Between Unity and Diversity: Historical and Cultural Foundations of Brazilian Management Gazi Islam Insper Working Paper WPE: 218/2010 Copyright Insper. Todos os direitos reservados. E proibida a reproducao parcial ou integral do conteudo deste documento por qualquer meio de distribuicao, digital ou impresso, sem a expressa autorizacao do Insper ou de seu autor. A reproducao para fins didaticos e permitida observando-sea citacao completa do documento Cultural Foundations of Brazilian Management Running head: Cultural Foundations of Brazilian Management Between Unity and Diversity: Historical and Cultural Foundations of Brazilian Management Gazi Islam Insper Institute of Education and Research Gazi Islam 300 Rua Quata Insper Moema Sao Paulo SP 04546-042 Brazil (11) 4504-2438 [email protected] edu. br Cultural Foundations of Brazilian Management 2 Between Unity and Diversity: Historical and Cultural Foundations of Brazilian Management Introduction Over the past two decades, Brazil has increasingly established itself as one of the world’s foremost emerging economies.
As the 8th largest economy in the world and largest in South America (World Bank, 2009), Brazil is among the world’s leading producers of key commodities, as well as a pioneer in areas such as ethanol production and genetically modified crops. As one of the members of the BRICs group of emerging economies (O’Neil, 2001), Brazil is poised to become a major player in the 21st century.
As a home country of multinational corporations (MNC’s), internationally recognized companies such as Embraer, JBS-Friboi and AmBev are among the dominant forces in their respective markets. Despite the growing importance of Brazil as an economic power, very little work has been internationally published, in comparison with other BRIC countries, with regards to the dynamics of Brazilian management practices (e. g. Mesquita, 2008). Extant literature tends to focus on specific sectors, (e. g.
Mesquita, Lazzarini & Cronin, 2007), and while large scale international studies, such as Hofstede (1980) and the GLOBE project (House, Hanges, Javidan, Dorfman & Gupta, 2004) have included Brazil, their generality has precluded an indepth assessment of the unique contextual factors that contribute to the formulation of contemporary Brazilian managerial perspectives. At the same time, a wealth of literature in the social sciences has studied the particular mix of historical, cultural, ethnic and political factors that constitute the Brazilian way of life (e. g.
Holanda, 1996; Da Matta, 1991). Although some of this work has been integrated into the management literature (e. g. Amado & Brasil, 1991; Duarte, 2006), very little integration has been done to draw out the managerial implications of the Brazilian social, cultural and historical context. Understanding these implications becomes increasingly important with the Cultural Foundations of Brazilian Management 3 growing integration of Brazil within the world economy, both in terms of foreign investments in Brazil, and in terms of the growing presence of Brazilian companies abroad.
The aim of the current chapter is to give an overview of Brazilian managerial tendencies in light of the country’s unique historical and cultural roots. I will argue that Brazilian MNCs inherit many of their predominant tendencies from organizational aspects of Brazilian bureaucratic structures, structures which developed early in Brazil’s colonization by the Portuguese, then were refined and changed through independence, republicanism, crisis and democratic renewal. Rather than rely on typological categorizations based on crosscultural taxonomies (e. . Hofstede, 1980), I will attempt to trace the macro-level circumstances in which the current management of Brazilian MNC’s evolved. The argument of the paper begins with a brief overview of the historical legacy of Brazilian trade with the exterior. Beginning with the early colonial period, Brazilian trade was marked by heterogeneous interests, and organizations functioned in the midst of great ethnic, geographical, and linguistic diversity (e. g. Alcaldipani & Crubellate, 2003).
Inheriting a highly formalized regulatory system from the Portuguese (Amado & Brazil, 1991) and a dazzling diversity of local constituencies owing to the geographical size and demographic diversity of the country, this heterogeneity continued after independence, in the Imperial and Republican epochs. Throughout the twentieth century, Brazil has vacillated from attempts to centralize decision making and consolidate the regulatory environment of the country, and to take advantage of the creative possibilities inherent in its variegated climate and culture (e. . Martins, 2000). Key cultural practices well documented in Brazilian managerial styles, such as the jeitinho or “little way” (Barbosa, 1992), the gambiarra, or “creative fix” (e. g. Amado & Brasil, 1991) or the style of the homem cordial or “cordial man” (Holanda, 1996), are then explained as ways of negotiating these dual tendencies of formality and diversity. It is argued that such developments lead to a seemingly paradoxical Brazilian managerial style marked by
Cultural Foundations of Brazilian Management both a high deference to formal authority, and a tendency to creative improvisation and innovation, a combination counter-intuitive to traditional managerial theories. Finally, it is argued that this combination has allowed Brazilian MNC’s to adopt “Western” or “Northern” managerial practices without losing a sense of their own authenticity, because of the self-consciously appropriative and recombinative nature of the Brazilian tradition.
