The Structure of Portuguese Society: The Failure of Fascism

The Structure of Portuguese Society: The Failure of Fascism

The Structure of Portuguese Society: The Failure of Fascism

The Structure of Portuguese Society: The Failure of Fascism


This macrohistorical study sheds light on the "Portuguese paradox": why a country with a vast and wealthy colonial empire became the poorest and most backward of Western European nations. Employing a class conflict perspective, Machado examines Portugal's Estado Novo and the eventual collapse of the reactionary coalition. He analyzes the important role of the state in Portugal's political economy between 1926 and 1974, offering new insights about the Estado Novo, Salazar, the military, and bureaucratic-authoritarian states.


The purpose of this book is twofold. First, it is to probe the nature of Portuguese society and the role played by the state during the period 1926-1974. Second, it is to probe the causes and the nature of the 1974 revolution, and its consequences up to 1976.

My investigation will unravel the Portuguese paradox. Portugal is one of the oldest Western European states. It has existed as a sovereign political entity since 1140, many years before the emergence of the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, and Germany as coherent political entities. Only France can equal the state of Portugal in terms of longevity. Moreover, Portugal possessed, for more than 500 years (until 1975), a vast and immensely rich colonial empire.

At the same time, however, during the period under investigation Portugal was the most backward country in Europe with the lowest per capita income. As late as 1971, Portugal's infant mortality rate was among the highest in Europe (41.4 per 1,000 live births); slightly over one-third of its population was illiterate, and 76 percent of the people had less than four years of schooling. Furthermore, "Forty-eight years of supposedly efficient fascist dictatorship, from the mid- 1920's to the mid-1970's, also did little or nothing to make Portugal into a modern European state" (Keefe et al. 1977, 1).

Since I reject the pluralistic view of the state as a neutral coordinator or agent of society as a whole, in this work the state will be viewed in its concrete forms, disrobed of ideological mystification. As Miliband notes:

The state is an essential means of class domination. It is not a neutral referee arbitrating between competing interests: it is inevitably a deeply engaged partisan. It is not "above" class struggles but right in them. Its intervention in the affairs of society is crucial, constant and pervasive; and that intervention is closely conditioned by the most funda-

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