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A heterodox in Brazilian political thought

The course of Oliveiros Ferreira's life was marked by his analysis of the institutional role of the armed forces

JOÃO GRINSPUM The sociologist and journalist in a 2005 photoJOÃO GRINSPUM

Sociologist and journalist Oliveiros da Silva Ferreira became known for his unorthodox thinking, a characteristic that was reflected in his studies of political theory, and in his analysis of the role of the armed forces in Brazil. While sympathetic to the military government, the intellectual was at the same time in solidarity with his colleagues prosecuted by the regime. In his reflections regarding the avenue of thought developed by Ferreira, Gildo Marçal Brandão (1949–2010) called him “the revolutionary of order,” seeking to account for the paradoxes that permeated Ferreira’s journey, and “a man of the right who quoted Lenin and brought together Mao Tsé-Tung and General Golbery within the same sentence,” as he wrote in Linhagens do pensamento político brasileiro (Lineages of Brazilian Political Thought) (Hucitec, 2007).

Sociologist Marco Aurélio Nogueira, a professor of political theory at São Paulo State University (UNESP), recalls that Ferreira was considered a conservative by the left, but seen as a communist by the military regime.

A professor at the University of São Paulo (USP), the sociologist died at the age of 88 from natural causes on October 21, leaving behind his wife, Vânia Leal Cintra, and his son, Afonso Ferreira, from a previous marriage to the writer and critic Walnice Nogueira Galvão.

Born in 1929 in São José do Rio Pardo in northern São Paulo State, Ferreira received a degree in social sciences from USP in 1950. In 1953 he was invited by sociologist Lourival Gomes Machado to be assistant to the chair of Politics, which today is the Department of Political Science at the School of Philosophy, Languages and Literature, and Human Sciences (FFLCH-USP). In 1966, Oliveiros defended his doctoral thesis titled “Our America, Indoamerica: Order and revolution in the thought of Haya de la Torre,” on the Peruvian politician and theoretician. His qualifying thesis for promotion from assistant to associate professor was a work on the Italian Marxist philosopher Antonio Gramsci (1891–1937). He retired from USP in 1983, but remained active in education, and was also a professor at the Pontifical Catholic University of São Paulo (PUC-SP).

His intellectual activities included a long career as a journalist. He was director of the conservative news daily O Estado de S. Paulo (also known as Estadão), where he worked for 48 years, retiring in 1999. He wrote analyses on international issues. During a good part of the military regime (1964–1985), he coordinated the dialog between the owners of the newspaper, the Mesquita family, and the censors who were always on duty at the Grupo Estado facilities.

“The journalism practiced by Oliveiros at Estadão was saturated with politics, from the paper’s agenda to its treatment of the issues,” says political scientist Carlos Enrique Ruiz Ferreira, a professor at the State University of Paraíba (UEPB) and editor of the book Professor Oliveiros S. Ferreira – Brasil, teoria política e relações internacionais com sua obra (Professor Oliveiros S. Ferreira: Brazil, Political Theory, and International Relations in His Works) (EDUSP, 2016), which gives an overview of his intellectual output. It is his judgment that Ferreira’s books help to understand how the military was interwoven throughout the fabric of Brazilian social and institutional life.