This insight concludes the chapter by suggesting how the Brazilian example provides an interesting angle to the local-global debates prevalent in the globalization literature (e. g. Kearney, 1995). As a local culture that has from its inception 4 reconfigured externally originating political and social practices, Brazil’s most unique cultural expressions are also its most borrowed. In a world marked by increasing cross-border interaction, such a model of cultural practices is both theoretically and practically useful.
Exploring Brazilian Management As a preliminary note, we may observe that within the global business administration literature, analyses of Brazilian managerial styles are quite rare (e. g. Mesquita, 2008), although Brazil has made important strides on the world stage (WorldBank, 2009; The Economist, 2009). The work that does exist often relies on etic, general categorical schemes such as Hofstede’s dimensions (e. g. O’Keefe & O’Keefe, 2004), or uses Brazilian businesses as samples for generalizable propositions, rather than examining the particularistic characteristics of Brazilian firms (e. . Mesquita, Lazzarini & Cronin, 2007). Similarly, economically oriented work tends to use econometric indicators, rather than examining the cultural, historical and symbolic aspects of Brazilian society (e. g. Griesse, 2007). Some important exceptions involve Duarte’s (2006) work on the Brazilian jeitinho, and Lemartowics & Roth’s (2001) work on Brazilian subcultures. Thus, it is argued, while such studies have included Brazilian data, they have underplayed the historical specificity of the Brazilian environment, and have missed opportunities to draw important lessons from this
Cultural Foundations of Brazilian Management 5 increasingly important but neglected site. In particular, Brazil can offer lessons along two key dimensions that have been of interest to culture researchers, the homogeneity-heterogeneity axis and the global-local axis. Heterogeneity or Unity? As Brazilianists have long pointed out (e. g. Ribero, 1995, Da Matta,1984; 1995), the particularity of Brazil does not reside in a historically homogeneous and deep-rooted essence of the Brazilian people, but precisely in the lack of such a homogeneous essence (e. . DaMatta, 1995). The Brazilian population emerged out of a complex miscegenation of Portuguese, African, and Indigenous populations at its inception (Ribeiro, 1995). Later, waves of German, Italian, and Japanese immigration added further cultural complexity to the Brazilian social environment (Meade, 2004). Overlaid upon the ethnic diversity of the country are geographic and economic variations that exacerbate differences and proliferate diversity in styles of living and working.
As the fifth largest country in the world (Meade, 2004), the continental proportions of the country also contain a large diversity of climactic and geographical differences, from the desertified Sertao region, to the dense Amazonian forest, to the swampy Pantanal region. Economic differences between these regions are extreme, with the majority of economic wealth concentrated in the industrial south (Angell, 2008). In fact, although recent years have seen an increased focus on addressing inequality (e. g. Bianchi & Braga, 2005), Brazil still displays one of the highest economic inequalities in the world.
Gini indicators, which measure wealth concentration (on a scale of 0-1, with 1 being total concentration of wealth) reached values over . 60 in th 1990’s, and are consistently over . 50 (World Bank, 2008). Given this geographic, cultural, racial and economic diversity, making sense of Brazilian managerial behavior is inherently challenging. Some existing work, for example, has shown significant regional differences in work values across regions in Brazil Cultural Foundations of Brazilian Management (Lenartowics & Roth 2001).
Lenartowics & Roth found significant differences in work related values such as risk aversion and the importance for achievement across regions in the south of Brazil (comparing Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, and Minas Gerais regions). Such differences influenced performance across regions, even though the entire sample was from the south of the country. A complete representation including Northern and North-Eastern regions would surely further increase observed regional differences. On the other hand, despite this diversity, many aspects of Brazil seem surprisingly 6 unified.
For example, compared to countries with high demographic diversity (e. g. India), the linguistic homogeneity of Brazil is notable. In addition, despite its relatively greater levels of social inequality and crime in comparison with its neighbors, there has been relatively little social unrest or political revolution in Brazil (Gouveia, Albuquerque, Clemente & Espinoza, 2002). Many of the essential feature of Brazilian society remain rooted in its early institutions, and one of the countries’ aporias is how it has remained so socially constant in the face of so many social ills.
