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Helio Jaguaribe

Helio Jaguaribe: A short-term optimist

Social scientist releases book and says he believes in a prosperous outlook for Brazil in the near future

Léo Ramos“A major effort to improve, speed up and expand scientific and technological development is the first condition for development.”Léo Ramos

“During highly agitated times, the intellectual’s duty is to keep quiet, because on these occasions it is necessary to lie and an intellectual has no such right,” stated, somewhat cynically, the philosopher Jose Ortega y Gasset (1883-1955). Though he confesses he loves the ideas of this Spaniard, “who had an extraordinary influence on me,” the social scientist Helio Jaguaribe is not an intransigent disciple, though he agrees that there is no room for lying in the discourse of thinkers, he refuses to shut up, luckily for us, especially during hard times like the present. Regarding this point, Jaguaribe, currently Dean Emeritus of Iepes (the Political and Social Studies Institute) tends to follow the teachings of his father, Francisco Jaguaribe de Matos. “He was a cultured man with a deep-rooted civil and ethical spirit. He instilled in me the ideas of love and dedication to one’s country, in the public sense.” Here one can easily recognize the thinker who, at the age of 86 (and a member of the Brazilian Academy of Letters) is neither silent nor lies. He prefers thinking about Brazil.

Born in the city of Rio de Janeiro and a lawyer by training, Jaguaribe did not only settle down into theory, so that as from 1949, he began writing the famous and prestigious Column of the Fifth Page of the Jornal do Commercio newspaper. He also used to get together with a group of intellectual friends from Rio de Janeiro and from São Paulo at the Itatiaia Park to think about the problems he witnessed everyday at the firm and that got in the way of the development of Brazilian society. In 1953, the meeting became the Brazilian Institute of Economics, Sociology and Politics. By 1955, with the help of President Café Filho, this became the celebrated Iseb (the Higher Institute of Brazilian Studies), the think-tank that developed the theory behind the notions of national-developmental. “We wanted to propose a reform project to transform Brazil, the idea of reforming capitalism with capitalism itself as our starting point.” In 1959, Jaguaribe, disagreeing with changes at Iseb, resigned from the institute. He then rolled up his sleeves and went to work on an expansion project for Companhia de Ferro and Aço de Vitória, the iron and steel enterprise that belonged to his family, an experience that taught him the tough reality of businesspeople and workers. After the military coup, he went into exile in the United States, where he taught sociology at universities as prestigious as Harvard, Stanford and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He returned to Brazil in 1969 and ten years later became head of Iepes. He “flirted” responsibly with the State on two occasions: in 1985, he coordinated Brazil 2000, during the José Sarney administration; and in 1992, he was the Secretary for Science and Technology in the Collor administration, leaving the post when the president was impeached.

In 1988, he helped to found PSDB, the Brazilian Social Democracy Party, and he has a candidate whom he feels will be unbeatable in the 2010 elections: the São Paulo State governor, José Serra. Jaguaribe continues to serve the country with his ideas. As, indeed, is proven by the book Brasil, mundo and homem na atualidade [Brazil, the world and man today], a selection of studies written as from 1983, published by Fundação Alexandre de Gusmão. The book, which is over 930 pages long, sums up his thoughts by means of socio-political studies, international relations articles, thoughts on Brazil, philosophical analyses and outstanding studies about personalities. It is hard to pick one out of so many profound and intelligent texts, but the following are noteworthy: Nação and nacionalismo no século XXI [Nation and nationalism in the 21st century]; Social-democracia e governabilidade [Social-democracy and governability]; “Pax americana ou ‘Pax Universalis'” [The American Peace or Universal Peace]; Aliança Argentina-Brasil [Brazil-Argentina Alliance]; A perda da Amazônia [The loss of the Amazon Region]; Brasil: o que fazer? [Brazil: What should be done?]; Universalidade and razão ocidental [Universality and western reason]; Depoimento sobre o Iseb [Testimonial on Iseb]; Ortega y Gasset: vida and obra [Ortega y Gasset, life and works] and Celso Furtado: teoria and prática do desenvolvimento [Celso Furtado: development theory and practice]. These, among others, are proof of Jaguaribe’s sharp and restless mind.

