The Brazilian Economy and its Economists: Sociological Perspectives

Monday, May 13, 2019

On April 30th, the Brazil LAB hosted a creative conversation between sociologists Elisa Klüger (CEBRAP/Princeton), Rogério Barbosa (USP/Columbia), and Marcelo Medeiros (IPEA/Brazil LAB).

In her presentation, Klüger placed the unusually large presence of ‘Chicago School’ economists in the Bolsonaro governmentin historical and critical perspective. Klüger’s economic intellectual history project seeks to illuminate the roles neoliberal principles played in Brazilian governmentality from the military dictatorship to the transition to democracy as well as their present-day impact.

Barbosa focused on the controversy over the correlation between education and economic growth and drew from new data on inequality trends during the Brazilian “economic miracle” (1968-1973). The USP sociologist showed that rapid growth was not immediately followed by an increase in earnings inequality and that returns to education were not impacted. Contrary tohuman capital theoretical expectations, this critical work demonstrates that the shortage of skilled labor was not related to the dynamics of inequality.

Medeiros, who collaborated with Barbosa in this study, highlighted the resonances between Klüger’s and Barbosa’s presentations: “Regarding Brazil’s inequality, the assumptions informing Bolsonaro’s economic team are not backed up byempirical data. They are rather based on an ideology that should belong to the past.” In the lively discussion that followed, the audience further probed the past and current role of magic bullet neoliberal ideas in Brazilian policy-making.