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Authors: Diehl, Brett Timothy
Advisors: Karl, Robert A.
Department: History
Class Year: 2015
Abstract: This thesis traces the Brazilian central government’s approaches to maintaining control in the federal capital of Rio de Janeiro during the period from 1930 through 1937. After taking over power in late 1930, President Getúlio Vargas and his allies set out to redefine the role of the state. Their fundamental objective was to undermine the rural oligarchy that had controlled politics within Brazil over the previous four decades by courting the loyalty of the urban laboring classes. To this end, Vargas created the Ministry of Labor, charged with overseeing relations between capitalists, workers, and the state. This new ministry formed part of a larger strategy of corporatism that aimed to ensure broad-based government support through the passage of pro-laborer legislation and the promotion of state-sponsored syndicates. During the first two years of Vargas’s administration, corporatist ideology guided many of the government’s actions. Few systematic efforts were made to exert direct control over non-aligned groups. Instead, the government focused on rationalizing bureaucratic processes in hopes of incorporating civilians into its ambitious attempt to reorient Brazilian society. The outbreak of rebellion in the large city of São Paulo in 1932 revealed the shortcomings of this approach to fostering allegiance. Shortly thereafter, fears of communism began to permeate the highest levels of society. As a result, the government began to shift its central focus from an ideology of corporatism to a mentality of control. The effects of this shift played out most clearly in Rio, as a select few leaders within the Vargas administration supervised efforts to expand the state’s authority. By combining a positivist approach to streamlining bureaucratic functions with a willingness to personally intervene when tension arose, these leaders ensured the continued dominance of the Vargas government. Surveillance became constant as the city’s police partnered with the Ministry of Labor in order to detect all forms of discontent. Oversight of syndicates increased, with strict requirements implemented for the reporting of group activities. Additionally, the central government worked to strengthen its ability to censor newspapers and other forms of media. Through the control of public dialogue and the emphasis of radical threats, the state created a climate of suspicion within the metropolis. Individuals perceived as threats faced harsh treatment in overcrowded jails, prisons, and work camps. Gradually, the bureaucracy refined its mechanisms of punishment, further increasing repressive state capacity. Through this build up of authoritarian power, I argue, the Vargas government eliminated opponents and closed the gap between itself and civil society. By late 1937, the state had eradicated all viable opposition, facilitating the president’s public assumption of unchecked authority.
Extent: 253 pages
Type of Material: Princeton University Senior Theses
Language: en_US
Appears in Collections:History, 1926-2016

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