Copyright Sociological Research Online, 1999


Oswaldo H. Yamamoto and Antonio Cabral Neto (1999) 'Sociology of Education and Marxism in Brazil'
Sociological Research Online, vol. 4, no. 1, <>

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Received: 08/10/98      Accepted: 10/01/99      Published: 31/3/99


It is argued in this paper that the effect of the Marxist thought on Brazilian education was a process heavily determined by a peculiar set of historic circumstances. The main context was the struggle against the military dictatorship and in favour of the democratisation of society, conditioning both educational literature and educators' organisation. The educational literature has a wide thematic range and is characterised by heterogeneity concerning the actual contributions to the explanation of Brazilian educational reality and the patterns of incorporation of Marxist sources. After this golden age of the Marxist paradigm the influence of Marxist studies has dramatically declined. Nowadays, this influence can be of two kinds: (i) a diffuse and non-exclusive one informing general reflections on a wide spectrum of educational studies; (ii) a specific set of educational studies on themes directly related to the core of the Marxist theory.

Brazil; Education; Marxism


A well accepted classification of the recent military dictatorships considers the combination of two characteristics: the levels of economic destructiveness and the extent of repression (O'Donnell, 1988). High economic destructiveness can be translated as acute recession, reduced industrial activity and increased unemployment. Severe repression can be understood as quasi state terrorism objectively affecting many victims and subjectively producing a generalised feeling of insecurity. Argentina, Chile, Bolivia and Greece are recent examples of countries included in the category of high economic destructiveness and severe repression.

The last Brazilian military dictatorship (1964-1985) is usually considered to belong to the 'mild' group. Nevertheless, during those years, especially in the late 1960s - early 1970s, the impact of the regime had a deleterious effect on the cultural field. The academic discussion was almost banned from the universities, many universities were invaded and students and staff members were banished for political reasons - or even arrested (ADUSP, 1979; Ribeiro, 1978; Arquidiocese de São Paulo, 1985). The intellectuals who remained in the universities were put under severe ideological control. In this oppressive context, important writings considered potentially dangerous to national security were abolished from university curricula. The forbidden titles included, beside the obvious Marx and Engels works, all of Paulo Freire's books: the ideas of the Brazilian educator remained out of the Education courses until the time of democratisation.

Only in the mid-1970s, a peculiar set of studies related to the struggle against the military dictatorship in Brazil began to be produced (Netto, 1990). The remarkable characteristic of these studies was their theoretical framework, strongly based on Marxist ideas. According to Pécaut (1989), Marxist critique reached a hegemonic position within the opposition to dictatorship in Brazil.

The purpose of this paper is to analyse the influx of Marxist and neo-Marxist theories in the Brazilian educational literature of the 1970s and 1980s in terms of its main trends. Education was chosen for three main reasons: (1) the extension of the Marxist hegemony (2) the paradigmatic nature of that theoretical approach and (3) the possibility of comparison with the developments of the British sociology of education, accepted as the most vigorous of that time (Forquin, 1990).

Brazil: The Historical Context

The period beginning in the mid-1970s represents a moment of drastic changes in the relations between the state and opposition in Brazil.

On the one hand, the military dictatorship faced with the economic slump began to 'decompress' its relations with the society. Until that time, Brazil had been considered one of 'the most dynamic and fastest growing economies in the world' (Amadeo and Camargo, 1995, p. 152), thanks to a developmental strategy based on heavy foreign investment and straight control and repression of the worker's movement, producing a remarkable concentration in income distribution. The bankruptcy of this process known as the 'Brazilian miracle' was mainly due to the external debt crisis, a consequence of the global crisis in the 1970s, with the end of the post-war period known as the 'Golden Age' of capitalism (Schor and You, 1995).

On the other hand, after the collapse of the guerrilla alternative, the opposition turned its attention to the parliamentary way of action. In fact, during the 1970s, almost all political organisations of the far left were annihilated: their members were arrested, tortured, and many of them killed (Skidmore, 1990). The Movimento Democratico Brasileiro [MDB] (Brazilian Democratic Movement), created by the military government to play the role of the opposition in the (then) two-party system, gradually became an actual opposition party.