In the words of DaMatta: What is startling in the Brazilian case is not the existence of contradictions and cynicism, but the enormous tolerance of the system. To understand this tolerance would create the capacity to break through the duality and its web of compensations (DaMatta, 2005, p 276) Indeed, some have argued that many daily Brazilian rituals are aimed at smoothing social relations at the interpersonal level, while reinforcing hierarchical systems at the social level (e. g.
Barbosa, 1992; Hess, 1995). Thus while superficial accounts of Brazil might view it though the Carnaval lens of “anything goes”, the ritual enactment of diversity and difference may mask deeper cultural currents that remain stable (DaMatta, 1995). Many authors have similarly argued that underneath its apparent diversity, Brazil does have a unified culture, although such unity might be difficult to pick up at the level of cultural Cultural Foundations of Brazilian Management traits or characteristics.
For example, DaMatta (1995) argues that Brazilian (and other Latin American) cultures are more characterized by relational ties rather than constituent characteristics, such that rather than study Brazilian culture though “values”, it should be studied at the level of the “encounter”. This difference, according to the analysis, emerges 7 from the fact that Brazilian culture does not imagine itself as a “people” with a single essence, but as the outcome of an “encounter” between civilizations, and thus emphasize flexibility with regards to the other, rather than the expression of internal personal characteristics.
It may not be necessary to go beyond trait descriptions to find some level of unity in Brazilian culture however; even at the level of traits, tendencies exist at the national level (House, Hanges, Javidan, Dorfman and Gupta, 2004, Hofstede 1980). Although the Lenartowics & Roth (2001) study focused on regional differences, it also noted that such within group differences do not exclude national traits, but rather complement them. O’keefe & O’keefe (2004), in addition, used national-level indicator’s (Hofstede’s (1980) dimensions) to compare Brazilian managers with their U. S. ounterparts In this comparison, Brazil was relatively collectivistic, with high power distance compared to the U. S. Brazilian managers, relatively lower levels of trait masculinity, and high uncertainty avoidance. Such trait descriptions seem to fall in line with Hofestede’s (1980) own findings and are consistent with more recent descriptions from the GLOBE leadership study (House et al, 2004). Although such trait descriptions do not give a “thick” view of culture (Geertz 1973), they do tend to corroborate, or at least are coherent with, qualitative descriptions of Brazilian culture such as those of DaMatta (e. . 1984), Barbosa (1992), or others. For example, the coexistence of a highly bureaucratized formal sector, marked by rigid authority relations and a highly personalistic informal sector, meant to smooth over interpersonal conflict, do seem consistent with a country scoring high on Hofstede’s dimensions of power distance and femininity. Thus both quantitative, trait-based methods and qualitative methods seem to be Cultural Foundations of Brazilian Management indicating some regular tendencies among Brazilian managers underlying the seeming heterogeneity of the culture.
Local or Global? A second important dimension to consider when examining Brazilian managerial 8 behavior is the global context in which such behavior is acquired and tested. Just as it cannot be assumed that managerial behavior within one Brazilian locale can be generalized to the country as a whole, it would also be myopic to attribute managerial behavior to a specifically Brazilian culture independent of the global context of managerial norms and education. As in many Latin American countries (e. g. Ibarra-Colado, 2006), managerial expertise often draws on U. S. r European business norms as benchmarks, adopting managerial practices from the North which may or may not align with the home culture. In the Brazilian case, many scholars have noted the heavy borrowing of Northern managerial techniques as models in their own productive endeavors (Caldas & Wood, 1997; Wood & Caldas, 2002; 1998). In addition, Brazilian business education originated in, and has remained, heavily tied to Northern models, with the public education system drawn from European influences, and private education linked directly to U. S. support and investment (e. g. Fischer, 1984).
Textbooks are often translations of texts used in the U. S. , and are often distributed through international subsidiaries of U. S. publishing houses. Although a thriving Brazilian business literature exists, its methods and theory are often drawn from Northern models (e. g. Carrieri & Rodrigues, 2001). In this context, it would be difficult to directly draw consequences about national culture from observing managerial knowledge and practices, since such knowledge and practices are often the result of complex negotiations between cultures, and appropriations of foreign practices, rather than simple expressions of the home culture.
