Book presents Brazilian economic thought to foreigners – 09/06/2023 – Market

Book presents Brazilian economic thought to foreigners – 09/06/2023 – Market

Edited by researchers Ricardo Bielschowsky, from UFRJ, Mauro Boianovsky, from UnB, and Mauricio Coutinho, from Unicamp, “A History of Brazilian Economic Thought” proposes to consolidate in English a broad investigation of the evolution of economic thought in Brazil.

The book brings together texts by several important researchers on the subject, including the editors, analyzing from the colonial period to the recent past —as they seek an international audience, the texts are didactic about Brazilian particularities.

Briefly summarize some of the topics discussed. The first chapter covers the second half of the 20th century, with the creation of the first graduate courses in economics and the emergence of an academic community of economists. His scientific contributions are related to the Brazilian economic challenges and the history of his formation. The issue of underdevelopment motivated the first scientific investigations in economics by Brazilians — notably, the work of Celso Furtado.

Already in the midst of the inflationary crisis of the 1980s, the work is directed to issues of monetary stabilization. Indexation was a peculiarity of the Brazilian system that caught the attention of economists, and theories about inertial inflation and how to stabilize the Brazilian economy were intensely debated.

Economists’ academic contributions were also shaped by the particular methodological pluralism of educational institutions in Brazil—the well-known clash between “orthodox” and “heterodox.” Thus, there are important contributions from Brazilians both in traditional economic theory and in alternative approaches and topics.

In the first case, the author highlights the work of Aloisio Araujo, José Scheinkman and Marilda Sotomayor —all of whom had worked at Impa, an institution dedicated mainly to mathematics. Among the heterodox, there are Brazilians with fundamental contributions to post-Keynesian theory, such as Fernando Cardim de Carvalho. There is also a relevant presence in the international community of other areas such as economic methodology and the history of economic thought itself.

If academic economists in Brazil are a product of the second half of the 20th century, economic problems have always been present in the country, as well as individuals facing these issues.

In the colonial period, the book explores views on how the colony could economically serve the Portuguese empire (from Father Antônio Vieira in the 16th century to Sousa Coutinho in the late 18th century).

In the 19th century, the issue of slave labor was central. Abolitionists like André Rebouças needed to figure out how to reformulate an economy dependent on such a perverse institution. In this period in which the economy depended on the export of agricultural products, mainly coffee, monetary debates were centered on the exchange rate issue, and the discussion between paperists and metallists is analyzed.

Views on trade policy are also explored, from the imperial period. Although some influential authors have imported trade openness ideas from European liberalism (such as the Viscount of Cairu and Tavares Bastos), protectionist policies were defended and implemented by politicians such as Manuel Alves Branco, Rodrigues Torres and Carneiro Leão. The book also shows that in the Old Republic, usually associated with the defense of coffee, there were already debates about the protection of the national industry.

Already in the “developmental period” (1930-80) there was no single current of thought among Brazilians, but a variety of views on development. In addition to the community linked to ECLAC’s development theses, there were also groups with liberal and Marxist inspirations. This diversity of thought materializes in the formation of plural academic institutions in the 1960s and 1970s.

“A History of Brazilian Economic Thought” fulfills the objective of presenting this panorama in a broad way. The amount of information can overwhelm the lay reader, but reading does not require great prior technical knowledge. The chapters form independent texts and follow well-defined topics and periods, allowing the reader to dedicate more attention to subjects of specific interest.

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