It was, however, an imbalanced relation, strictly determined by the government imposing its stick and carrots strategy. Some civilian institutions, especially the Catholic Church represented by the Conferência dos Bispos do Brasil [CNBB] (Conference of the Brazilian Bishops) and the moderate wing of the opposition party, the MDB, were chosen as the privileged interlocutors - and tolerated by the military government, while some others continued under severe repression.

Nevertheless, the dynamic of this political game gave the opportunity for the organisation of new social actors. First, the social movements, not exclusively but mostly those linked to the Catholic Church, like the important and widespread Comunidades Eclesiais de Base [CEB] (Basis Ecclesial Communities) (Alves, 1989). Second, the so-called 'new unionism'. The changes in the structures of production in the 1970s generated a new kind of workers in the new industrial sectors, organised in strong unions. As one of the consequences of the labour turmoil of the 1970s, they managed to created (even though forbidden by law) two national unions, the Central Única dos Trabalhadores [CUT] (Unified Workers' Central) and Confederação Geral do Trabalhadores [CGT] (General Workers' Confederation) (Almeida, 1975, 1983, 1988; Keck, 1988).

Finally, new political parties emerged after the reforms carried out by the military government in order to divide the opposition, formerly centralised in the MDB. However, as a non-predicted consequence of the breaking up of the political parties, industrial workers led by the most combative union leaders created the Partido dos Trabalhadores [PT] (the Workers' Party) (Alves, 1989; Keck, 1992). This party quickly became the most important political channel inside the opposition forces in parliament.

The political organisation of the intellectuals occurred within this new political scenario. Agencies such as the Sociedade Brasileira para o Progresso da Ciência [SBPC] (Brazilian Society for the Advancement of Science), the Organização dos Advogados do Brasil [OAB] (Brazilian Organisation of Law Professionals), the Associação Brasileira de Imprensa [ABI] (Brazilian Press Association) and the Centro Brasileiro de Análise e Planejamento [CEBRAP] (Brazilian Centre of Analysis and Planning) all played an important role in the process of democratic transition.

Scientific meetings were soundly politicised, leading the military government to attempt to forbid the Annual Meeting of the SBPC in 1977, in Fortaleza, Northeast of Brazil. After an intense mobilisation, scientists and intellectuals managed to hold the meeting at a new site, the Pontifícia Universidade Católica of São Paulo [PUC-SP] (São Paulo Catholic University). To illustrate the tone of this movement, its motto was Galileo Galilei's words before the Roman Inquisition, 'Eppur si muove'[1]

A few months later, the university students' attempt to re-organise the União Nacional dos Estudantes [UNE] (National Union of Students), outlawed by the 1964 coup, caused another confrontation between the government and PUC-SP. During the Military Police invasion of the university on the occasion of the forbidden III Encontro Nacional dos Estudantes [III ENE] (Third National Congress of Students), hundreds of students and staff members were arrested, and some of them suffered severe injuries.

As intellectuals, educators took part in the struggle of the opposition against the military regime. The dynamism of the educational field observed during this period was mainly due to the following reasons: (1) The foundation of nation-wide scientific associations (such as the Centro de Estudos de Educação e Sociedade [CEDES] - Centre of Studies on Education and Society, Campinas, SP; the Associação Nacional de Educação [ANDE] - National Association of Education, Rio de Janeiro, RJ; and the Associação Nacional de Pós-Graduação em Educação [ANPEd] - National Association of Postgraduation in Education); (2) The re-activation of the Conferências Nacionais de Educação [CBE] (National Conferences of Education); (3) the creation of postgraduate programs, with the multiplication of courses and the growth of scientific research in the universities. In fact, of the 48 courses existing in 1992, 65% were created during the 1970s.

This political context - the combination of the politicising of the scientific and professional organisations of educators, the urgency to find actual political alternatives towards a return to civilian rule, and the constraints of the production of original research - invigorated the Marxist influx in the educational field in Brazil.

The Marxist Background in Brazil

The foundation of the Partido Comunista do Brasil [PCB] (Brazilian Communist Party) in 1922 a few years after the Russian Revolution may be considered as the cornerstone of the Marxist debate in Brazil. In fact, it is possible to say that the PCB monopolised Marxist thought in Brazil from its foundation to the 1950s.

