|The State, the community and society in social development
Fernando Henrique Cardoso, President of the Federative Republic of Brazil
(Translation of the revised text of President Cardoso's address at the First
Regional Follow-up Conference on the World Social Development Summit Meeting (Sao Paulo,
6-9 April 1997))
The World Summit for Social Development, held in Copenhagen on 11 and
12 March 1995, brought up once more the ideals which gave rise to the United Nations at
the San Francisco Conference and which have since been reasserted in many forums of the
Organization. The maintenance of peace and security, although an irreplaceable element in
the peaceful coexistence of nations, was not the only objective of that Conference,
however: it also sought to lay the foundations for a form of coexistence which would make
possible more harmonious development. The United Nations Charter which emerged from that
meeting was the clear expression of a humanistic spirit and of the quest for democratic
ideals and values which made human beings the centre of governments concern.
At Copenhagen, it became clear that social problems and the quest for a
form of development which respects the environment, has democratic bases, and leads to
greater equity are not the exclusive concern of the underdeveloped or developing
countries, but also of many developed nations. Perhaps there is a renewed awareness that
this is not just a question of a duality, as was claimed in the past, but of something
inherent in the very heart of the development styles of present-day societies.
Consequently, it is once again important to give continuity to the
drive for reflection and action generated at Copenhagen, and in view of its great
experience in Latin America and the Caribbean, ECLAC is amply endowed to help the
countries of the region to reflect on these issues with renewed creativity.
Although many of the efforts made in the region have been frustrated,
sharing our experiences can help us to redirect our development policies in a direction
consonant with our ideals, which continueand should continue to be those
proclaimed ever since 1945: ideals seeking a more equitable form of development, inspired
in democratic and humanistic values.
The ten commitments assumed at Copenhagen came at a timely but complex
It was timely, because after a long period in which we had almost
unconsciously come to think of development solely in terms of economic development or
development of the market forces, the Copenhagen Summit reminded us once again of the
links between the economic and social dimensions.
It would be almost pathetic to think that, at the very moment when the
Berlin Wall had fallen and the efforts to construct real Socialism were
suffering the outcome we have all witnessed, we should all begin to place our hopes in a
kind of unbridled economistic approach and to believe that the market was the road to the
salvation of mankind.
Copenhagen showed us once again that we must return to our examination
of such questions as the eradication of poverty, full employment, social integration and
respect for human dignity, as well as the need to put an end to the economistic illusion
and acknowledge once again that in a social and historical process values are of
When I say that values are of fundamental importance, I am not
suggesting that we should replace the economistic illusion with simplistic idealism,
imagining that values are all we need. Obviously, this is not so. Values are not enough on
their own, even with the best of intentions. In reality, a stable economic base and a
stable currency are essential conditions for development.
Consequently, it is not a question of changing one simplistic approach
for another -equally simplistic, but diametrically opposed- which claims that organized
political will can take the place of the material conditions of production or the
limitations imposed by the physical base and the form of organization of production.
Subject to this reservation, however, there can be no doubt that the
time has come to concern ourselves once again with issues which, it may be noted, have
always been major issues for ECLAC and for those whose conception of development was one
which offers greater well-being to the vast majority of the population.
Although the time may be ripe, however, it is nevertheless a complex
matter to put forward once again, in the most determined manner, the question of the best
type of development and the challenge of attaining equality: i.e., the challenge of
tackling social issues. This is because this question reflects a sort of paradox.
Just as it would be paradoxical to replace a socialist model -although
severely distorted- with a purely market-based idea, so also it would be paradoxical that,
precisely when we are beginning to talk about social issues once again, we should have to
ask the State to apply a set of policies and take a series of measures when in some
respects the State is neither effective nor efficient.
When I say, however, that we are demanding more from the State -because
political will is organized and it is through public policies that the imbalances created
by the market can be corrected to some extent- at a time when the State is suffering from
limitations, what I really mean is that I do not wish to resign myself to the continued
existence of the limitations which prevent it from acting effectively.
It is quite true that the State has limitations. To begin with -and I
am not saying anything new when I make this assertion we can see for ourselves that
the regulatory capacity of the State has been greatly reduced. In order to show this, we
need only refer to capital flows, which are now a source of concern even for those who
normally sleep very soundly, i.e., the Presidents of Central Banks. Even they are now
concerned, because they are unable to control these capital flows. This challenge can no
longer be tackled from the exclusive sphere of competence of the State machinery.
It is not just a question of international capital flows, however: the
world system of production has also been completely reorganized in such a way that
production is now interlinked at the global level, which also helps to reduce the capacity
of States to meet some of the challenges they have to face.