At the same time, some have noted that the spread of originally Northern social and cultural institutions is not a process of homogenous adoption, but rather an adaptation of Cultural Foundations of Brazilian Management 9 those very institutions to fit with pre-existing local ways of life (Sahlins, 1994). In this view, cultures select and reject elements of managerial practices based on the extent to which such practices can be made intelligible to local actors, and can be used to reinforce pre-existing power relations.
As mixture occurs, new forms of intelligibility and new power relations may arise, demonstrating not conformity to foreign influences, but expressing hybrid cultures that are marked by unpredictable remixes of local and foreign features (e. g. Chu & Wood, 2008) Such an insight is relevant to the “styles” of capitalism literature (e. g. Dunphy, 1987; Hall & Soskice, 2001), which argues that countries within the global economy adapt culturespecific ways of adapting to markets, and that local cultures resist homogenization and by their creative adaptation of apitalist institutions, they put a local stamp on these institutions (Hall & Soskice, 2001). Thus, rather than studying how emerging nations are similar or different from the traditionally studied business cultures of the U. S. and Europe, scholars should focus on the unique ways in which those nations creatively appropriate and modify those cultures in a local context. In the Brazilian case, such an examination of creative appropriation is particularly interesting, because as discussed above, notions of “encounter” and “mixture” are central to the Brazilian ethos (DaMatta, 1995).
As Mignolo (2001) observes with regards to Latin American nations, the role of European culture was more radically constitutive of national identity than it was in other regions of the world. This point is particularly true for Brazil, whose indigenous peoples (as opposed to Mexico, Bolivia, or Peru, for example) were less organized in terms of imperial structures than in other regions of the continent, and which was itself for a short time the seat of the Portuguese empire.
The current borders in Latin America were almost entirely dependent on the Iberian administrative structure, and thus the reigning forms of governance became strongly imprinted on Latin American nations. As in other Latin Cultural Foundations of Brazilian Management 10 American countries, the European cultural matrix also became a strong locus for Brazilian self-identity, and remains so to this day (e. g. Ribeiro, 1995).
In this context, it makes little sense to ask whether Brazilian borrowings of foreign managerial practices are “authentic” representations of Brazilian culture, when Brazilian culture is fundamentally based on notions of mixture and borrowing. Indeed, the perspective of DaMatta described above seem to imply that the very notion of an “authentic” essence goes against the grain of Brazilian self-perceptions, which focus on encounter and negotiation between ways of life.
Along this line, it is important to note Wood and Caldas’ (2000) warning not to read foreign borrowings at face value. According to them, such borrowings take on different meanings when they are implemented in Brazilian firms, and take on different social functions in Brazil than they would in their countries of origin. For example, Caldas and Wood (1997) point out instances where managerial practices are adopted for their symbolic rather than their instrumental value. Such practices, such as
ISO certifications or other best practices, may be adopted “for the English to see”, to use a popular Brazilan saying. That is, the adoption of foreign practices confers institutional legitimacy to managers who use them, and gives the impression that the firm is up to date with the state of the art in global industry. Summary Having summarized briefly two important general topic dimensions in which the Brazilian case can prove illuminating, it remains to specify the micro-level practices in which these aspects of Brazilian culture are instantiated within the world of work.
As Amado & Brasil (1991) point out, such practices can serve as “hermeneutic keys” which reflect deeper truths about the social organization of the workplace. Following their approach, to “unlock” the social significance of such behaviors, we must first understand the historical background Cultural Foundations of Brazilian Management 11 against which they develop, in order to see how specific practices arose as adaptations to the formal and informal structures within Brazil. It is to this background that I now turn.
Brazilian Management in Historical Perspective Many theorists have noted that individuals act largely based on internalized schema that, upon analysis, reveal underlying social and historical structures, although the existence of these structures may not be overly represented in the actors consciousness (e. g. Schein, 1980; Dimaggio, 1997). Lubatkin, Lane, Collin & Very (2005), for example, analyze corporate governance behaviors as rooted in the institutional development of a country, and use such historical differences to explain cross-cultural variation between the U. S. , France, and Sweeden.
Such historical-institutional differences, which Lubatkin et al. term “level 1” institutions, do not negate the importance of different value systems and cultural attitudes (as, for example, in Hofstede (1980), or the Globe Project (House et al, 2004), but rather complement such approaches by treating value differences as symptoms of systemic differences in historical-institutional frameworks across countries (see also North, 1990). Following this approach, I will attempt to explore aspects of the “level 1” context in Brazil that may shed light on the ways in which Brazilian managers deal with challenges in the workplace.