Paradoxically, the PCB was founded by anarchist immigrants from Europe (Dulles, 1973). In such a cultural context marked by the tradition of colonial oppression and the absence of academic institutions, the result of this strange marriage could only be a flaw introduced into the Marxist thought.

After the 1930s, the Marxist debate in Brazil was almost entirely determined by the Stalinist standpoint, taking the form of 'official' Marxism-Leninism. The turning point was the VI Congress of the Communist International, in July 1928. The III Congress of the PCB months later restored a version of populism, banishing the intellectuals from the direction of the party. Marxism was transformed into a sort of scholastic theory: without any original reflection on Brazil, the PCB's agenda was strictly determined first by the Communist International and later by the Communist Information Bureau.

This was a turning point in a second way: some of Marx's (and Engels') works has been translated into Portuguese by Communist Publishers. It was, of course, just the first step - because the most important works were translated and published years later - but since then the Marxist writings actually began to be readable in Brazil.

From the defeat of the Communist Upheaval in 1935 to the mid-1940s, the Communists almost disappeared from the political scenario (Dulles, 1983). They just managed to re-organise the party years later inside the process of struggle against GetÚlio Vargas' dictatorship (1937-1945). Emerging from clandestinity, the communists could participate in the political life for the very first time as a legalised political party.

This short period of legality (1945-1947) was extremely important to the PCB: thousands of people became party members and some PCB candidates were elected in the national general election of 1945. Among them, the senator Luis Carlos Prestes, former popular leader of the Coluna Prestes[2] in the 1930s, many times General Secretary of the Central Committee of the PCB, perhaps the most important personality in the history of the party and of Brazil. According to Sodré (1981), the number of party members increased from 2 or 3 thousands in 1943 to 50 thousands in late 1945. The PCB had 9% of the votes in the general election, electing 15 Members of Parliament, including a senator. In the 1947 elections, the PCB was the fourth party in number of votes.

The legal period had another important consequence for the party, i. e., the strong attraction among the Brazilian intelligentsia. Authors like Graciliano Ramos and Jorge Amado, social scientists like Caio Prado Jr., painters like Candido Portinari, physicists like Mario Schemberg and architects like Oscar Niemayer and Vilanova Artigas joined the party and some of them were communist candidates in the 1945 and 1947 general elections.

With respect to Marxist thought, however, it was only in the mid-1950s, after the XX Congress of the USSR Communist Party, that the 'monolith' was broken and for the first time the Marxist debate overstepped the boundaries of the PCB. The monopoly was superseded by a rich dialogue between politicians and intellectuals.

It was the time of the famous 'Seminars on Marx' that took place at the Universidade de São Paulo [USP] (University of São Paulo), co-ordinated by the sociologist Florestan Fernandes, and joined by the most important Brazilian social scientists of the time, such as Octavio Ianni, Fernando H. Cardoso, José A. Giannotti and others. It was also the time of the Instituto Superior de Estudos Brasileiros [ISEB] (Institute of Brazilian Advanced Studies), where the National Development Strategy - which inspired the government of João Goulart - was created[3]. Important periodicals focusing on Brazilian problems and political alternatives were also created, such as the Revista Brasiliense (co-ordinated by the communist social scientist and editor Caio Prado Jr.) and Estudos Sociais (specialised in original writings on Marxism edited by a PCB then free of the Stalinist straitjacket).

This fruitful moment of Marxist debate was interrupted by the coup d'état in April 1964: in spite of the thesis of 'cultural hegemony' of the Left during the first period of military dictatorship (Schwarz, 1970), it is impossible to deny the impact of the repression on the dynamics of this period. It is important to point out that this Marxist debate was especially present in the Social Sciences and Philosophy, but virtually absent in the field of Education.

The years of military rule were called by the well-known Catholic and Liberal writer Alceu Amoroso Lima as the 'years of the vacuum'. The academic debate was almost completely interrupted inside the university, under severe ideological control. The Marxist debate, if it is possible to so denominate this process, was circumscribed to the clandestine leftist organisation as part of the guerrilla training.

