Angels at the Top, Rocks at the Bottom: Naturalized Inequality in Brazilian Conservative Thought

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Racialized social inequality is considered a structural problem in Brazil and has been a political priority of recent progressist governments. This understanding is not backed up by the so-called New Right, who understands inequality as an inherent principle of a God-given “order” and question of personal capability and merit. In this study, I explore the ideological roots of this powerful Rightist narrative by looking at the Brazilian canon of traditional conservative thought and its influence on New Right discourse. The results show that the core ideas stem from neo-Thomist interpretations of late-scholastic scholarship, which were promoted in Brazil through the Vatican’s integrist reaction to modernization during the First Republic. Since then, Brazilian conservatives have successfully used these religious legitimizations of naturalized inequality to constrain State-driven social reformism and join forces with neoliberalism through the invention of the supposed late scholastic roots of the Austrian School of Economics. After redemocratization, a recycled version of this liberal-conservative claim for less “State” and more “Brazil” (as guided by theocratic traditional order), promoted mainly by the philosopher and online influencer Olavo de Carvalho, has fueled the desecularizing discourse of the New Right and their attempt to conserve the colonial social hierarchy in Brazil.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSocial Sciences
Issue number692
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 2023

ID: 376255598