THEOTONIO DOS SANTOS
MARXIAN ECONOMIST AWARD 2013 (WAPE)
I am very honored for receiving the Marxian Economics Award 2013 from the World Association for Political Economy (WAPE). I would like to praise the effort of a large group of political economist in the world that open this front of fight against the dominance of a decadent scientific thought (neoliberal) that brings back the economic theory to the XVIII Century, when the European bourgeoisie try to prove the possibility to build an economic system based in the “free market”, considered an ideal instrument for the conversion of the “rational economic behavior” in the principle of organization of modern society. According to them this society will be the realization of the essence of human nature in the concrete world.
It is very important to us, Brazilian, that created our Society of Political Economy (SEP), 13 years ago, receive your 8th Congress in the Federal University of Santa Catarina and to established a strong cooperation with you. At the same time we are very happy to colaborated also in the creation of the Latin American Society of Political Economy that will be part of this common adventure in the field of economic thought. All this means that we are developing an offensive that can liberate us of absurd economic policies inspired in ideological principles presented as “scientific” truth.
Latin American thought reached great prestige during the 1960s and 1970s, when the theory of dependence represented “the greatest challenge faced by official Eurocentric thought”, as affirmed by the Swede political scientist Bjorn Hetne in his detailed study about this theory. There are many controversies about the creation of this theory, but it is out of question that our contribution was fundamental. According to the Canadian sociologist, Lawrence Aschules, Theotonio dos Santos “has been one of the firsts to articulate the theory of dependency. Others have followed him and the theory expanded in such a way that, despite of its youth, we can consider him the grandfather of the theory”.
Anyway, in these years, I became so strongly identified with Latin American social thought that the Russian philosopher Chestopol wrote “Theotonio dos Santos, brazilian sociologist, is the most eminent representative of the Nueva Dependencia school (…). Along with time, the works of Theotonio dos Santos became a symbol of Latin American Social Science, not only for colleagues from the continent, but also from other countries in the world”.
Due to this global dimension that my thought reached, I was considered by the economics department web site of the Universidad de Malaga (www.euned.net) one of the 250 greatest economists of all history of this science.
My contribution to the social literature of the region has the particular characteristic of having been written in the two regional languages, Spanish and Portuguese, as a result of my long years of exile in Chile and Mexico. For this reason I decided to joint several articles and papers and organized a collection of my works in Englishin a book under the title of my Fundamental Works: World System, Imperialism and Dependence. I hope that will permit an over view of my scientific work, that I expect to be a scientific contribution that has a more important role than merely regional and can be summarized in three main points:
1) My academic contribution is considered important for the methodology for inter-and trans-disciplinary activities. Economists, sociologists, political scientists, historians, anthropologists and philosophers have taken it as having also influenced hisown discipline. It was also appointed as a important influence to the Liberation Theology and the Liberation Philosophy.
I was also accepted as a substantial contributor to the advance of the methodology because I have introduced the use and methodological control of the levels of abstraction as an essential element of dialectical inquiry. My article on the concept of social class that develops this methodology was considered by the U.S. Marxist journal Science and Society as "a classic on the subject."
2) The development of a theory explaining the physical and economic backwardness in Latin America that sought to demonstrate its deep bond with a situation of structural dependence of the same to the world economy. I showed how this dependence became historically evolving into increasingly complex forms, from a commercial and financial dependence to industrial dependence, reaching today a scientific and technological dependence. These arrangements led to dependence on various social formations that were based on different class structures, different classes and dominant and dominated groups.
The demonstration that this delay (which takes the form of underdevelopment) and this dependence are linked with the formation and consolidation of an economic, social, political and cultural global hegemonic center that produces different geopolitical and shift constantly as a result of the advance in the productive forces of humanity. This part of my work made me one of the instigator and developers of the world system theory, which has today a strong influence on the international social thought. I considered this achievement a fundamental evolution of my theoretical work and my researches.
I have yet demonstrated that this world system developed historically in cyclical movements of short and long term that are linked with various forms of organization of the productive forces and social relations of production. These cyclical movements also allow explaining the geopolitical hegemony imposed at each stage of evolution of the global system and the difficulties of looping with the growing dynamism of technological change under the impetus of accumulation of the capitalist mode of production. My analysis of the scientific technical and socio-economic impact raises the question about the need for a global civilization based on social justice, democracy and the sovereignty of peoples and nations.
As I affirmed in this period, dependence is not the ‘external factor’ which it is often believed to be. As I have described in an earlier work on Brazil, a national situation should be approached “by determining its own specific movement. The international situation, in which this movement occurs, is conceived as a general condition but not as a demiurge of the national process, because they are the elements within a nation which determine the effect of international situations upon the national reality. It would be too easy to replace internal dynamics by external dynamics. Were it possible, we would be spared the study of the dialectic of each movement of a global process and could instead substitute for the analysis of different concrete situations a generalized and abstract formula”.