Only during the period of re-organisation of the opposition, in the mid-1970s, did the Marxist debate return to the political and academic scenario, in a very special way. As stated by Livingstone (1995, p. 54), the history of sociology suggests that "theories centred on conflict and human agency are favoured during social crisis". In fact, Marxist thought in Brazil again started to play an important role in the thinking and the actions of the opposition (Pécaut, 1989).

Marxism and Educational Thought

As Muller (1996) observed, the espousal of Marxist thought by educators in the 1970s was an extensive process, present everywhere. Nevertheless, there were some distinctive characteristics in the Brazilian case.

First, the movement by educators toward Marxism was not a single case, but a widespread tendency (Pécaut, 1989). The attraction exerted by Marxism can only be understood in its connection to the cultural and political climate - and it certainly differs from one country to another. It may be argued that this was a period of general crisis, propitious to the emergence of theories centred on conflict (Livingstone, 1995). Even if the flourish of Marxism can be explained in general lines in Brazil, South Africa or Britain, some specific inflections can only be interpreted considering each peculiar historical situation.

Second, notwithstanding a few references to educators before the 1970s (e.g. Paschoal Lemme and, in some way, Paulo Freire), the systematic influence of Marxism on the Brazilian education could only be observed after the mid-1970s. In contrast to other countries (e.g. Britain), it was not a process of rediscovering Marxism, but rather an introduction to Marxism.

The tripartite categorisation suggested by Stuart Hall (1981) can help us to describe the influx of Marxist theories in the Brazilian education. Attempting to explain the different approaches of the schooling-society connection among neo-Marxist writers in British sociology of education, Hall proposed the paradigms of correspondence, reproduction and hegemony.

If the correspondence paradigm represented by Bowles and Gintis' Schooling in Capitalist America (1976) established the neo-Marxist theory 'at the heart of British sociology of education' (Whitty, 1985, p. 25), in Brazil the first influence of Marxist theories on educational thought was the reproduction paradigm. The most influential writer of that period was Louis Althusser. Mainly his essay on ideological state apparatuses (ISAs) (Althusser, 1971) was read by most educators of that time - and incorporated to their writings. Besides Althusser, there were others theorists working on the thesis of reproduction whose writings exerted influence on Brazilian sociology of education - especially, Bourdieu and Passeron (1970), and Baudelot and Establet (1971).

If the process of anchoring Marxism in Brazil was similar to the correspondence paradigm in Britain, the role played by the Althusserian theory was broader: the impact of reproduction theories on Brazilian education was analogous to that of the 'new' sociology of education (NSE) in Britain, a sort of a paradigm shift.

Nonetheless the widespread consensus about the importance of the British sociology of education (CCCS, n. d.; Apple and King, 1977; Kuhn, 1978; Sarup, 1978; Bates, 1980; Sharp, 1980; St John-Brooks, 1980; Demaine, 1981; Arnott and Whitty, 1982; Banks, 1982; Whitty, 1985; Trottier, 1987; Forquin, 1990), the NSE in its early developments - i. e., the writings of Michael F. D. Young and his colleagues at the Institute of Education in London, whose first major publication was Knowledge and Control edited by Young (1971) - remained almost unknown in Brazil (Silva, 1992)[4]. The turning point was indeed the influx of reproduction theory publications.

The same can be said about Bowles and Gintis: their writings exerted little direct influence on Brazilian educators. Schooling in capitalist America was never translated into Portuguese; and their writings were rarely referred to in the Brazilian literature of that time[5].

The correspondence assumptions, however, have been present in Brazilian studies. In fact, despite the differences, the correspondence and the reproduction paradigms share the same theoretical standpoint and can be placed together inside the reproduction theories[6].

The core of the reproduction paradigm applied to education was to consider education as the dominant ISA in mature capitalist social formations (Althusser) or to assume homology between schooling and society (Bourdieu and Passeron). These interpretations were perfect as weapons for the educator's confrontation with the military regime: the focus of the studies in education at that time was the educational policy of the Brazilian military government.

