chapter  8
16 Pages

Toward a New Civil Society

During the'1970s and the early 1980s, a consensus among observers of Brazilian politics held that the military regime would be difficult to dis­ lodge because it saw taking power not as something for its own sake but as a mission to restructure society, and that it was supported in this quest by the industrialists and businessmen, the leaders of the new elite. Political scientists pointed to the “new professionalism” of Brazil’s Superior War College; Fernando Henrique Cardoso argued that the root of Brazilian au­ thoritarianism was a response to Brazil’s condition of external dependency. When the armed forces moved to step back from power in the 1980s, scholars reevaluated their stance, arguing that the military had been less monolithic that earlier imagined. Others credited opponents of the military government with sensing that the “patrimonial state” had been weaker than supposed, and that the liberal-representative traditions had been suppressed but not eradicated. The military had preserved the trappings of democracy, and this, in turn, had kept the hopes for a return to civil society alive. In 1984-85, tens of millions of Brazilians took to the streets demanding direct presidential elections and a return to democratic practices that Brazil had not seen for twenty years.1