Caio Prado Júnior: life, contributions, works

Caio Prado Junior was a Brazilian writer, historian, politician, sociologist, economist, philosopher and book editor. Considered one of the main thinkers on the formation of contemporary Brazilian society, the polymath graduated in Law and dedicated himself to understanding how Brazil became the country it was in the 20th century.

owner of a vast sociological, economic and historiographic work, the thinker worked in the political environment of his country, being one of the articulators of the 1930 revolution, was a professor in Political Economy at the University of São Paulo and founded, together with Arthur Neto, Maria José Dupré and Monteiro Lobato, Editora Brasiliense. It is considered one of the great interpreters in Brazil, next to Gilberto Freyre, Sergio Buarque de Holanda and Florestan Fernandes.

Biography of Caio Prado Júnior

Caio Prado Junior born on February 11, 1907, in an influential family of São Paulo politicians, linked to the most traditional social media of the time. His first training was guided by a private teacher of the children of the elite of the time. In 1918, the sociologist entered the traditional

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Jesuit College São Luís, in São Paulo, for his secondary education. In 1920, due to health problems of one of his brothers, the family lived in Eastbourn, England, where the young thinker attended Chelmsford Hall College during the year. Upon returning to Brazil, Prado returns to Colégio São Luís, where he completed his basic studies.

“Formação do Brasil Contemporâneo” is Caio Prado Júnior's main book. [1]
“Formação do Brasil Contemporâneo” is Caio Prado Júnior's main book. [1]

In 1928, Prado obtained his diploma in Bachelor of Laws from the Largo do São Francisco Law School, an institution later incorporated into the University of São Paulo (USP). As a university student, Prado studied politics and began to venture into writing articles on politics, law and economics.

Upon graduation, he practiced law for a while, but did not pursue law as a profession in his life. The period in which he lived his youth, in the 1920s and 1930s, was one of great political and cultural effervescence in Brazil. Also in 1928, the then lawyer entered political life once and for all, joining the Democratic Party.

In 1930, the thinker participated in the articulations of the coup that would lead Getúlio Vargas to the presidency and put an end to the call "old republic” Brazilian, or Oligarchic Republic “Coffee with Milk”.

In the following years, he went on to compose the National Liberating Alliance (ANL), a broad front of resistance against fascism and the Brazilian Integralist Action, a fascist, ultraconservative and ultranationalist movement that emerged in Brazil in 1932. The ANL had communist orientation Marxist, was founded in 1934 in response to the growing conservative wave in the country, and Caio Prado came to the fore because of his affiliation to the Brazilian Communist Party, which took place in the early 1930s.

In 1931, his son Caio Graco was born. That same year, Prado left the republic established by Getúlio Vargas, very disappointed with the direction the country was taking. It was at this time that he joined the Brazilian Communist Party and started doing opposition to the Getulio dictatorial regime, which later came close to the italian fascism It is like Nazism German.

In 1933, Caio Prado traveled to the Soviet Union, already commanded by Stalin. That same year, he published his first book, Political evolution of Brazil, and the following year, he published the book USSR – a new world.

In 1934, with the foundation of the University of São Paulo, Prado acted as researcher at the Faculty of Philosophy, Letters and Human Sciences, approaching the University's History and Geography departments, and participating in the foundation of the Association of Brazilian Geographers (AGB). In 1935, the thinker became president of the ANL, which motivated his political prison for two years. in 1937 exiled in Europe, returning to Brazil in 1939.

In 1942, he published what would become his most important book, Formation of contemporary Brazil. This book put him in hall of the great interpreters of Brazil, by tracing Brazilian historiography through a historical materialist bias, but with the author's own and original thinking.

Back in Brazil, his political participation became more intense, which led Prado to obtain more space within the Communist Party, although the national leadership of the party did not allow the thinker to occupy space too much. In 1943, Caio Prado enters into partnership with the writer Maria José Dupré and the writers Monteiro LobaI'm and Arthur Neto in Founding of Editora Brasiliense, which still exists today.

In 1945, Caio Prado was elected State Deputy of São Paulo as PCB substitute, and in 1947 he was elected Deputy of the State Constituent Assembly. Despite the election of Prado and other members of the PCB, a decree by President Dutra later revoked the registration of the party and made it illegal, thus ending the mandate of the elected deputies, and among them was that of Caio Prado Junior.

The Brazilian polymath started to dedicate himself more to the publishing market, being ahead of Editora Brasiliense after the death of Monteiro Lobato, in 1948, and being in charge of Gráfica Urupês, belonging to the publisher, and the Brasiliense Magazine. In 1954, Prado participated in the contest for the professorship of free teaching in political economy at the USP Law School with the thesis Guidelines for a Brazilian economic policy. O title of professor it was conferred on the thinker, but for political reasons he could not assume the position. The attempt to enter an academic career continued on the part of Prado, but he never succeeded because he was a member of the PCB.