It is possible to identify two sets of writings on this theme. First, some studies carried out abroad by both Brazilian and foreign researchers (e.g., Berger, 1976; Freitag, 1977; Romanelli, 1980), merging an indirect influence of reproductive theories with the dependency theory (Cardoso and Falleto, 1977). Second, studies produced in Brazilian universities on educational policy focusing on the links between education and work requirements (e.g., Rossi, 1978; Warde, 1979).

The struggle against a special type of ruling (the military dictatorship) indeed was largely identified with the anti-capitalist movement. In this process, the reproductiveness of schooling in capitalism was also taken as an inherent characteristic of the military dictatorship policy for education.

The influence of the reproduction paradigm is not exclusive but is clear in these educational studies, despite the 'crude way' in which some Marxist analyses were done, in a process similar to that reported by Kuhn (1978) concerning British sociology of education of the mid-1970s. In all of these studies, there is a remarkable search for relatively linear links between the government educational policy and the requirements and conditions of a capitalist economic system.

The passage from the 1970s to the 1980s represents a turning point: the opposition forces were faced with the actual possibility of achieving the desired political changes.

As participants of this process, the educators changed their target: the struggle against the education policy of the state was replaced by the critique of the actors placed inside the educational field, both the 'old' sociology of education (identified with the establishment) and the reproduction theories (criticised for their fragility in promoting social changes).

When the period of the resistance to and the fight against the military dictatorship was over, the reproduction paradigm seemed too limited for the task of proposing real educational alternatives. One of the most important representatives of this movement said: 'The more emphatic moment of the negation is over; now it is important to follow the paths of the 'double negation', i.e., the affirmation of a higher quality in Brazilian education' (Cury, 1981, p. 163)[7].

Some of the important critics of Althusser's theory appeared years before (Coutinho, 1972; Glucksmann, 1972; Thompson, 1978 and Hirst, 1979); but the analysis pointing out the weaknesses of the reproduction theories became more popular in the 1980s. In the case of Brazilian educational literature, among other points, the core of the critique was that Althusser's ISA theory had overemphasised the reproduction category virtually excluding any possibility of the class struggle in the school setting (Saviani, 1984). As a consequence of this sort of criticism and in a process analogous to that in the UK and other places (Hall, 1981; Whitty, 1985; Muller, 1996), it was the time for the hegemony paradigm.

Occupying a position analogous to that of the Open University and the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies of Birmingham, the heart of the Gramscian debate in Brazil was PUC-SP (Nunes, 1991; Simionatto, 1995). Its Postgraduate program in Education was co-ordinated by Dermeval Saviani, who was then beginning his Gramscian studies. The students were some of the well known Brazilian educators, such as Luiz Antonio Cunha, Carlos R. J. Cury, Mirian J. Warde, Paolo Nosella, Guiomar N. de Mello and Gaudêncio Frigotto among others.

The program was designed to achieve two goals: a wide thematic spectrum in research and a theoretical standpoint in accordance with the main purpose of social and political intervention, i.e., the hegemony paradigm. Indeed, this program was highly successful: some of these students undertook important studies on Brazilian education and others reached important positions in the government[8].

Gramscianism was probably the most extensive influence among educators. Almost every dissertation and thesis on Education written during this period referred to Gramsci, and many of the students developed their research from this theoretical standpoint[9].

There were, however, many problems concerning this influence. On the one hand, the fragmentary and posthumous character of that work. As Forgacs (1989, p. 71) pointed out, a large part of Gramscian work was reconstructed from manuscript notes. The organisation and even the translation are processes in which interpretation and judgement are required. The nature of his work allows a non-philological and non-historical reading. On the other hand, in the Brazilian case, it is important to point out the flawed Marxist debate in former years. Even the leader of the PUC-SP Postgraduate Program was just beginning to study Gramsci. There was also a third factor, i.e., the political constraint, demanding urgency in providing actual educational alternatives in the road toward civilian rule.

The connection of these elements outlines the main features of this literature: an abuse and an over-simplification of some of the most important Gramscian categories, especially hegemony, contradiction and organic intellectuals. These special characteristics of the Gramscian influx obviously influenced the low quality of the educational literature produced in Brazil.