There are not many alternatives to this interdependence. This
revolution -not only technological but also organizational- represents a further challenge
to those who consider that we need a set of public policies which will ensure a better
balance in the development process.
This means that the population expect from the organized political will
of the State and from society a set of measures which are however limited by the realities
of the current situation, which reduce the States capacity for action in areas which
were considered in the past to be inherent in the notion of a sovereign nation-State.
The foregoing is not designed to over-emphasize the paradoxical aspects
or give rise to a feeling of perplexity: a psychological reaction which serves no
theoretical nor practical purpose. The real aim is to seek mechanisms which will make it
possible to reform public structures so that they can meet the challenge faced.
Social justice and social development will be impossible if we resign
ourselves to the weakening of the State, both for the above-mentioned reasons and because
of the incapacity, in many cases due to bureaucratic causes, to take decisions to cope
with the increase in social demands so closely associated with democratization.
Democratization and an increase in social demands make themselves felt most rapidly and
strongly precisely in those countries which have opened up to democracy but suffer from
the greatest inequalities, so that the State is under pressure from both external and
A major challenge is therefore to reconstruct the way political action
is organized and, above all, to redefine the organs responsible for public policies. In
this redefinition, it is necessary to decide what to do and what not to do. This is the
present situation: it is necessary to define what the government should do, what it can
do, and the best way to reshape the government machinery so that it can take effective
This issue needs to be given strong emphasis in order to enable the
State to recover the strength it needs to channel the desires of society and meet the
aspirations for social welfare. In other words, it is necessary to
de-privatize the State.
Paradoxically, many of the forces which could help this
de-privatization absolutely worship the State in its present form -ignoring the fact that
it is a product of the previous phase, when there were close links between private sectors
and the State- and impede the changes which could make the State more democratic and turn
it into an effective instrument for spreading social welfare and giving members of the
population greater access to all that they need for their social integration.
In Latin America, there has never been a Welfare State. On
the contrary, what has prevailed has been what we might call an "Ill-fare
State: omnipresent, but tainted by private interests (whether good or bad) and also
paralyzed by the corporative forces arising within it, by bureaucracy. Because of the
perverse tendencies displayed by both of them, the State and society at large often
coincide in the generation of corruption.
The State must therefore be the subject of courageous and far-reaching
reforms if it is to be transformed democratically into a State capable of heeding the
aspirations both of the marginalized and excluded sectors and of the sectors which,
although integrated into society, demand a fairer form of income distribution.
Consequently, in our region there is no point in analysing the question
of the crisis of the Welfare State, because we never managed to attain such a State. What
has occurred here is a crisis in the Ill-fare State. In reconstructing it,
however, we must avoid the errors which led to the crisis in the Welfare State elsewhere,
when, due to a variety of circumstances, it ceased to provide the welfare it promised.
By taking advantage of past experience, we could devise reforms of the State and forms
of State action which would make it possible to overcome the paradox mentioned earlier. We
should abandon the illusion that the market will automatically bring equity; what we want
is more and more equality, not through the perpetuation of a privatized Ill-fare
State but through a reform of the State apparatus which can transform it into an
instrument of social progress.
This involves the renewed consideration of issues which were always
important but are now assuming more vital significance every day. I am not referring
solely to reform of the State. Education has become an essential element in the entire
process, because in view of all the changes which have taken place in the system of
production and all the challenges we will have to face, either citizens will be equipped
to adapt to these requirements in constantly improved conditions, or else it will be sheer
hypocrisy to talk about social inclusion, for there can be no social inclusion for those
who are not properly prepared for these challenges.
Education will have a much broader meaning, for it will not be limited
to literacy education or even formal training, but will involve the effective
incorporation into the daily life of all citizens of techniques which will enable them to
keep themselves informed and take decisions, because without information it is not
possible to make rational choices and it is easy to be a victim of manipulation. Capacity
for adaptation is necessary even for finding an occupation, to say nothing of a decent
As we all know, the present process of globalization may severely
aggravate social exclusion. I am not saying, of course, that we should reject this
process, because there is no other option. What alternative could there be? Autarky?
Where? How? Production is increas- ingly dispersed, competitive, and dependent on
technology, most of which is not in the hands of a single sector. There is no alternative
to globalization, and this is an undeniable fact. What we should do, then, is to see what
can be done, in the circumstances, to make sure that exclusion does not limit the
possibility that the issues which concern us will leave the theoretical sphere and become
concrete means of change.
Of course, education is not the only means of facing this challenge.
