Sérgio Buarque de Holanda: life, works, concepts

Sergio Buarque de Holanda it was a great Brazilian historian, literary critic, journalist, recognized and requested academic in important Brazilian and foreign universities. Your book Roots of Brazil is a classic of Brazilian historiography and a fundamental work of sociological studies. Buarque de Holanda introduced Max Weber's study in Brazil and, based on his theory, developed the concept of "Hman çordial", which, decades later, remains an explanatory model of the Brazilian man.

Read too: Florestan Fernandes – another great name in Social Sciences in Brazil

Sergio Buarque de Holanda's Biography

Born in São Paulo, in 1902. He was the son of Cristóvão Buarque de Hollanda Cavalcanti, a pharmacist and university professor, and Heloísa Gonçalves Moreira Buarque de Hollanda, a housewife. His father was from Pernambuco, and his mother, from Rio de Janeiro. born in a middle class family, Sérgio Buarque studied at the best schools in São Paulo, enjoying a comprehensive and humanist education.

To the

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18 years old started writing for the Correio Paulistano. During this period, he participated in the modernist movement and approached central figures in that movement, such as Mario de Andrade and Oswald de Andrade.

In 1921 he moved with his family to Rio de Janeiro, where studied law at the University of Brazil (1925). He continued in contact with the movement. modernist, acting in the magazine klaxon and in the magazine Aesthetics. He continued working as a journalist, literary critic and editor.

Sérgio Buarque de Holanda was one of the greatest Brazilian intellectuals of the 20th century.
Sérgio Buarque de Holanda was one of the greatest Brazilian intellectuals of the 20th century.

in 1929 moved to berlin as special envoy from'The newspaper, to cover developments in Germany, Poland and the Soviet Union. At that time deepened his studies in Story and Social Sciences, as well as in reading German authors. He translated German films into Portuguese and wrote for Duco Magazine, a Brazilian publication linked to the Brazil-Germany Chamber of Commerce |1|.

In the context of the rise of the Nazism, returned to Brazil in 1931, with a great intellectual baggage and handwritten reflections that would be the basis of his main historiographical project, the book Roots of Brazil. In 1936 he took up the position of professor of American History and Luso-Brazilian Culture at the University of Rio de Janeiro, which was the capital of Brazil.

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Sergio Buarque de Holanda he married, in 1936, to Maria Amélia Alvim Buarque de Holanda, known as Memelia, with whom he was united all his life. With her, he had seven children: Heloísa Maria, Sérgio, Álvaro Augusto, Francisco, Maria do Carmo, Ana Maria and Maria Cristina. In the artistic field, the singer, composer and writer stood out Chico Buarque; the singer, consecrated by bossa nova, little girl (Heloisa Maria); and the former Minister of Culture Ana from Holland.

collaborated as literary critic for several newspapers and magazines, such as the State of S. Paul, and cooperated with thefoundation of the Brazilian Association of Writers, in 1942, of which he was later president. Also during this period he worked at the National Book Institute and the National Library.

In 1946, the family returned to São Paulo and Sérgio Buarque began teaching at the Escola Paulista de Sociologia e Politics, as well as directing the Museu Paulista.

In the early 50's, he was professor of Brazilian Studies at the University of Rome, staying for two years in Italy. In 1957, after the presentation of his second most important work, Paradise's vision, assumed the chair of History of Brazilian Civilization at the University of São Paulo (USP), where he created the Institute of Brazilian Studies (IMB), in 1962, and remained until 1969, when turned off in protest to Institutional Act No. 5,who had impeached some of his fellow professors. He participated in the Centro Brasil Democrático, a group opposed to the military dictatorship.

Retired, he continued to work as a translator, columnist for newspapers, essayist, coordinator of a series of books on the history of Brazilian civilization. He has also been a visiting professor at foreign universities such as New York University (1965), Columbia University (1965), Yale University (1966) and Harvard (1966). At the end of the 70s, worked in the founding of the Workers' Party (PT).

Sérgio Buarque de Holanda died in 1982, aged seventy-nine. He was one of the greatest Brazilian thinkers of the 20th century, recognized and prestigious nationally and internationally.

See too: Paulo Freire: great name in Brazilian education who was also persecuted and exiled

Sérgio Buarque de Holanda in Sociology

The emergence of Sociology in Brazil it is marked by two great cycles. O firstcycle, called pre-scientific, occurred in the second half of the nineteenth century, during the Second Reign, when there were still no universities in Brazil and studies in the human sciences were carried out by jurists and literati, with the intention of understanding Brazilian culture, national identity and the formation of our society.