As Rachi (1990) pointed out, some of these educators (e.g. Saviani, 1991 and Libâneo, 1986) viewed the contradictions in Brazilian society in an abstract manner. This operation allowed them to idealistically place the hegemony as an imminent and real goal, forgetting the existing reproduction process. The teachers were suddenly transformed into organic intellectuals embracing the task of constructing the hegemony (of the proletariat)[10].

In this process, the many different interpretations of school and schooling in Gramsci's studies (Nosella, 1992) were transformed into a single 'theory' of schooling, a kind of a-historical Gramscian 'recipe' for educators.

Reaching the highest point of its influence in the first half of the 1980s, the attraction exerted by Marxist thought began to decline dramatically thereafter, and especially after the events involving the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union - Marxism as an important theoretical reference was almost abandoned by educators.

Concluding Remarks

In an attempt to establish the scope of Marxism in Brazilian education during the mid-1970/mid-1980 period, we can suggest two kinds of influence.

First, a kind of diffuse influence on educational writings. In these studies, there was a clear the reference to Marxist works amidst others, sometimes in an attempt to combine different theoretical frameworks. A British parallel could be the Madan Sarup's writings (1982 and especially, 1983) - and even Whitty's work (1985)[11].

Some of these studies are almost entirely analytical (Cunha, 1991; Sposito, 1993); while others are more preoccupied with the concrete political proposals (Gadotti, 1980, 1983; Arroyo, 1980, 1987, 1988, 1991). The actions proposed by this second subgroup were generally related to political parties and unionist organisations.

Second, were studies that directly referred to the Marxist framework, operating in a similar way to Levitas (1974) or Sharp (1980). Again, it is possible to split these studies into two groups, with one (important) difference: the action proposed refers to the educational settings. In the 'analytical' group, the privileged focus is an old question: the relationship between schooling-production-social and economic reproduction (Frigotto, 1986; Machado, 1989; Nogueira, 1990). On other hand, the second group leaves the field of sociology of education in order to propose alternatives to teachers in an attempt to develop a sort or 'Marxist didactic theory' (Libâneo, 1986 and Saviani, 1991).

It is important to note that the quality of these studies is heterogeneous. A great deal of them are writings of beginners, with a nave acceptance of the Marxist thought. Often the introduction to this theoretical framework was either indirect, through commentator writings, or made in a dogmatic way, through the writings produced by the USSR Communist Party during the Stalinist days. Some of the studies, however, followed scientific requirements, and made actual contributions to the understanding of the educational process of the period.

The important difference between the studies undertaken during the (Marxist) paradigmatic period (in the Pécaut sense) and afterwards is in the way that educators managed the Marxist sources[12].

During the first stage, according to the 'official' theory of the intelligentsia, everyone ought to be a Marxist, i.e., use the Marxist theoretical and methodological framework and, above all, quote Marx (and other Marxists). The real understanding of Marx's works and even the actual study of Marxist works was far from ideal. As mentioned earlier the former lack of Marxist debate and the urgency to give political answers were also at the basis of this flawed introduction to and utilisation of Marxism.

Thus, in spite of the widespread tendency to deny any importance of Marxist thought, it is possible to identify some optimistic signs at the horizon: when the hegemonic period was over, only the educators who were really interested in Marxism continued to study and to use that theory. The quantity was replaced by quality: the current studies in sociology and economy of education are consistently anchored to Marxist original sources - and committed to academic and scientific requirements[13].


1 'Nevertheless, it is moving' - words attributed to Galileo Galilei after negating the concept of earth movement.

2 The Coluna Prestes was a popular movement led by the lieutenant Luis Carlos Prestes. Consisting of hundreds of soldiers and later also by civilians, this 'army' marched three years over 18,000 miles of Brazilian territory, until Prestes' exile in Bolivia, in 1927.

3 In a very interesting analysis, Paiva (1980) suggests that the theoretical framework of the Brazilian educator Paulo Freire was mainly influenced by the ISEB's National Development Strategy theory.

