This is an important book, based on a sophisticated yet clearly presented analysis of data collected in 1973 by the Brazilian census bureau.

As the title suggests, Pastore’s thesis is twofold: on the one hand, Brazil has experienced harsh inequalities during its recent development; on the other, many Brazilians have experienced considerable upward mobility. These trends make for marginalization, especially in the rural areas, as well as for a certain embourgeoisement.

In the most general terms, two factors are at work behind the process of simultaneous mobility and marginalization. The first is structural transformation, the reallocation of employment opportunities away from the primary sector toward the secondary and tertiary sectors. Brazil is no more a banana, or coffee, republic than Washington is, in John F. Kennedy’s phrase, a town of northern charm and southern efficiency.

The second involves “competition mobility”: the striving for upward movement among individuals in a situation where structural change has apparently slowed down or begun to reach its upper limits. Here Pastore focuses less on the rural-urban, primary-to-secondary-and-tertiary shift and more on the advantages accruing to the educated in the industrialized Center-South. According to Pastore, such finer-grained shifts are becoming more common as Brazilian society continues to modernize, even though a huge agrarian backwater remains.

The book has some glitches. Although Pastore spends a few pages on the matter, his discussion of the implications of his results for comparative studies of social mobility might have been improved by contrasting Brazil with other authoritarian settings for which relevant data are available. Moreover, his treatment of Marxist perspectives on social stratification is cursory. On the whole, this book is very much worth reading.