Competitiveness is an essential requirement for inclusion, and it is yet another rule from
which we cannot escape. All this has very well known consequences with regard to the
supply of jobs. Indeed, we will have to change the very concept of employment.
Looking at the changes which have taken place in the employment structure and the
effects they have had on employment in Europe, the United States and Japan, we can clearly
see that globalization does not automatically translate into a given rate of unemployment.
This rate varies, depending on public sector intervention, social conditions, the
institutional and legal rules governing labour relations, and on the cultural and
value-based capacity to understand that in a society like that which is taking shape,
mobility -including geographical mobility- becomes a requisite for adaptation. There will
be a rapid shift of production sectors from one region to another, like that which is
taking place in Brazil, as for example in the case of Säo Paulo, and this will assuredly
benefit the Northeast of the country. It will not benefit the worker who loses his job in
a given place however, unless we are capable of creating new jobs in that same place,
shifting workers from the secondary to the tertiary sector or, as in the United States,
giving workers great geographical mobility which enables them to seek work elsewhere. Such
mobility is the antithesis of our existing values, which give preference to stability in
the broad sense, opposing the displacement of workers and their families from one place to
All this calls for a new cultural outlook. This is why I have placed
special stress on education, which is an instrument of socialization, of new values, of
challenges and of preparation and motivation for facing up to these challenges.
We cannot keep on presenting the situation in terms of a disjunctive:
first the economy, and then social matters. Nor can we assert that social issues are what
really matters, because human beings are above all else, and neither can we put forward an
indiscriminate combination of both approaches, for that would have no sense. Instead, we
must give attention to economic and social matters at one and the same time, although it
is also necessary to clarify exactly what at the same time means, for
sometimes issues do not all arise simultaneously: sometimes priority attention must be
given to social aspects, and sometimes to economic considerations.
Nor must we take a static view of the situation. Sometimes social
aspects come first because in certain circumstances the driving force behind the process
of change is education and values. In other circumstances, however, the driving force is
provided by technological development which comes from abroad and is the result of foreign
education and values which nevertheless influence our region.
We must therefore take an almost kaleidoscopic view: we must not let
ourselves be guided by fixed rules on orders of precedence and we must seek at all times
to establish links between the two aspects. If a process takes place on the economic
level, then we must identify its links with the social sphere. If it takes place on the
social level; then it must be linked up with the economic sphere: otherwise it will not
have a solid basis or continuity.
Consequently, we must place limits on overmechanical reasoning in terms
of the establishment of disjunctives and must accept the challenge of thinking instead in
terms of the actual situations.
With special reference to the case of Brazil, I would say that the
efforts we have made to stabilize the economy and consolidate and strengthen democracy, as
well as our deep interest in social development, are in line with the foregoing
considerations. They are inspired by them, even if the desired results are not always
It goes without saying that when we formulated the stabilization plan
known as the Plano Real we rejected recession as a means of stabilization.
Indeed, from 1993 through 1997 the Brazilian economy will have grown by 25%, if growth in
1997 amounts to 4% or 5%. In an economy which now amounts to some 700 billion reales, 25%
is a high growth rate to have been achieved over the same period as the application of the
Since the PlanoReal began to be applied in 1993, average remuneration
has risen by 42%, although not uniformly in all sectors. In fact, it rose more in the
informal sector than in the formal one and it even rose more in the case of own-account
workers than in the other categories. Although there have been some shortcomings, the
truth is that it has been possible -at least so far- to reconcile stabilization of the
currency with economic growth and improved income distribution.
For the first time, the statistics on income distribution -in which, as
you know, it is by no means easy to secure changes- have shown signs that although those
who earn most will continue to earn still more, the growth in their income will be smaller
than in the case of the lowest-income sectors, although the latter will continue to be
relatively poor. Thus, there are now signs of a change in functional income distribution,
which is very important and must be maintained, even though this will not be easy.
The statistics also show that, in the six biggest metropolitan areas,
13 million Brazilians managed to rise above the poverty line between 1993 and 1995: a good
example of the social effects that an economic development plan can have. Without adhering
to any fixed idea about what should come first and what should come after, it proved
possible to make a significant effort in this direction, within the prevailing limitions.
