The Sociologist (Ex-)President

Well, there is one we can claim: Brazil’s former President, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, one of the central thinkers of dependency theory (although not a massive radical). He is getting an award, so, he got to be interviewed by the Washington Post.

First an understandable mistake 🙂

“At the time, probably I was confusing sociology with socialism.”

More seriously:

“Then when I entered the university and I started to receive lessons, I was a bit disillusioned because it was so theoretical, my training. You know — what would I do with that? It took some time for me to realize the necessity of having a better understanding of how society works and then to try to change society a little bit.”

On development:

“Without development, it’d be impossible to solve problems. My main concern was on development as a tool to transform society. But development alone is not enough. . . . In the 1970s, the rate of growth in Brazil was very impressive. We used to speak about the “Brazilian miracle,” but if you look at data on income, you would see that income and inequality were worsening for some segments of Brazilian society. So it’s necessary to complement development with some measures of social justice. So you also need access to land for those who need land. And also a tax system that is less regressive than the system you normally have. And education. But, of course, since I believe in a capitalist society, we need to train people to have more skills and be able to compete. What’s important is more opportunities and try to use state power to become more egalitarian.”

On social inequality:

“The tipping point comes not only with what is going on materially, but also with the horizons of opportunity for the future. The lack of dreams, the lack of horizons. When you don’t see possibilities of moving ahead and the situation is worsening, then you have the possibility of a serious crisis.”

On austerity:

“I was criticized for the fact that my fiscal policy was not that strict and people asked for more — more austerity. My perception of the situation was, “Well, I have to be cautious, because people have to have hope.” If I instituted tremendous austerity without opening up possibilities for the future, it would be impossible to implement the policy. So I tried to combine the hope of the people — that is to say, to keep some degree of growth and to enforce austerity. Not just austerity, but also private investment — I asked people to invest in the country. In Europe, what’s happening is that people are being asked to be more austere. They’re cutting social policies without opening up windows of possibility for the people. I think this is what provokes unrest.

Also, just for fun, Cardoso and Lula then:

And now:

These presidents put ours to shame, frankly (they’re in the wrong order. It should be FHC, Lula, Rousseff):

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