This thin volume, the twenty-second in a series sponsored by the University of Florida’s recently reorganized School of Inter-American Studies, is a veritable gem for the student of Brazil’s social institutions. Written by Dr. Thales de Azevedo, internationally known professor of anthropology at the University of Bahia, it was prepared from his notes and class discussions in a graduate seminar offered at the University of Wisconsin in 1960.
Though it cannot be compared in scope with the deeper and more documented works of others of Brazil’s swiftly expanding school of anthropologists and sociologists, including the master Gilberto Freyre, Dr. Azevedo’s study, nevertheless, fills an extremely acute vacuum in his field—it provides both the casual reader and the professional scholar with a concise synthesis of the principal features and impact of three basic Brazilian institutions: the family, race and class structure, and religion. Each of these topics is analyzed in a clear and convincing style, which aids materially in developing perception on the part of the reader of those essential characteristics which tend to make Brazil so different from her Spanish-speaking neighbors. The chapter on the family, for example, not only emphasizes the basic importance of this institution in Brazilian cultural development but also points out its relationship both to class structure and to religious practices. Likewise, the chapter devoted to race and class defines the peculiarly Brazilian success in formulating social relations relatively without conflict. Finally, the author’s discussion of religion represents a most understandable argument for the oft-suggested thesis that “God is Brazilian.” Of particular significance in each of these chapters is Dr. Azevedo’s objectivity in evaluating the effect of modern trends upon his country’s traditions and mores.
For its brevity, its concentration on primary social institutions, and for its persuasive style, this compact monograph clearly merits the attention of all Brazilianists, including both old-hands and novices.