It follows that, in order to define him better, one must resort to another statement of Ortega y Gasset: “It is immoral to pretend that a desired thing comes true magically, just because we want it. Desire is only moral when it goes hand in hand with the rigorous will to provide the means for it to come true.”

At the age of 86, you have never stopped analyzing Brazil. Has anything about our present surprised you?
There aren’t many surprises, because the course of events was more or less what I had forecast. I would say that Brazil’s situation is reasonable, far from awful and far from excellent. It is reasonable because Brazil safeguards something precious: its national unity, because we’re a country with an enormous sense of national unity. Social relations have also improved; the country is incorporating, albeit more sluggishly than one would wish, the marginalized masses; but it’s going in the right direction. We are undergoing reasonable technical, economic and cultural growth, so Brazil is not a country whose future is a matter of great concern; on the contrary, it has a highly promising future and enjoys a reasonable present. In this sense, I’m fairly optimistic about Brazil. What makes us an effective country is that as soon as it becomes independent from individual wishes, there is a collective process under way. What lends great stability to Brazil is not that it is a country with one major guideline, in which a specific phenomenon is helping it along. No: we’re a country whose routine points in the right direction. Sustainable development is done routinely.

What keeps us from having a real national project?
I think the problem at present is that the developmental schools, which predominate in public opinion and even along government lines , have nevertheless failed to attain an economic and financial project in keeping with their project. There is economic developmental thought at play, but the financial mechanics of this developmental model is yet to be properly worked out. Under what financial conditions would it be possible to sustain major development in the long run? This is the problem and this calls for a combination of public and private finance and, therefore, for a global financial model under the State’s leadership. It’s up to the state to lead this. However, those who govern lack a sufficiently clear financial awareness, to my mind. There is economic awareness, but the financial vision is of the “day to day” kind; it’s a bit routine, it follows previous experiences rather than focusing on sustaining long-term development. There’s a financial vacuum.

What are the consequences for the country’s future?
The fact is that Brazil has a highly satisfactory empirical truth. Regardless of great projects, great conductors and great leaders, the country advances well, which is very desirable, given that the progress that depends on conductors is subject to them, so it may lack continuity. Our advantage is that we have a positive routine. So I’m very optimistic concerning the future, precisely for that reason: what works well in Brazil is its routine and routine tends to be permanent. This status quo, though a bit mediocre, has the advantage of being stable and therefore it will probably be ongoing. I would hope that, besides this positive routine, a major national project might spring up, one capable of mobilizing public opinions, as was the case back in Juscelino Kubitscheck’s time, for instance, when the idea of “fifty years in five” became a reality. We wouldn’t need such a major new project, basically because the current routine is sound, but it wasn’t so back then. JK managed to convert a negative routine into a positive orientation, which persists in a moderate sort of way (growth of 2.5 percent, 3 percent, and in some cases even 5 percent), but it could be sped up a bit, so as to exceed demographic growth; otherwise, the country just grows as much as the population and therefore doesn’t improve.

And what would a more creative state be like?
I think that a set of elements would be necessary. First, public opinion has a general idea of national development: one must create a national development model that is popular. In so far as this comes true (and in general it is tending to materialize), this public awareness impels possible future administrations in a direction that it is difficult to reverse. Brazil acquired a routine of positive social and economic growth that tends to be stable. Evidently, I would like it to be more dynamic, because there is some urgency in speeding up two things in particular. On the side of higher requirements, we need to increase our scientific and technological capacity: Brazil is a medium player – not to say a mediocre one – within the scientific and technological process. It doesn’t have to join the cutting-edge, but it should be a bit further along. A major effort to improve, speed up and expand scientific and technological development is the first condition. The second is that this scientific and technological development shouldn’t center precisely on the line of scientific and technological issues, but should take into account the need to mobilize the whole population. In other words, Brazil has a major problem in incorporating these changes, given that one third of its population is living under absolutely unacceptable conditions; one must combine the development of  scientific and technological process with major social development.

Any development projects come up against the barrier of the country’s structural bottlenecks. How can we overcome them?
The answer has an initial dimension that seems absolutely unequivocal to me: it is education. Brazil has a level of development that ensues from its education. The fact that there is a very large proportion of Brazilians who are either totally lacking in education or only barely educated is a dead weight that makes it difficult for the country to advance. Therefore, the first thing that must be done is to expand education and improve it. This per se would suffice, because as the country is inclined to grow, if it has education it will be bound to grow in the right direction and at the right speed.

