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Publication

33

State and Unions in the Transformation of the Brazilian Countryside, 1964-1979

Published on 1 January 1998

In the early 1960s, the dramatic mobilization of rural wage laborers and small farmers placed the agrarian question at the top of the Brazilian political agenda. The question facing governing elites was how to modernize an archaic agrarian sector that was widely perceived as posing a major bottleneck for development and a breeding ground for agrarian radicalism. Until that time, wage laborers and small farmers in various forms of land tenure had effectively been excluded from existing labor legislation, social security, and coverage by national law in general. Instead, various traditional and clientelist forms of social control regulated rural social relations. The new rural movements were led by relatively moderate urban groups or individuals seeking to create a rural political base. Their appearance soon after the Cuban Revolution however, and in the larger context of the cold war, triggered fears of possible revolution. National debate quickly centered not on whether but on how the Brazilian state should intervene in the countryside. Attempts by the populist government of President Joao Goulart to address the agrarian question were cut short by the military coup of 1964. In its wake, the fledgling rural movements were brutally repressed in a wave of state-sponsored repression and private landowner violence.

Authors

Image of Peter P. Houtzager

Peter P. Houtzager

Research Fellow

Publication details

authors
Houtzager, P. P.
journal
Latin American Research Review, volume 33

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