Florestan Fernandes, Brazilian Politician and Sociologist

Florestan Fernandes (1920-1995) was a Brazilian politician, sociologist and essayist, considered the founder of Critical Sociology in Brazil. He was a federal deputy for the Workers Party.

Florestan Fernandes was born in São Paulo on July 22, 1920. The only child of the Portuguese immigrant Maria Fernandes, he never got to know his father. It was created by his godmother Hermínia Bresser de Lima, who aroused his interest in studies.

He lived between the two worlds, the house of the godmother and the tenements of the city. She dropped out of school in the third year of high school and to help her mother began to work as a shoeshine. Later he worked in a bakery and a restaurant.

After turning 17, he was encouraged to return to school. He enrolled in a specific course and studied between 1938 and 1940 the equivalent of seven years of study.


In 1941, Florestan Fernandes joined the Faculty of Philosophy, Letters and Human Sciences of the University of São Paulo (USP), graduating in Social Sciences in 1943, completing his degree the following year.

In 1943, during the dictatorship of the Estado Novo, Florestan began to collaborate with the newspapers, The State of São Paulo and Folha da Manhã, where he met Herminio Sacchetta, who took him to the Revolutionary Socialist Party (PSR). .

Between 1944 and 1946, Florestan attended postgraduate studies in sociology and anthropology at the Free School of Sociology and Politics. From 1945 he served as researcher and assistant professor of Fernando de Azevedo in the chair of Sociology II.

In 1947, Florestan obtained the title of Master in Social Sciences at the Free School, with the dissertation "The Social Organization of Tupinambá". Based on the account of the seventeenth-century chroniclers, he reconstructed the social reality of the Tupi-Guarani Indians, inhabitants of a large part of the Brazilian coast at the time of the discoveries, but exterminated since the late sixteenth century. The work received the Fábio Prado Prize in 1948 and was consecrated as a classic of Brazilian ethnology.

In 1951, he obtained the title of Doctor of Sociology from the Faculty of Philosophy, Sciences and Letters of USP, with the thesis “The Social Function of War of the Tupinambá Society”.

During the 1950s, he became known for his ardent participation in the public school campaign.

Top Ideas by Florestam Fernandes

Sociologist Florestan Fernandes, sponsored by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), worked on the Race Relations Research Program in Brazil. He developed the research that contradicted the thesis about the lack of prejudice and discrimination in the country, starting a new phase of the black study.

In 1955, he published “Blacks and Whites in Sao Paulo,” in partnership with Roger Baptiste, where he reversed the idea that blacks were a social problem, stating that society was a problem for the black population, undoing thus the myth that a “racial democracy” prevailed in Brazil.

Professor in Sociology I in 1964, with the thesis “The Integration of the Black in the Class Society”, Florestan Fernandes questioned modernization, coupled with the constitution of modern capitalism in Brazil, and democratization, demonstrating how the inequalities of access of blacks and mulattos to the labor market is an obstacle to the realization of a democratic society in Brazil.


During the military regime of 1964, Florestan was removed from academic activities, persecuted by the dictatorship and imprisoned, but did not spend much time in prison due to the great repercussion achieved by the open letter he had published in the press, stating that “If the great virtue of the military was discipline, that of the intellectual was the critical spirit. ” In the following years, Florestan gave lectures in several states always in defense of the democratization of society.

In 1986 Florestan joined the Workers Party, by which he was elected deputy to the National Constituent Assembly. Reelected for new term in 1990.

Florestan Fernandes has published more than fifty works, transformed the social thinking of the country and established a new style of sociological inquiry, marked by critical and analytical rigor. He is considered the founder of critical sociology in Brazil.

Florestan Fernandes died in São Paulo on August 10, 1995.

Main works of Florestan Fernandes

  • Tupinambá Social Organization (1949)
  • The Social Function of War in the Tupinambá Society (1952)
  • Ethnology and the Brazilian Society (1959)
  • Empirical Foundations of Sociological Explanation (1959)
  • Social Changes in Brazil (1960)
  • Dependent Capitalism and Social Classes in Latin America (1973)
  • The Bourgeois Revolution in Brazil (1975)
  • The Integration of the Black into Class Society (1978)
  • What is Revolution (1981)
  • Power and Counterpower in Latin America (1981)
  • The Dictatorship in Question (1982)

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