In 1964, the Brasiliense Magazine it was closed by the dictatorial government that installed itself in our country that year. Caio Prado exiled in Chile and returned to Brazil. Upon his return, the historian and sociologist, already recognized as one of the greatest thinkers in Brazil, was arrested and convicted in 1970 of subversion on account of an interview he had granted to the USP Journal in 1968. His sentence was the maximum for the type of crime, six and a half years. In 1971, he got a habeas corpus after appealing to the Supreme Court.

Caio Prado Junior died in São Paulo, aged 83 old, on November 23, 1990.

Read too: Darcy Ribeiro – another essential thinker of the humanities in Brazil

Ideas and contributions by Caio Prado Júnior

The Brazilian thinker is considered one of the greatest interpreters in Brazil. Brazilian interpreters are historians and sociologists who, from the 20th century onwards, dedicated themselves to understanding the complex historical and social formation of our country.

With a reading supported by the historical materialismco Marx's dialectic, Caio Prado carried out a real review of the Brazilian historical course, establishing the points of the colonial period that shaped contemporary Brazil. Despite the influence of the ideas of Marx, the thinking of the historian and sociologist is completely original.

He operated a historical revisionism that centered on the Brazilian worker the set of facts that shaped our society. For the thinker, it was necessary to operate a social revolution supported in the preparation of workers through the class consciousness and a significant structural improvement in the general condition of work and workers.

In view of this intention to reorganize historiographical knowledge about Brazil since the colonial period with one vision supported by materialist dialectics, Caio Prado Júnior saw the continuity and overlapping effects of each period of our history.

This means to say that contemporary Brazil was a reflection of Imperial Brazil and Colonial Brazil. The imperial period was also a reflection of the previous period, that is, the colonial period. In this way, what we experience in the present moment is a reflection of various past historical events, not in a progressive sense, but in a material sense driven by chance.

So, the structures of power have been preserved, and studying Brazilian history for Caio Prado Júnior should be understood as a step towards changing society, transforming it and distributing power among the popular layers, what would cause in a society fairer and more egalitarian. Basically, what Prado Júnior saw is that the economic vision always prevailed over the Brazilian scenario, which resulted in the formation of such an unequal country.

  • sense of colonization

Caio Prado Júnior's new reading finds in Brazilian colonization the bases for the formation of contemporary Brazil, seeing the relationship between America and Europe in a different way. The white European man, according to Prado, had no aptitude for living and working in the tropics, so the colonizers looked to slavery for the labor to work here. Thus, a model of slavery colonial exploitation.

“Brazil's economic history” is the main work on economics based on Marxism written by Caio Prado Jr. [1]
“Brazil's economic history” is the main work on economics based on Marxism written by Caio Prado Jr. [1]

In addition, the colonization model itself is unique and has a direct relationship with the formation of contemporary Brazil: in Caio Prado's view, Brazilian colonization was based on exploration, and not in the village (as in the Today, this dualist reading (exploitation or settlement) is a little outdated, as the Brazilian colonization model was based on these two motivations.

See more: Racial democracy – a concept quite distant from the reality present in Freyre's work

Works by Caio Prado Júnior

Brazilian historian, sociologist, philosopher and writer Caio Prado Júnior has written and published more than 17 books, as well as scientific articles, journalistic articles, reviews and chronicles. His most important or most widespread works are described below:

  • Formation of contemporary Brazil: published in 1942, this is the most complex and complete study developed by the Brazilian polymath. In the book, Prado masterfully develops his interpretation of Brazil in the light of a process of revisionism history that seeks to understand the current formation of the country through a "search for meaning" that goes beyond what is thought. The meaning lies in the long historical process that began with colonization and ended up in what Brazil became economically and politically in the 20th century.

  • Brazil's economic history: based on the dialectical historical materialist method, the book seeks to reconstruct the formation of the Brazilian economy from the colonial period to the post-war world. For Caio Prado, Brazil lived what the author called the “old economy”, that is, a pre-capitalist model, until the end of the Second World War. The big turnaround in the economic model that made the country enter the contemporary capitalist system for good it happened only with the late Brazilian industrialization, massified only at the end of the second half of the century XX.

  • USSR – a new world: is the first book published by Caio Prado Júnior and was consolidated based on a field study by the thinker in the Soviet Union Stalinist. Prado Júnior dedicated himself to defending, in this book, Soviet socialism (then in a Stalinist model) as a necessary revolutionary way to reach a new world, with greater equality and justice Social. This work was also one of the author's most criticized and controversial for its alignment with the totalitarian Marxism of the Soviet Union ruled by Stalin.

  • what is freedom: this book is in thePrimeiros Passos collection, and, like most of Prado Júnior's work, was published by Editora Brasiliense, owned by him. This collection aims to provide the lay reader with a basis for understanding complex issues, so it is a easy-to-read book that explains the philosophical and sociological sense of freedom throughout the times.

  • what is philosophy: also part of the First Steps collection, this book reconstructs for lay people the meaning of the word philosophy since its beginnings in Ancient Greece, presenting in a simple way the meaning of this so complex area of ​​the knowledge.

Image credit

[1] Brazilian publisher (Reproduction)

by Francisco Porfirio
Sociology Professor

Source: Brazil School -

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