Nelson Werneck Sodré is one of the most prolific and pugnacious writers in Brazil today, and this history of the Brazilian bourgeoisie reflects both of these qualities. It is hurried and careless, dogmatic and vindictive. Nevertheless, there is some virtue to it, and it deserves to be known by those interested in the last hundred years of Brazilian history.
The first three chapters describe a “theory” of social structure and social change which the author then proceeds to apply to, rather than to test by, the Brazilian experience. This theory is drawn explicitly from Marx, Engels, and Lenin. Together with a later chapter on imperialism, these are useful summaries of the developmental aspects of Marxist-Leninist thinking. But it is surprising to note that the history of Europe can still be examined exclusively through these writers, without even an implied apology.
One major contribution of this writer is to trace the economic history of the country by reference to statistics on exports, imports, foreign loans, and government revenues and expenditures. The source for these figures is rather cryptically given as the Tesouro National. Their reliability is admittedly not great (p. 13), but they are of value in showing certain important relationships and trends.
The second point to be made in favor of this book is the inclusion of the ideas of certain leading bourgeois figures. The reader must naturally beware of quotations out of context. It is possible for instance to quote Mauá in such a way as to make him a hero in the struggle between the native capitalist and the foreigner (p. 141), but that is not an honest reflection of Maná’s position. The bibliographical references offer valuable suggestions for further inquiry, and many forgotten figures in Brazil’s struggle towards modernization are here given an airing.