, VI Conference of BRICS Initiative of Critical Agrarian Studies

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Capitalism, Agriculture and Development in Brazil: A Contribution to the Current Debate
Fabiano Escher, Sergio Schneider

Last modified: 2018-12-13


In the current context of economic and political crisis in Brazil, the subject of the agrarian question has undergone important problematizations in the public debate. From the PSDB governments and throughout the PT governments, two divergent visions were able to coexist and co-evolve, despite the conflicting relationship, in the state and civil society: one centered on capitalist agriculture, the land market, and the promotion of agribusiness with an emphasis on exports; and another focused on family farming, land reform and rural development with an emphasis on the domestic market. However, the latent conflicts began to escalate and evolve into greater polarization in recent times. The perspective associated with agribusiness has taken the offensive and proposed a narrative. The main argument is that by the mid-1990s we would have entered a new phase in the development of agrarian capitalism. In addition, the agrarian question has lost its relevance, the concentration of production, land and income is justifiable, and the state has left agriculture. And the perspective associated with family farming has reacted and also proposed a narrative. The main argument is that since the mid-1990s a new dynamic of agriculture in capital accumulation has emerged. In addition, the agrarian question remains important, but with new meanings, the role of the state has been decisive for both agribusiness and family farming, and the main challenge of rural development is to overcome inequalities in the distribution of resources. This paper seeks to contribute to reviewing and updating the debate through a comprehensive interpretation about capitalism, agriculture and development in Brazil. Agreeing that the dynamics of agriculture in the regime of accumulation of capital is in a new phase, for us the agrarian question is still alive and has become a set of agrifood issues that occupy a central place in the resumption of a development project for Brazil, in which both the public policies of the state and the social construction of new markets are crucial. In theoretical-methodological terms, the work is located in the interdisciplinary field between political economy, economic sociology and development studies, combining structures, actors and institutions in the analysis of the processes of economic, social and political change.


Agribusiness. Family Farming. Agrifood System. Rural Development. Institutions.