ABSTRACT

Paulo Freire was born into a middle-class fanüly in Recife, Brazil, in 1921 and initially read law and philosophy and qualified at the bar. However, it was during this period that his interests broadened and he began to read sociology and education. Perhaps the latter is no surprise since his first wife, Elza, was a school teacher. Consequently, Freire abandoned law and assumed the position of a welfare officer, later becoming director of the I)epartment of Education and Culture in the state of Pernambuco. It was during this period that he made contact with the urban poor, although it was not until the next phase of his career when, as director of the Cultural Extcnsion Service of the University of Recife, he began to implement his well-known literacy campaign. However, Freire did not act in isolation in Brazil, so that it is necessary to understand something of the historical background in that society during this periodo

THE HISTORICAL SITUATION There was a very important influence upon Frcire's intellectual development at this time: the rise of radicalism in the Church of Rome in Brazil. This development has been recorded in the writings of Enlanuel de Kadt, and it is from his essay in Landsberger (1970) that this historical background is discussed here. Although de Kadt points out that Freire arrived at his view independently, there can be no denying that working within the saIne religious and cultural milieu, his own developnlent was in sorne way related to what was happening in the church. As early as 1929 Catholic Action \vas founded in Brazil, and it rapidly established its own university groups, Juventude Universitaria Catholica, but initially this was not a radical organization. However, a number of factors in the 1950s contributed to a swing towards radicalisnl so that by the early 1960s the movenlent recognized that university refofll1s in Brazil had to be part of the

Brazilian revolution. Such a move towards a Marxian, rather than a Marxist, radicalism incurred disfavour with many of the ecclesiastical hierarchy, which was a lesson that a second movement, Acao Popular, was to note. This movement began informal1y during 1961, was officially launched on 1 June 1962, and rapidly gained a middle-class, radical and intellectual following. The nlovement was explicitly non-Marxist, but neither was it official1y bound with any ties to Rome, although a theological position was implicit within it from the outset. Indeed, de Kadt suggests that it was a para-Christian movement and underlying its position are the writings of Teilhard de Chardin, Emanuel Mournier and Pope John XXIII, especial1y the latter's Mater and Magistra.