F.H. Cardoso

In D. Collier (ed.) The New Authoritarianism

A Summary



  • Although military in nature the regimes are not headed by a single general who imposes order by decree (as in past episodes of military rule in LA). Rather the military rules as an institution in order to restructure the economy and society along the national security ideological line of modern military doctrine.
  • This is different from European fascism as BA fears popular mobilization whereas fascism relied upon it. It is precisely the fear of the popular classes that drives their repression under BA, and leads them to repress wages, cut organizational links between civil society and the state, and to control the election process. The army as guarantor of stability prefers a technocratic relationship between citizen and state.
  • The regime made no attempt to promote the doctrine of harmony amongst the classes by way of stimulating class organization. Nor was it corporatist. It did not in other words build links with society in a consistent manner.
  • It was not nationalist as fascism, or populism was. This is because it relies on being a dependent economy, and part of the economic strategy is industrialization based upon foreign investment and capital.
  • Mexico was not BA as the military was not involved.

Regime and State

  • Mexico highlights a distinction for Cardoso as between state and regime. Regime is the set of formal rules that binds institutions together, and the citizens to the rulers. The state meanwhile is the “pact of domination” that exists amongst the dominant classes, and the norms which guarantee their dominance.
  • Thus the “state” in LA could broadly be defined as dependent capitalist, and this explains why we see many similar traits between countries such as Brazil and Mexico (similar means of capital accumulation, wage control, income distribution). However, the regime in those countries was different, Braz being BA, and Mexico being something similar to liberal authoritarianism. Thus states that are the same can sustain a variety of regimes including both democratic (Colombia, Venezuela) and BA (Argentina, Brazil etc.).
  • There is room for exploring the compatibility between different forms of dependent capitalist state, and different types of regime. So it is valid to ask under what circumstances a democratic regime can be sustained given a capitalist state based upon increasing inequality. Some even argue that this is the reason for BA in Arg, Chile, Uruguay. However, the achievements of Venezuela and Brazil (pre-coup) in attaining similar patterns of development show it is possible under democracy as well. Furthermore, it is hard to believe that exclusively economic motives were behind the military mobilizations in the region.
  • Moreover it is hard to identify a homogenous set of economic interests within the BA states. So whilst Chile was concerned to dismantle state owned enterprises, Brazil enlarged the sphere of state production


  • “There is no greater irrationality than the belief that history can be fully understood through formal rationality.” Thus it is hopeless to look at political event from a purely economic perspective.
  • It is likewise simplistic to think the dependent capitalist process can only occur through authoritarianism.

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