Léo Ramos“There is a flaw in the Brazilian process, in that politics isn’t mobilizing the right people, but only opportunist”Léo Ramos

But the research and development issue is complex and involves the entry of foreign technology, something that you dislike.
Brazil has already reached a stage in which it has the capacity for self-growth and self-development, even technological and scientific. This doesn’t mean one should close one’s windows and door to the world, on the contrary: all openings are absolutely necessary, especially in this direction. Brazil is far from being a country at the forefront of things where scientific and technological development is concerned, although it certainly is also not a laggard; it has an intermediate position, a bit above the middle, but it needs to improve on this and, therefore, to keep the opening. The main thing, evidently, is for the government to be active when it comes to volume and the orientation of funding. More cash is needed, more funds for scientific and technological development, coupled with effective action toward such development, starting with the public sector, which is open to the private sector.

How do you analyze the link between universities and firms?
 This is a very serious problem, because in Brazil this relation is very distant: universities absorb foreign information very fast and tend to be fairly up-to-date, but they are inward, rather than outward, looking. So we have two types of entities looking for external input, in isolation. Firms need to see what is available in international technology to copy, while universities try to see what science has in order to copy that. I think that both initiatives are perfectly reasonable, but it would be advisable to increase the university-company integration, with no loss to either side. Universities should become more aware of their role as educators vis-à-vis companies, while companies should be more open to relations with universities.

Wherever one touches, the State is present, derided by some, glorified by others. What are your views on the State in the Brazilian case, specifically?
Since the 18th century, western countries have diversified: there are those driven by the private sector and those that are driven by the State. The Anglo-Saxon countries are predominantly driven by the private sector, whereas the Latin and Germanic countries are State-driven. This is a cultural characteristic that is hard to change and there’s nothing wrong with either of these; so that we, as a Latin country, must recognize the need for the active leadership of the State, with no hindrance to private initiative, however. I believe that what I’m saying is the consensus: what would be required for this to stop being just a discourse would be for these things to go into the budgets and public administration agendas. The BNDES [Brazil’s National Social and Economic Development Bank] needs to become not only a receiver of projects, but a formulator of policies; a consistent, realistic, non-utopian national development project is required, for which the bank and other federal agencies should propose projects, besides being open to demand.

Does the current financial crisis oblige us to rethink the State?
In the 21st century we have reached an informal rather than formal consensus to the effect that development depends on a combination of the State’s action and of private-sector initiative, in which the acts of the former will be greater or smaller depending on the cultural characteristics of the country and its development level. The State’s intervention in very developed countries does not need to be as great as in underdeveloped countries, where, undoubtedly, the State is the main driver. In Brazil, though it’s no longer an underdeveloped country, but rather one with medium development, the State continues to be the chief driver, but less urgently so than in other Latin American or Asian countries, though much more urgently than in countries such as England or the United States. The only solution for the crisis is for the State to increase its participation in development, in promoting growth. This need for funds can only be met, in the short-term, by an increase in state intervention. The way in which one can lead business to turn more strongly to productive action rather than to the financial game consists in getting the State to intervene in a highly effective way in the financing end of things; if there is broader public financing, private financial speculation falls and business is naturally driven to use this financing for productive purposes. If there is a supply of funding, business works.

You have proposed  replacing national-developmental philosophy with a regional-developmental one. Why?
We’re experiencing an historic process, involving the formation of major blocks; therefore, though Brazil has a large critical mass relative to other nations, it’s insufficiently self-sufficient to be able, single-handedly, to meet the demands of this particular moment . Hence the convenience of combining a consolidation of national development with an opening for regional development. National developmental theses are compatible with regional developmental ones, which, in the case of Brazil, are based on a strategic alliance between Argentina and Brazil. This is the key to everything, the driving force of other South American countries and certainly of Mexico, a fundamental partner for this process. So I say: consolidate the Brazil-Argentina alliance, that only operates timidly, and turn it into something very vigorous, incorporating Mexico. It is necessary to avoid overloading the deficiencies on the Brazilian side, because they also exist on the Argentine side, but I always say that in order to understand the relations between these countries that are not overly asymmetric, but only a little, one must turn to historical examples. Brazil has to pay more than Argentina and both, together, must mobilize South America. Latin America is not an entity that can be rendered “operational”, but only cultural, to date. We still have the issue of the United States, a major power that in recent times has been acting very unilaterally. If this Argentine-Brazilian alliance is consolidated, as well as the mobilization, with this alliance as a starting point for the South American system and vaguely for a Latin-American system, we will contribute toward ensuring an arena for more multilateral relations when it comes to international relations. We’ll provide an opportunity for Europe’s and Russia’s dynamic sectors to manifest themselves more clearly. Thus, Brazilian protagonism can mobilize a multilateral system. Obama is a great promise, so that the United States has never held a more favorable international position than now. Collaborating with the American president is what matters.