With regard to employment, I cannot present such a uniformly positive
picture, because global processes of change usually present economies with considerable
challenges, and unemployment rates rise at certain times and in certain regions. If we use
the indicator which allows us to make international comparisons -that of the Brazilian
Geographical and Statistical Institute (IBGE)- we see that the rate of unemployment in
Brazil was between 5% and 5.5% in the years in question. Using other types of indicators,
the figures may be slightly higher. All the indicators coincide with regard to the upward
or downward trend, however, although the actual levels depend on the way the questions are
phrased (if the worker has been looking for work for a week, a month or three months; his
age; etc.). Using the same technique consistently, however, what matters are the
fluctuations observed, and the fact is that since the Plano Real began to be applied the
fluctuations have been very slight, whatever the methodology used.
There has been a recovery which, although quite marked, does not give
grounds for claiming that the unemployed will be fully absorbed. The continuity of the
process cannot be guaranteed unless the reform of the State is further consolidated: a
very thorny problem which gives rise to strong opposition, for different reasons, from
both the Left and the Right.
Reform of the State adversely affects certain individual interests, and
this naturally gives rise to opposition. We must therefore keep on striving to advance in
this process. This reform does not only mean a struggle against the corporativism of
public officials, however: it involves much more than this.
Above all, it means reforming the mechanisms linking the State and the
members of society at large in the social areas. There are many concrete examples of this.
Thus, the Ministry of Education, which has taken many measures for this purpose, has
arranged among other things that part of the resources destined for schools should be
provided to them directly, without passing through other levels which are political in
some cases and bureaucratic in others. In the area of health, where the biggest obstacle
is to find ways of establishing a direct link between the demands of society and the State
apparatus, there are also political problems, but these arise at the substantive policy
level and not at the intermediate level of the transfer of resources.
Moreover; especially in the case of a federation like Brazil, the State
can no longer be of a bureaucratic, unitary nature. There must be decentralization, which
is already under way in the education and health sectors and which we hope will become
more and more firmly established in the area of agrarian reform, for without this it will
be impossible to establish the necessary conditions for the progress of a country the size
Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, there is the financial
responsibility of the central government. Secondly, the government must have the capacity
to define policies. Thirdly -and this is very important but not very frequent in the
region- it must have the capacity to evaluate the effects of the policies by monitoring
their results. Fourthly -and this is vitally necessary for exercising this control- it
must have suitable links with society, the trade unions, and the oppositon parties.
This is what happens at present in education and health. And in
housing, for example, nothing is done without first passing through procedures which are
not only subordinated to the legitimate political powers but also to a dialogue with
society. This dialogue broadens the whole spectrum, and the decision-making process also
includes minority sectors or opponents of the central government. The central government
never raises obstacles of a party political nature to the distribution of resources,
because it recognizes how important it is that resources should be received where they are
needed and that there should be clear and open arrangements for controlling their
Consequently, reforming the State apparatus is not simply a question of
de-privatization of the State, in the sense of making it
independent of the private interests which have installed themselves in it. Nor does it
simply mean changing bureaucratic relations. It is not just a question of the States
withdrawal from certain areas of economic activity where there are capital resources in
order to concentrate on others, but of making fundamental changes in the ethos of public
administration without which there can be no question of development with greater equity,
because the market forces alone are incapable of generating such equity. The system of
government must be open and democratic, and it must make the opposition sectors
participate, whether they like it or not, in the decision-making process (I mean, of
course, decisions on the distribution of resources, not on the general lines of the
process, which are decided by the majority in a democratic system). This calls for
extensive changes: the de-privatization of the State, its de-bureaucratization
and its decentralization are essential conditions for progress.
Naturally, there are some situations in our countries -especially in
Brazil, which is so huge and so full of inequalities- which call for more energetic
measures. One of these situations concerns access to land. Traditionally, because of its
economic and historical evolution, Brazil has been a country of latifundia. The latifundia
have survived tenaciously, and even after big changes in the agricultural sector they
still exist today, side by side with the entrepreneurial production sector, and remain a
major presence in Brazilian life.
Meanwhile, however, broad sectors of the population are living in
poverty: there is great rural and urban poverty, and a growing combination of the two.
Increasingly, asking for land is an indirect, symbolic way of demanding greater equity.
Although we can and must recognize the existence of this process, however, we have not
given really serious, profound thought to the consequences of giving access to land or to
the possibilities, costs and nature of the agrarian reform process we could carry out.
With regard to the rate of settlement of families on the land, the
average in Brazil in the past was ludicrously low: ten thousand families per year. Under
the present government, a little over a hundred thousand families have been settled in two
years, and this year it is planned to settle another eighty thousand. Compared with what
is needed, this is nothing, but compared with what was done in the past it is quite a lot,
and compared with the resources available it is a great achievement . Each operation of
settling a family on the land costs 25,000 reales just for a start, and what has happened
in Brazil is that the families are not emancipated as soon as they are
settled, but continue to receive State aid, so that the oufflow of resources continues,
and this must be taken into account.