The 1930s, with the emergence of the first university (USP), became the period of transition to the second big cycle, in which the exchange with professors and scholars from other countries, as well as the training of students in this discipline, it led to the production of a scientific, specialized, methodical and diversified. In this period of transition between the two great cycles, two fundamental works were produced: Casa Grande and Senzala, in Gilberto Freyre, and Roots of Brazil, by Sérgio Buarque de Holanda.

Sérgio Buarque de Holanda introduced the study of Max Weber in Brazil. Weber, one of the three main exponents of Classical Sociology, developed his theory through ideal types, marked by a set of characteristics from which reality could be analyzed as it came closer to one type or another.

Max Weber was one of the pillars of Classical Sociology.
Max Weber was one of the pillars of Classical Sociology.

Influenced by this method of analysis, Sérgio Buarque de Holanda developed the cordial man concept, a model of analysis of Brazilians in their social and political relations. His historical interpretation of Brazil was and still is hegemonic annarrative about what Brazil is in the human sciences. Historiographic and analytical, the book Roots of Brazilmake a historical and social diagnosis, points out a path for the construction of a modern, liberal and democratic nation, as well as capturing the tension between continuity and change in Brazilian society.

Read too: What factors enabled the emergence of sociology?

Works by Sérgio Buarque de Holanda

The literary production of Sérgio Buarque de Holanda, fruit of broad and deep historiographical research, spoke about the colonial tradition of Brazil and what was understood by Nation during the Empire and later during the Republic, turning to how colonization, slavery and the bases of the economy shaped social structures, culture, relations.

In addition to a national culturalist identity, he sought to understand this identity also in its political dimension and proposed, in a futuristic exercise, to apprehend how the Brazilian Revolution towards a democracy political and social, which for him would only be possible when colonial practices and mentality were definitively overcome.

The first work is also the main and best known: Roots of Brazil, launched in 1936, being the first of the collection Brazilian Documents, directed by Gilberto Freyre. In 1959, he published his second most important work: Vision of Paradise: Edenic reasons in the discovery and colonization of Brazil.

Your works:

  • Roots of Brazil (1936)
  • glass snake (1944)
  • monsoons (1945)
  • Expansion of São Paulo at the end of the 16th century and the beginning of the 17th century (1948)
  • Paths and Borders (1957)
  • Vision of Paradise: The Edenic Motives in the Discovery and Colonization of Brazil (1959)
  • From Empire to Republic (1972)
  • Mythology Attempts (1979)
  • the far west (1986 - posthumously)

Some collections with texts published in newspapers were also released after his death. His accurate and meticulous research went on for years, so his works are usually separated by a considerable amount of time between one publication and another.

  • Roots of Brazil

Roots of Brazil: classic work of Brazilian sociology. [1]
Roots of Brazil: classic work of Brazilian sociology. [1]

As we have already seen, the author follows a weberian line of analysis. Your object of study in this book is the çolonization from Brazil and its political and cultural consequences. We will study this important work according to the analytical division made by sociologist Sérgio Costa (2014) |2|.

Sérgio Buarque de Holanda presents the idea of ​​an Iberian colonial pattern, differentiating the Portuguese and Spanish colonization from the colonization of other European peoples (English, French, German). For him, Spanish colonization, characterized by violence, changed its colonies more vehemently. The Portuguese, on the other hand, for whom the colony was just a place of passage, developed a relationship that was less imposing, rational and initially coordinated. These two peoples, with a fragile nobility and a non-hierarchical society, embarked on the adventure of exploring new lands and the work of making wealth in them, being the pioneers of Great Navigations.

The author attributes to the Portuguese an adaptability that favored the emergence of interethnic relations in the settlement of the Cologne, low capacity for social organization and a rudimentary work morale. The historical motivation for this would be the fact that the Portuguese bourgeoisie did not deprive themselves, but ally themselves with the former nobility.

The reflections of these characteristics of the Portuguese colonizers in Brazil were a unplanned colonization, performed by two types of people: adventurers and workers, who, for not having a nobility strong, were not linked to leisure and sought to build wealth and prestige. These people soon adapted to work in the colony, transforming it into large monoculture plantations. Therefore, the social and cultural structure of the Portuguese colonial system had great impact on the formation of Brazilian society.

  • rural patriarchy

The second milestone in Brazilian education is the rural patriarchy. The author makes a detailed survey of the colonial administration and the economic bases of the colony, as well as a social stratification similar to the caste system, with people classified and positioned according to color (white, black, Indian).

On rural properties, such as the sugar cane mills, the owners had unlimited powers over those who were under their territory, whether family members, enslaved or free workers. Large land holdings functioned as particular states, marked by the colonelism.