First, it is important to note the importance of the colonial legacy among thinkers of Brazilian national and organizational culture (Ribeiro, 1995; Freitas, 1997; Amado & Brasil, 1991). Specifically, the fact of Portuguese colonialism, as opposed to British or French, weighs heavily on these analyses (Freitas, 1997). As a coastal country on the periphery of Europe, subjected itself to centuries of Moorish occupation, Portugal already represented a complex mix of different cultures, particularly those of Africa, an aspect which some see as important for establishing its colonial tendencies toward mixture and the subsequent Brazilian
Cultural Foundations of Brazilian Management 12 eschewal of “essential”, intrinsic, or racial identities (Freire, 1966; Freitas, 1997; Amado & Brasil, 1991). Institutionally, Portugal was faced with the dilemma of being a small and distant country attempting to control a large expanse of territory with a small colonial population. It managed this difficulty by dividing up and allocating vast territories to donatorios, or land holders (Meade, 2004), whose holdings gave them interests in managing and controlling the territory.
This privileged group of colonial landholders was referred to as the estamento, a term of social segmentation that sits somewhere between notions of class, caste, and bureaucracy (Faoro, 1958). Estamentos differ from castes because they are not couched within religious or cosmological conceptions; in fact, many of the early Brazilian landholders were openly opposed by the Church (Meade, 2004). The concept differs from class, in that it is not purely an economic stratification, but is based on the political establishment of social hierarchies (Faoro, 1958; Amado & Brasil, 1991).
Although political, however, estamentos differ from bureaucracies in that they were not based in a rationalistic concept of legitimate authority (e. g. Weber, 1958), but rather on the discretion of the Portuguese court. Rather than being founded on universalistic conceptions of citizenship, these structures resisted the consolidation of citizenship within the territory (Carvalho, 1987), and threatened to import a type of colonial order that resembled European feudalism (Meade, 2004).
The imposition of a strict legal order on the colony, coupled with the effective difficulty in enforcing such an order, led to an interesting situation whereby actors searched for creative ways of subtly subverting formal structures (Ramos, 1983; Rosenn, 1971). According to some (e. g. Amado & Brazil, 1991), Brazilian administrative behavior owes many of its current aspects to this behavioral adaptation. Secondary mediators arose in order to bridge the immense gap between law and civil society, leading to a flexible view of social
Cultural Foundations of Brazilian Management 13 regulations based on personalistic relationships and case by case exigencies. In the words of Campos (1966, P 29, in Amado & Brasil, 1991) such mediators: .. patch up the gap between the law and the fact, making possible the impossible, legal the illegal, and fair the unfair. They grant flexibility to a formal and rigid law with excessive logical strictures. Thus, rather than taking an overly legalistic view of such flexible arrangements as elements of corruption, once seen in their socio-historical context, they come to appear as ways to make possible an unworkable system.
That such opportunities to use flexibility benefit the powerful and those with dense social connections goes without saying, but such spaces also may provide a buffer between formal structures created undemocratically, and the people who would be otherwise be subject to such structures (e. g. Barbosa, 1992; Duarte, 2006). Such adaptive behaviors also may explain the common finding that Brazilians tend to place high importance on social relationshipa and personalistic ties (e. g. Prates & Barros, 1997: Bertero, 1980).
The circumstances surrounding the unique passage of Brazil from colony to independent state, rather than overturning these older aspects of the society, worked to consolidate them in a new national aristocracy. Threatened by the Napoleonic conquests of the early 19th century, the Portuguese royal family moved the governmental administration to Rio de Janeiro, effectively transforming Brazil into the seat of the Portuguese empire. Upon its return to Portugal, the Portuguese king, Joao VI, urged his son, Don Pedro, to return to Portugal, but the latter refused, declaring himself emperor of the new Brazilian state.
Although this act was disobedient, it had none of the republican fervor and revolutionary violence of the Bolivarian movment that liberated the rest of South America. Brazil would not become a republic until the end of the century, and the new ruler was the son the Portuguese king. Under these conditions, the prevailing social structure was under little Cultural Foundations of Brazilian Management 14 pressure to democratize. In fact, the most fervent opponents of the move were the native merchants who saw, under the new empire, the ascendance of the Portuguese born aristocracy to top administrative postions in the new state (Meade, 2004).