Let’s talk about politics. You are an advocate for the need to reform the political system?
Democracy, in operational terms, is a “partydocracy”: it depends on the existence of coherent, homogeneous, defined parties with projects and their own identity. The ideal, evidently, is a bi-partisan system, or perhaps a three-party one, but if you have lots of parties, things don’t run properly. Brazil’s problem, like Italy’s, is an excessive number of parties. This has to be diminished through a process whereby certain parties cease to exist and their members join more significant parties, so that, within a multi-party system, one creates a polarity between those parties that are oriented towards “A” and those that are oriented towards “B”. In Brazil, there is this tendency: there is a certain group of parties that wants to maximize the neoliberal formula, while others are inclined to maximize the formula I call socioliberal. Social liberalism tends to prevail in Brazil over pure classical liberalism, which strikes me as a very positive thing.

You are referring to a highly discussed element, which is distance between the voter and the elected person.
The need to introduce the mixed district system in Brazil is obvious; in other words, the country is divided into a number of relatively small districts, resulting in a voting mass that is supposedly, more homogenous, so that each district elects a representative that actually would represent a national majority via the sum of the districts. I’m in favor of a mixed district system; in other words, elections should not be entirely district-oriented, but one should open, let’s say, 20% of the positions for national leaders, because there are some personalities who are very important and who don’t exactly have any district in their favor. A mixed district system, in which 80% of the seats are filled on a “district” basis while 20% are filled nationally, strikes me as a very favorable system.

How do you see the presidential system?
It would be desirable for Brazil to evolve from a presidential system to a parliamentary one, but for this to work you need certain underlying conditions: a level of political education a bit higher than we have; and parties should be reduced to two, given that multi-partisanship conspires against a parliamentary system working well. Brazil lacks the conditions to adopt a parliamentary system immediately. When there was that referendum about this recently, I voted against it – not because I am against it, but I think it doesn’t apply to current conditions. And what are the requirements for making a parliamentary system viable? The main one, evidently, is expansion of the population’s political education. Brazilian political awareness is probably still limited to one third of the population, perhaps – one third is totally alienated and the other third is possibly more “down” than “up”. We still have a long path towards mobilizing the bulk of the Brazilian population toward a satisfactory level of political and public awareness. On the other hand, in so far as one progresses along the dimension of public and political awareness, one will tend reduce the number of parties, because political awareness naturally leads to a division between those parties that want substantial changes and those that want to conserve the current regime. But Brazilian political education is improving a lot: Brazilians have higher political awareness today than 20 years ago.

Is that why you advocate the union of the PT [Worker’s Party] and the PSDB [Social-Democrat Party]?
This is desirable, but not indispensable, because there are two alternatives: either an awareness conducive to a type of bipolarity is formed in this country (and in this case, it may be represented by the PSDB and by the PT, which would force the PSDB to hold a conservative stance) or the conservative forces acquire a certain consistency (PL [Liberal Party] and these other liberal front parties) and the union of the PT and of the PSDB becomes necessary. In other words, the PSDB-PT relationship depends on the evolution of the electorate and  public opinion. If the electorate strengthens the parties, like the democratic union parties, the PSDB-PT merger will become necessary and possible – or the contrary, a division between the PT and the PSDB could lead the latter to adopt a more conservative function.