THE hegemony of rural patriarchy, for the author, was the impediment to the formation of a bourgeoisie urban that fostered a liberal culture. This model of exercise of power by large farmers would conform the policy and would become a hindrance to the construction of a democratic culture without personalisms or personal affections, determining the relationship between rulers and ruled.

In relation to Brazilian education, Sérgio Buarque de Holanda points out that the Christianization promoted by the Jesuits imprinted as a parameter of teaching in Brazil the logic of discipline and obedience rather than a scientific and technical parameter.

Unlike other economic analysis, Sérgio Buarque de Holanda analyzed sugarcane cycles from a cultural perspective. For the author, the slavery, in addition to an economic relationship, became athe culture that founded customs, opinions and behaviors.

O process of Theabolition it was late, slow and gradual. Even after the legal framework of the Lei Áurea (1888), the slavery mentality and behavior remained and re-signified not only in new work relations, but in social relations as a whole and in institutions.

In relation to the Brazilian State, Sérgio Buarque de Holanda developed the concept of property officer, that public official who would take advantage of this position to serve his or her personal interests or those of people related to him. The performance of property officials would generate legal and institutional unpredictability due to non-compliance with previously established written rules.

For the author, in Brazil, a confusion between public interest and private interest, which gave rise to the development of a practice of appropriating public property for the benefit of specific people and groups, as well as its use as a bargaining chip for favors and rewards. The concept of patrimonialism was later worked on by Raymundo Faoro in his classic the Power Owners (1958).

Sérgio Buarque de Holanda points throughout the work as colonization had profound consequences for Brazil's political, cultural, economic and social identity. He also showed how colonial practices revamped and remained after the Independence (1822) and even after the Republic proclamation (1889). His work also points to the future. For him, overcoming this colonial past is the key to what he calls the Brazilian Revolution, the path to a democracy perfected, in which there is equality between people and an impersonal and rational State.

cordial man

The concept of a cordial man is fundamental in the work of Sérgio Buarque de Holanda. Cordial, contrary to popular belief, not from courteous but from the heart, that is, moved by affectivity. Influenced by Max Weber's Theory of Social Action, which in its typology of human actions conceptualizes actions affective social, that is, those based on feeling, Sérgio Buarque developed the concept of a cordial man: the typical Brazilian who acts moved by feeling, not rationality.

The cordial man develops in the patriarchal family structure of rural Brazil, in which the head of the family determines what the relationships of the other members will be, in a private environment and in a communication marked by a strong emotional charge.

The cordiality is characterized by the continuous attempt to personalize any and all social interactions. Thus, the cordial man is not fond of anonymity or submitting to rules that make him equal to others. He wants to be called by name, want to have special and preferential treatment, whether using your personal charisma, your network of contacts or similar devices to achieve your goals.

Because you are guided by your emotions, your decisions and actions do not need to be subject to a law. In the realm of politics, personal loyalties determine their allegiances. For Buarque de Holanda, this political pattern perpetuates the reproduction of hierarchies.

Violence is a primordial characteristic of the cordial man. Any and all antagonism is interpreted by him as a threat. The cordial man is both a type of individual and a pattern of social interaction, a personality and a way of relating to other people. The definition of Brazilian cordiality involves ambiguity and the use of affectivity, and not rationality, to achieve goals.

In politics, cordiality will against the idea of ​​equality, impersonality, formation of deliberative majorities, which, for the author, makes it difficult for us to deal with democracy. Thus, our link with the policy it would start from personal relationships and the mixture of the public-private relationship. The anthropologist Roberto DaMatta, in the same line of thought, later conceptualized the "Brazilian way", synthesized in the famous phrase: “Who do you think you're talking to?”.

See too:Concept of domination for Max Weber


The interpretation of Brazil performed by Sérgio Buarque de Holanda was responsible not only for explaining it, but also for building it. The image we have today of what we are as Brazilians is reflected in the reading that this author made of Brazil. Although it is a classic of Brazilian sociology and has influenced generations of intellectuals, its perspective is not unanimous. the contemporary sociologist JesseSouza, through your book The Elite of Delay, makes a critical review of the classic Roots of Brazil.


|1| COSTA, Sergio. O Brazil by Sérgio Buarque de Holanda. Brasília: Society and State Magazine, v. 29, No. 3, 2014.

|2| COSTA, Sergio. O Brazil by Sérgio Buarque de Holanda. Brasília: Society and State Magazine, v. 29, No. 3, 2014.

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[1] Company of Letters (Reproduction)

By Milka de Oliveira Rezende
Sociology Professor

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