to extend the group's field of influence within the faculty. Also in 1964, Maria Sylvia de Carvalho Franco defended a doctorate that resulted in the book Homens livres na ordem escravocrata (Free men in the slave society), in which she forwarded a thesis on Brazilian capitalism that diverged from the interpretation held by the group and predicated upon the hypotheses of Florestan Fernandes. The sociologist rejected the group's characterization of the colonial Brazilian economy as "pre-capitalist", suggesting that its foreign market focus since the onset of colonialism defined its capitalist character – despite the slave system. Perhaps by presenting this divergent interpretation she hoped to strengthen her position in the group, as Fernando Henrique's absence had sparked competition for the first assistant post. However, the real effect was to spark an internal crisis that was most likely the reason behind her transfer to Philosophy in 1969. For our purposes, the important fact is to note that there was no room under the chair for diverging views on given issues and that any disagreement probably implied a strain on interpersonal relations within the team.     

Compared with the range of themes and perspectives permitted by Antonio Candido when he assumed the chair of Literary Theory and Comparative Literature at USP in 1960, one could say the theoretical orientation of the FFCL group was "orthodox". As explicitly stated in his memorial (written as part of his application for a tenure post in the early 70s), the first thing he did upon assuming the chair was to put together a team, a step surely influenced by the example of Florestan Fernandes at Sociology I. It was a wise decision, as ever since Donald Pierson had blazed that particular trail in the 1940s, the programmes that had met with most academic success were those conducted by research teams.    

This comparison needs to be justified in terms of the apparent thematic distance between the two academic projects. To this end I will go back a little in time and trace the academic career of the author of Formação da literatura brasileira (The formation of Brazilian literature). Since graduating in the Social Sciences at the beginning of the 1940s, Antonio Candido divided his time between his teaching activities in sociology – he was appointed assistant lecturer to Fernando de Azevedo as chair of Sociology II in 1942 – and literary criticism, mainly in newspapers. The author rose to early notoriety with his editorial undertaking Clima, created alongside some colleagues from USP. In sociology, he defended his doctorate in 1954, which he published 10 years later under the title Os parceiros do rio Bonito (The partners of Rio Bonito). His best-known work, Formação da literatura brasileira, justified his transfer to the Literature department whilst earning him wholesale recognition as one of the key interpreters of the process of Brazilian formation, seen here through the prism of literature.      

Antonio Candido's disciplinary switch would not therefore have excluded him from the intellectual context in which he was inserted as a sociologist in the 1950s. Quite the contrary, his new position enabled the legitimization of a programme that envisaged an at once aesthetic and sociological analysis of literature. From this perspective, the study of culture affords some advancement in terms of understanding the process of Brazilian formation and modernization, as the author demonstrated in Formação

In this work, two analytical lines interwove in the argument; one focused on the structuring of the literary text (presupposing its relative autonomy), and the other on literary configuration as a system (directly mobilizing the sociological perspective). For the author, this dual orientation, at once aesthetic and sociological, would – in the right blend -, constitute a genuinely dialectical analysis by clarifying, in one fell swoop, the internal reality of the text and its interdependence with the surrounding social milieu. I believe that this perspective was also the backbone of his group's theoretical programme, thus allowing, through emphasis on one pole or the other (key examples are Roberto Schwarz and Davi Arrigucci), a certain heterodoxy in the conjunct of work produced by the team.      

In fact, there was another polestar for the work of Antonio Candido – and perhaps it would be apt to use here a term the author frequently employed to indicate orientations sometimes distinct but always constitutive of the group: "strand criticism". This other direction basically entailed honing the instruments of literary analysis, presupposing "relative autonomy" of the works, and making the ascertainment of the structural mechanisms of literature the core task of the critic. If well executed, this operation could concretize – in-line with the theoretical course set by such authors as Lukács and Goldman – a dialectical interpretation of culture that selects the works as its prime focus whilst also seeking to explain the social dynamic in which they arose.    

As I see it, that "heterodoxy" is one of the keystones of the academic project of Antonio Candido and his group – as strong as it was flexible –, and it proved decisive to the unanimous renown of this generation of critics and of some sociologists of literature from the 70s and 80s. Through a comparison between these two teams I would suggest that, while direct confrontation with the dictatorship courageously undertaken by Florestan Fernandes -  leading to his compulsory retirement, and that of Fernando Henrique Cardoso and Octavio Ianni as well – was what most directly impeded the continuation of the academic project under the chair of Sociology I in the wake of the university reform, it was the "orthodoxy" of its theoretical programme that obstructed the process in the face of the unfavourable external circumstances generated by the military coup.    


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1 .I have taken as a reference the period between the creation of the ELSP (1933) and the forced retirement of 1969. Sociology is the focus of the analysis (also in function of the centrality of the period), which takes as its counterpoint the literary criticism constituted at USP by Antonio Candido and team in the 1960s.

2. The suggested distinction between the themes of "formation" and "modernization" is analytical, with the former typically emphasizing the constitutive processes of Brazilian society and the layer its transformations. 

3. Especially those of Arruda (1995 & 2002), Pontes (1998) and Peixoto (2000).

4. See Miceli (1989b).

5. On the institutionalization of the social sciences in Rio de Janeiro, consult the work of Almeida (1989) and Oliveira (1995).

6. See Alejandro Blanco's excellent article in this same issue of the magazine.

7. On the slant put on the sociology of the period, see Villas Bôas (2006).

8. On Grupo Clima and the magazine, consult the excellent book by Heloisa Pontes (1998). For a more detailed analysis of the magazines of the period, see Jackson (2004).

9. Student and lecturers from FFCL-USP and ELSP were assiduous contributors to the main journals in São Paulo, often maintaining close relations with the artistic and literary elites connected with modernism.   

10. On this issue, see Pulici (2004).

11. On Bastide, see Peixoto (2000).

12. According to Pontes (1998).

13. In the words of Sergio Miceli: "In São Paulo, the academic hierarchy that was constituted during the first two decades of functioning was shaped by foreign lecturers trained in the rules and customs of European (and particularly French) academic competition and intent on implementing a series of procedures, requirements and academic criteria for appraisal, tenure and promotion. Access to command and leadership positions invariably depended on the production and defence of a doctorate, success in selection processes for staff lecturers and appointment to a chair, vacancies preferentially filled by aptly qualified home-grown scholars who had made their names through the excellence of their intellectual output, the inheritance of positions left vacant by the return of foreigners, or through a variable combination of both factors" (1989b, p. 81).       

14. For more on this, see Garcia (2002).

15. According to Pontes (2004).

16. For more on this context, see Romão (2003).