A Construção Da Sociedade Do Trabalho No Brasil: Uma Investigação Sobre a Persistência Secular das Desigualdades

Article excerpt

A construção da sociedade do trabalho no Brasil: uma investigação sobre a persistência secular das desigualdades Adalberto Moreira Cardoso Fundacão Getulio Vargas, 2010, Softcover, 463 pages

According to the Brazilian Institute for Geography and Statistics, half of Brazil's estimated 60 million poor have entered the lower middle class in recent years. But the country still faces the daunting task of sustaining this trend and overcoming deeply rooted social and economic injustice.

This challenge is brought into sharp focus in Adalberto Moreira Cardoso's A construção da sociedade do trabalho no Brasil: uma investigação sobre a persistência secular das desigualdades (Building the Workforce in Brazil: An Investigation on the Persistence of Inequalities). Cardoso, a professor and researcher of the sociology of labor at the State University of Rio de Janeiro, investigates the persistence of centuries of inequality in a society only founded on slave labor and that was late to industrialize. This well-written book offers an unvarnished view of the heavy legacy left by what the author describes as the "anti-social state" built by the oligarchies that have ruled on the basis of slave labor for almost four centuries. In Cardoso's view, the legacy of slavery shaped the structure of the Brazilian capitalist state, which did not create mechanisms for social protection until the 1930s. This meant the state became the engine of "reproduction of hierarchies and social inequalities."

The book's central argument is that the country's unequal social and economic order is accepted by most Brazilians. This, the book suggests, may partly explain the relative absence of political violence.

The author, who is also affi liated with the University of Warwick Institute for Employment Research, summarizes his analysis in the seventh and fi nal chapter, which focuses on concepts of justice and perceptions of inequalities. Cardoso concludes that the persistence of inequality in Brazil, "although perfectly visible to Brazilians... is seen as legitimate by the immense majority of them and, especially, by the poorest." The conclusion may shock foreigners but is widely accepted by Brazilians themselves.

In earlier sections of the book, the author offers some equally shocking fi ndings that lead him to declare that Brazil suffers from the absence of a "clear standard" that both rich and poor can use to make practical judgments about the fairness of the distribution of wealth and opportunities. His fi ndings are based on an analysis of a 10-year, multicountry comparative survey by the International Social Survey Program (ISSP) that looks at concepts such as economic necessity and opportunity, capacity and merit, and social justice. He focuses on three cases: Sweden, a welfare state where poverty has been eliminated; Germany, which follows a more hierarchical and corporatist model in determining eligibility for positions in the social structure; and Poland, a country that is similar to Brazil in regard to its per capita income, period of democratization (1980s) and implementation of neoliberal economic reforms.

Unlike their counterparts in these three countries, Brazil's rich and poor largely focus on opportunities for social mobility based on what they perceive to be their own situations. …