Political Thought and Race Ideas in Brazil: Oliveira Vianna and Gilberto Freyre

In: Comparative Political Theory
Eduardo Schmidt Passos Postdoctoral Fellow, Center for the Study of Liberal Democracy, Political Science, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, United States

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This article engages in a comparative study of political ideas to understand the influence of different race ideas in political thought and institutions. In the early 20th century, two Brazilian social scientists dealt with this problem in their interpretations of Brazilian socio-political reality. The jurist and sociologist Oliveira Vianna, equipped with the positive science of his time, analyzed Brazilian racial heterogeneity through the lenses of biology and social psychology and proposed an authoritarian technocracy to solve Brazil’s political problems. Contrary to this interpretation, the sociologist and anthropologist Gilberto Freyre proposed a cognitive revolution by discrediting racist theories and forging a new self-representation of Brazilian society as an “ethnic democracy.” This comparison shows how Freyre’s ideas are relevant in overcoming racial prejudice and understanding the formation of Brazilian democracy and collective identity.

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