Which is the party of the future in Brazil?
Well, I have a very poor opinion of the PMDB [Democratic Movement Party], because it has turned into a party of clientele: it has no project, no program, no identity of its own. It is a party that picks up the electoral crumbs throughout the country and  brings them together, which does yield a positive result, because Brazilian political education is still inadequate. The PMDB vote is a clientele-oriented vote: as the party prospers, we see that that clientele continues to be very powerful. But I think there is a trend toward a drop in clientele political importance, which is why I think that in the long run, the PMDB has no future. Those who do have a future are the PT and the PSDB, which means that the PSDB will be a conservative progressive party and the PT, a moderate progressive party.

Did the PT change after it rose to power?
This is hard to analyze keeping the party apart from Lula [President of Brazil]. What would the PT be without Lula, what would it tend to do? Hard to tell, isn’t it? I don’t think the PT has consolidated itself in a satisfactory manner when it comes to a program. It’s more of a party  “being linked together,” “vanguardists,” regardless of program content. And this is precisely the problem: the need for program awareness. The PSDB, on the other hand, has good program awareness and has achieved a very interesting thing: a center-left party. It’s not a reactionary or a conservative party, but it’s not an adventurous party either. A moderate social and economic development party, which is highly desirable. Lula realized the mistake of delivering so much power into the hands of the union leaders. He realized and deliberately brought about a change in the power framework. That is why I see no PT candidate capable of fulfilling a role similar to Lula’s, but I see the probability of the PSDB being the winner of the elections, with possibly the São Paulo state governor, José Serra. He’s the most likely candidate – and it will be a very interesting experience, although I heartily hope that Dilma [PT member, current Chief of Staff and presidential candidate, diagnosed with cancer in late 2008] improves healthwise, as she’s a very positive figure. However, if she’s ill, she will be unable fill the role. Dilma’s good health has almost become a national priority today: her health and the PT are positive things for the future.

And what will 2010 be like for the PSDB?
To my mind, there’s a consensus among analysts and party leaders that Serra will be the PSDB candidate. He’s an excellent man, whom I look upon very well. The PSDB has the advantage of being a party with very good quality leaders. Suffice it to mention the two main ones, Serra and Aécio [current governor of Minas Gerais State]. I estimate that a Serra administration would also give Aécio ample opportunity, eventually guiding the Congress in agreement with Serra. This would be my most favorable expectation.

Would a PSDB administration maintain the Bolsa Familia program [Family Benefit program that pays a monthly amount to very poor families on the condition that the children attend school]?
Lula responded to a social need. How can one diminish the social gap in countries like Brazil? This is a target for the State, the chief promoter of social development. The Bolsa Familia program is fundamental to close the abyss between participants and non-participants, the active and the passive citizens. Now, though the idea underlying Bolsa Família is absolutely right, as well as its expansion, the choice of beneficiaries depends a little on the policies that are not always entirely right. But this is inevitable.

Actually, you yourself have mentioned that Brazil’s chief problems are the result of an ethical crisis.
This is a very complicated problem because it has structural roots and is driven by circumstances that involve either deterioration or improvement. The problem of the ethical crisis has a lot to do with the culture. Countries with a Roman Catholic culture tend to have ethical crises. Countries with a protestant culture tend to have clearer ethics, because Protestantism is an ethical option, not an ideological one, whereas Catholicism is an ideological option, rather than an ethical one. What comes into play here is  basic education, which will become permanent; Catholic or not in practice, Brazil will remain forever Catholic in its culture and so there?ll always be an ethical problem, which is typical of Catholic cultures. Situations such as the disrepute of Congress and  politicians cannot be changed by public outcry, but only through the reform of the political process. We had the capacity to form a competent business elite, a reasonable cultural elite, but we’re unable to form a good political elite. So there’s a flaw in the Brazilian process, in that politics isn’t mobilizing the right people, but only  opportunists.

What might one expect from these leaders?
The positive mobilization possibilities of a leader depend on the extent to which this is not a trick to conserve and increase power, but rather a national mobilization project, a national development project. This is the problem: to the extent that the political leadership is favorable to a national-developmental philosophy, it will swiftly lead the country to overcome its obstacles. If, however, such a leader only seeks power, it will become one more stagnation factor.

If we talk again in five years, do you think you’ll be happier with Brazil?
I think so, if things continue along this path and if I’m alive at 91… [laughter]. I’m very optimistic regarding Brazil because I think that Brazil’s lethargic progress is slowly going in the right direction. We’re improving gradually. We’re a “self-perfectionist” country in the long run: slow but steady.