Brazil as a Model?
ALEXANDER R. BAZELOW
The subject of these brief remarks is the film Twelve Hours to Midnight— How Brazil Has Responded to the Global Financial Crisis (October 2009)—a film that premiered at “The Burden of Our Times: The Intellectual Origins of the Global Financial Crisis,” the conference sponsored by the Hannah Arendt Center for Politics and the Humanities at Bard College and from which this volume emerged. The film came about after a visit to the Arendt Center by the directors, Ms. Simone Matthaei and Dr. Wolfgang Heuer, in June 2008. This visit was partly at my invitation, to speak to a group of businesspeople and community residents about a film project they were proposing. There were many reasons for my interest.
I had known through correspondence and emails with Dr. Heuer about the movement to reform capitalism in Brazil, and I was eager to learn more. By this time it was clear that a financial crisis of some unknown dimension was brewing. What was not known was the exact timing of the crisis or the extent of the damage. But this much was obvious: The crisis, once unleashed would be global in nature.
What had interested me, even before the present crisis, was this notion that capitalism could “reform itself.” I wanted to know, “Was that true?” We understand that capitalism can change; it changes all the time; that much is clear. But “reform” and “change” are two different things. Change implies an alteration of “form” or “structure” without a corresponding alteration of “essence or fundamental identity.” Reform, in contrast, means that the nature of “what something fundamentally is” changes. What it “is” is now something else. So can capitalism reform itself? That is the question.
This crisis that we are in has been called all kinds of things, and it is being used in all kinds of ways. It has been called “a crisis of capitalism,” “a crisis of global capitalism,” “a crisis of American capitalism,” a global