A unilateral outlook which only analyses the problem from the point of view of the hegemonic center must be transcended and the peripheral areas must be integrated into the analysis as part of a world-wide system of social and economic relationships. Thus the analysis of dependence and its dynamics can acquire its full theoretical and scientific value, and be considered as a basic instrument to study the international capitalist order and its regional expression. It will permit us to understand more easily why capitalist world order is a unequal combination of classes and economic private interests.
I had also a role in global “peace studies”. My work was a reference for the renewal of peace research in the 1970s, as documents of the International Peace Research Association (IPRA), of which I was a member steering committee. I participate also in the creation of Latin American regional coordination and of the Asian one and I was chair of the Brazilian Association of Peace Studies. On this subject, particularly on education for peace and regional and world security, I took part in various activities as a consultant to UNESCO, the United Nations University, the University of Peace and other institutions. As part of this work, I developed the concept of Planetary Civilization as a conceptual basis for proposing a superior civilization and necessary stage toward which the existing civilizations converge, without losing its fundamental identity.
About practical consequences it is important to take in consideration that the question of peace is the most important theme of discussion about the future of the world and it is always considerated in the political debate. A definition about dependence and globalization is always necessary to the candidates to president, ministers and public functionaries in general even when they are not well prepared about this theoretical achievements.
My life has also a meaning of rebellion and repudiation of the current socio-economic, political and cultural order. My ongoing intellectual and political-revolutionary activities transformed me into an object of constant political persecution by the fascist regimes that I condemned.
In April 1964, I was part of the first list of dismissed from the University of Brasilia, following the military coup. I was condemned in many processes in the Brazilian military regime, the main one being sentenced as revel to 15 years imprisonment by the Military Court of Juiz de Fora (MG) as "intellectual mentor of subversive penetration in the county side," which led me into exile in Chile, after two years of underground activism against the regime, as one of the leaders of the Marxist Revolutionary Organization “Workers Politics” (Organização Revolucionária Marxista Política Operária - POLOP). The POLOP, which was founded in 1961, had a fundamental theoretical and political role for the redefinition of the Brazilian and Latin American left in this historical period. The present president of Brasil, Dilma Rousseff initiated her political militancy in the POLOP, as several members of her government.
In Chile, as participant of the Socialist Party of Salvador Allende, founder, advisor and contributor to the weekly Chile Hoy, director of the Centre for Socio-Economic Studies of the University of Chile (CESO) and one of the most active organizers of Brazilian resistance abroad, I attracted the hate of the fascist right that put me in the first list of political persecution in the country during the “coup d´état” of 1973. Unable to participate in the resistance in this country, I was forced into exile in the Embassy of Panama, under the government of General Torrijos and after 6 months impeded from leaving the country I got the "laisser passer" to Mexico with a visa issued by the President Luis Echeverria.
During my exile in Mexico, between 1974 and 1980, I devoted myself to the struggle against military dictatorships in the region mainly through the Latin American Solidarity Committee, the COPPAL ( where I represent the movement to restructure the Brazilian Labor Party ) and I was active in several movements in favor of Chilean and Brazilian solidarity. I was also an active militant in the International Association of Third World Economist and other movements relate to the Non-Aligned Movement. As a reflex of these activities I work very hard on the understanding of these questions that strongly influenced my academic work.
Back to Brazil, following the vote on the amnesty in 1979, I participated in the formation of the Partido Democrático Trabalhista (PDT). I was one of the writers of its program and manifesto, becoming a member of its national board and head of its executive board in the State of Minas Gerais, where I was a candidate for Governor in 1982. During this period I fought hard in favor of resistance against Chilean dictatorship, of the support of Sandinist struggle in Nicaragua, the Cuba's international movement for non-payment of external debt, as for the defense of human rights at different levels , for the Committee of Defense of the People of Palestine and Lebanon that I head in the state of Minas Gerais, and several others movement, eventually occupying government functions in the State of Rio de Janeiro (director of training of the FESP-RJ, or as Secretary of International Relations to the state of Rio de Janeiro) where PDT and my current Party since 2002 (Partido Socialista Brasileiro) have head the state government.
But I feel more and more the need to organize a network of researchers around a UNESCO and United Nations University Chair on Global Economics and Sustainable Development that I finally head in Rio de Janeiro with a strong cooperation of researchers and institutions of research and teaching in all continents. The reasons for this institutional effort is to try to materialize a synthesis of a live of research.
At the present, I am currently one of the founders of the movement “Network of networks in defense of humanity”, that has his headquartered in the Bolivarian Venezuela and Cuba, and brings together the best of the world's intellectual struggle against the of a pretended hegemonism of one nation ( the United States of America) over the world which threatens all humanity, in the same way as the Nazi-fascism did in the 1930s and early 1940s. This is a practical dimension, among other, of an effort to understand the future of humanity that is, I think, the main contribution of the ideas that I developed in a large live of struggle. Thank you for your award. It is an impulse to continuous this intellectual and political fight.