Ideas back to their place: social liberalism meets the other West in the work of José Guilherme Merquior


  • Guilherme Stolle Paixão e Casarões



Merquior, social liberalism, the West, Latin America.


The purpose of this article is to examine José Guilherme Merquior’s conceptual framework of ‘social liberalism’ in the light of the political and social reality of Brazil. This proposal only makes sense insofar as it is understood that Brazil forms a part – albeit with some reservations — of the West. However, the idea of Brazil as a Western country became particularly controversial at a historical time when Latin America was regarded as part of a different (or even opposing) cultural landscape from that which attracted the West, especially among the intellectual mainstream of the Anglo-Saxon countries. On the basis of the assumption that our political culture is not exceptional, Merquior transformed the liberalism which he believed in and upheld, from the prospect of being an ideology of the ‘second degree’ (a term used by Roberto Schwartz to describe the liberal ideology in the context of 19th Century Brazil), to becoming the most ideal escape route from the Brazilian crisis. If our country belongs to the West, and there having no a priori incompatibility between liberalism and Brazilian political culture, Merquior opens up space for theoretical views of different kinds of liberalism to be replaced by the stance of an engaged spectator.


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Dossiê Cultura e Política