Society must decide if it wants, or if it is able, to carry on with
this process. If it decides to continue, then it must provide the means -by paying taxes-
for turning that decision into reality. In order to settle a million families on the land,
we would need 25 billion reales just for a start.
After the settlement operation, attention has to be given to the family
production unit. A recently established programme -PRONAF- has allocated some US$ 600
million to the provision of support for small family units.
In Brazil, the resources are in fact available in many cases. There is
political will at the top, but we lack the necessary machinery to ensure that those
resources flow properly and reach those who need them. The State institutions -those of an
Ill-fare State designed to suit the interests of big business, the big
corporations, contractors and banks- have no channels for reaching the public. A new
situation is now starting to take shape in which, thanks to stability and the resumption
of growth, we are beginning to have more resources at our disposal, but we lack the means
to use them properly by giving priority to the poorest sectors of the population.
The problem is both one of management and of political aspects, because
in many cases proper management is impeded by clientage and local interests. Often, there
are even problems in the bureaucratic structures themselves which prevent the smooth flow
of the resources, for political reasons, through incompetence, or because of ideological
Without reform of the State there can be no proper social policy, and
without greater coordination and close contact with society, social policy will simply
wither away in the throats of those who call for action and the pens of those who grant
resources but know that they will have little practical effect because there is not
sufficient social capacity to put the decisions into effect.
This issue is intimately related with that of equity, which is of
fundamental importance, like the question of access to land. There are many unanswered
questions, and there are a great many people who proffer answers or suggest solutions with
the greatest abandon. When we really start to think about the problem in depth, however,
it becomes clear that what is needed is to work together, for nothing is solved merely
with goodwill gestures or protests, and that the finances must be reorganized so that the
State can work better and interact with society at large.
Another issue related with equity that I would like to emphasize -in
the spirit of Copenhagen, taking a non-economistic view of the changes needed- is that of
human rights, which is of fundamental importance in a country like Brazil, where we are
setting up the National Human Rights Department, because concern for human rights cannot
be limited to gestures of goodwill by the government or by those who feel concern with
this issue. There must be a process of reeducation covering the whole scale of values, as
well as continuity of action and unremitting insistence on this issue.
In exclusive societies like ours, which have become accustomed to such
glaring inequality, violence is a natural sub-product. It soon ceases to be a product of
poverty and becomes deeply rooted in the form of a kind of toleration of the intolerable,
an acceptance of reprehensible practices against which it is the duty of governments to
protest. But to protest against what, and against whom? There are clear culprits: all of
us. This is a broad-ranging process which demands continuity of action.
In order for the process of reeducation to have the necessary
continuity, we need a kind of beacon to light the way, to serve as the conscience of the
country and constantly point out errors even knowing that in many cases these errors
cannot be corrected at a given moment, and knowing that although there are culprits it is
not enough to blame them, for we must go much further we must develop another kind of
values, another kind of solidarity.
Those who have studied sociology are familiar with Fernando Tonnies and
a classic expression in sociology: the distinction in German between the words Gemeinschaft
and Gesellschaft, community and society. Through the expression Gemeinschaft
the supporters of this school of thought referred, almost a century ago, to the direct,
face-to-face relations typical of a community, to the possibility of a shared experience:
people are united because they have a shared experience. In a situation of Gesellschaft,
of society, in contrast, there is a contractual relationship which does not involve the
solidarity arising from a shared experience. These two expressions were seen as opposites.
In the world of today, with the changes which have taken place, with
the current commumcations media, with the instantaneous, real time nature of
the processes that take place, societies are in some respects beginning to have shared
experiences: violence, well-being, fear, economic challenges, material achievements. There
is now a renewed possibility that this situation may occur in the relations within
Our challenge is how to transcend both Gemeinschaft, the
community, and Gesellschaft, society and the relations within society: how to
transcend them by combining them, in the specific sense of transcending them in dialectic
We must transcend this opposition between economic and social and
political issues, between public and private issues. That is the challenge. A new vision
of the world means that we must seek a concept that will enable us to restructure our
whole way of thinking, leaving aside that opposition between community and society which
fascinated everyone so many years ago, and make us feel capable of a form of action in
keeping with todays challenges.
Such action must be based on a great advance in the field of technology
which can be present in all areas. But this action can only be carried out, and the
distinction between society and community can only be transcended, if we return to the
question of ethics and values, not viewing it as something threatening or as an empty
moral discourse, but as an effective means of motivating action to promote change.