Dados n. 21 Rio de Janeiro 1979

A Burocracia Imperial: A Dialética da Ambiguidade

Carvalho, José Murilo de


This work attempts to review some current theses about the nature of the State and imperial bureaucracy, seeking to go beyond dichotomic views and using data which are here published for the first time. The central thesis is that imperial bureaucracy was the outcome of a contradiction within a State rooted in agrarian/slave-based society, but which at the same time constituted the principal source of employment for those rejected by this same society. By reproducing the slave-based society and at the same time guaranteeing employment for those who didn't fit into this society, the State introduced a contradiction in its own heart, producing conflicting interpretations of its real nature. More specifically, it is shown that imperial bureaucracy was heterogeneous and fractioned, since it was not an estate. Moreover, it was concentrated at the level of the central government, so in local areas the State had to resort to the liturgical services of economically dominant groups. But because of its number and because of the fact that at its highest levels it was inseparable from the political elite, the bureaucracy held power and exercised it, in general, through alliances with groups external to it, thus creating the dynamics of the imperial political system and the ambiguity of the State, which was a source at the same times of conservatism and reform.

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A Burocracia Imperial: A Dialética da Ambiguidade