4 Interestingly, in spite of the outstanding quality and density of British sociology of education (Forquin, 1990), not only the first developments but most of the important writings (as the texts of the Open University and the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies) remain untranslated to Portuguese and have little influence on Brazilian education, known only by a few specialised researchers. This situation is beginning to change, thanks to the effort of intellectuals like Tomaz Tadeu da Silva, writing on British sociology of education (Silva, 1992), translating and co-ordinating collections of those works. For instance, only in 1991 Learning to Labour by Willis (1977) was published in Portuguese, as well as the works of others authors from different countries (Michael W. Apple, Mariano F. Enguita and Jean-Claude Forquin among them).

5 In spite of the assertion of Salm (1980) that Bowles, Gintis and other 'radical' educators were often referred to, actually this was not observed in the literature. Salm criticised some educators for (ab)using the references of Bowles and Gintis in an erroneous way. In fact, neither the main ideas nor the criticisms (e.g. Sarup, 1978; Demaine, 1981; Hall, 1981; Hogan, 1981; Whitty, 1985; Strike, 1989 among others - even a Gintis and Bowles self-criticism, 1981) were well known among Brazilian educators.

6 We are not forgetting that Hall (1981) pointed out the fundamental distinction between these paradigms: the reproduction paradigm supposes an articulation of the structures of production and of reproduction (introducing the concept of relative autonomy), while the correspondence paradigm states a direct causal relation. But the 'relative autonomy' is a concept never well developed - and the differences between Althusser's and Bowles and Gintis analysis of the reproduction role of schooling are not so clear. According to Silva (1992), both share the main concept of reproduction, the difference being what is reproduced by schooling.

7 Interestingly, this movement was quite similar to that reported by Whitty (1982) concerning the North-American sociology of the curriculum in his review essay 'From Reproduction to Transformation'.

8 The political success is not important here. Among the writings on Brazilian education produced by this group, see Cunha (1977, 1978, 1980, 1983, 1991), Cury (1985), Frigotto (1986) and Mello (1982).

9 Curiously, according to Forgacs (1989, p.70), Britain was the country (excluding Italy) where Gramsci's writings exercised the most 'prolonged, deep or diversified' influence. The scope and kind of influence were almost the same: history, political science and cultural studies (and, of course, education); the main reason was the recognition that Gramsci's concepts were useful to 'freeing Marxism from the "economism" since the sixties'.

10 After the period of criticising the reproduction theory, some educators have tried to outline a pedagogy inspired in the Marxist thought, labelled as 'contents' social-critical pedagogy' (Libâneo, 1986) or 'historical-critical pedagogy' (Saviani, 1991). This 'pedagogy' - emphasising the socialisation of knowledge as the main role of the schooling - was severely criticised by Marxist educators to whom there was no difference between this pedagogy and the traditional one. The core question was - again - the imbalanced relation between the categories of reproduction and hegemony.

11 Critiques to Whitty's Sociology and school knowledge can be found in a Review Symposium by Lacey et al (1986), and in a response by Apple (1986). One of the highlighted questions was the Weberian influx on Whitty's writings.

12 To grasp this subject, however, the Brazilian educators had to move beyond the 'traditional' references of the few lines written by Marx himself about education - especially in The Communist Manifesto, The German Ideology, Critique of the Gotha Program, The rules of the Working Men's International Association and Capital (Marx, 1954, 1968a, 1968b, 1988; Marx and Engels, 1976) -, in the direction of other known Marxists like Baudelot, Establet, Manacorda, Snyders and, in some way, Bourdieu, among others.

13 In spite of this movement and the efforts of a great deal of social scientists, political philosophers and some few educators involved with the debate about the 'death and renaissance of Marxism' (e.g. Coggiola, 1994; Coutinho, 1992; Frigotto, 1995; Netto, 1993; Sader, 1995), the Marxist theory remains discredited among the most Brazilian educators. Thus, the scenario described by Rikowski (1996) - revitalisation and the 'flowering of new approaches to theorising education from a Marxist perspective' (1996, p. 415) is far from being a widespread trend in Brazil.


The writing of this manuscript was partially supported by CAPES and CNPq grants no. 520218/96-5 (O.H.Y.) and no. 52208796-6 (A.C.N.). We are indebted to Angelina T. Peralva, University of Sao Paulo, for valuable suggestions. We would also like to thank three anonymous referees for their helpful critical feedback and suggestions.


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