Effectively, the new state had internalized the colonial administrative structure and heavily top down and authoritarian system, a structure which many Brazilian administrators have seen in national business organizations (e. g. Spink, 1997). Over the 19th centry, Brazil maintained a dependent role on outside merchants, in particular the British, to market its growing commodity exports, first cotton, then later, coffee (Lobo 1978).
Over half the Brazilian coffee trade at one point was controlled by British intermediaries, who then pushed for their increased role in the development of internal infrastructure products over local competitors, thus inhibiting a locally emergent capitalist class (Albert, 1988). Thus early industrial developments in Brazil were already subject to exposure to British ideas about economic organization and trade, with elite Brazilians acting as intermediaries. According to some scholars (e. g. Caldas, 1997), 19th century Brazilian culture was heavily influenced by British social and industrial norms.
The Brazilian ambivalence with regards to the local versus global roots of managerial practice should be seen in the light of this intermediary role at the inception of Brazilian industrialization. It may be noted that the earlier point made about the imposition of imperial administrative structures on a diverse population speaks to the first conceptual axis mentioned above, that of unity versus plurality. The breach between coexisting formal and informal ways of life may be seen as an attempt to preserve diversity in the face of a formal system that stressed absolute authority.
The latter point, however, regarding industrialization via internal versus external sources speaks to the local versus global dimension regarding the sources of managerial practices. Both of these dimensions become central to understanding these practices as they developed in the Republican era of Brazil around the turn of the 20th century. Cultural Foundations of Brazilian Management 15 The initial Brazilian Republic was formed in 1889 not from a democratic uprising, but from a military takeover. However, discontent with rule from a distant capital and he need to take into account diverse stakeholders led to a constitution which was essentially a compromise between authoritarian and liberal views (Meade, 2004). However, because of restrictive policies such as literacy tests, only a small minority of citizens were able to realistically participate in the formal public sphere (Bethell, 2000). Thus, the stark distinction between private and public spheres continued. Rather than a slow but progressive move toward democratization, throughout the 20th century, Brazil cycled in between more democratic and more authoritarian regimes (e. . Segrillo, 2005). This period was marked by an ideological quandary as to the development of a national identity. Some scholars have described Brazil as having “muddled references” (Martins, 2000); while intellectuals and leaders searched for distinctive essential features of the Brazilian “people”, the very notion of essentialism and nation that underlay this search was imported from nationalistic philosophies imported from abroad (Martins, 2000).
In a telling example, the modernist “anthropophagic” movement of the 1920’s (Andrade, 1990 1972) rejected European rationalism and civilization in favor of a sensual, tropical conception of Brazil emphasizing its African and Indigenous roots; yet works of this period were heavily influenced by French surrealism, psychoanalysis, and other European ideas (Rolnick, 1998).
More recently, Brazilian organizational scholars have applied this idea to organizations, positing “anthropophagic organization” as a characteristic of Brazilian firms which both draw on foreign know-how and reconfigure and remix this know-how in unexpected ways unique to the local setting (Wood & Caldas, 2002; 1998). This sketch of the Brazilian historical backdrop, although very brief, can allow us to make sense of certain behaviors typical in contemporary organizational life. To summarize, key themes include the wide space between formal and informal social structures, the struggle
Cultural Foundations of Brazilian Management 16 to survive within a dense and unresponsive bureaucracy though personal ties, the preservation of social hierarchy alongside the cyclical attempts at democratization and participation, and the ambivalent views of foreign influences vis a vis national culture. We now turn to how these themes become represented in cultural tendencies, values and practices in Brazil. Unpacking Some Aspects of Managerial Practice The Individual and the Person As described above, the wide gap between formal and informal systems in Brazil created practical difficulties for administrators.
In his institutional analysis of Brazil, Rosenn (1971) wondered how the administrative bureaucracy, with its top-heavy regulations, managed to function at all. This practical difficulty gave rise to adaptive behaviors on the part of social actors. Perhaps the most well known analysis of how these structures became internalized in the minds of social actors was given by DaMatta (1991), in his distinction between the individual and the person in Brazilian culture. Individuality, according to DaMatta, refers to the formal conception of the person under the law.
Individuals are equal and anonymous under the law, and are regulated by bureaucratic rules. Personhood, on the other hand, refers to the socially embedded actor, with a unique personality, necessities, and set of social relationships. The formal-informal gap becomes subjectively experienced as a gap between individuality and personhood. In a well-known example, DaMatta (1991) describes a common encounter between a traffic policeman, representing the universality of the legal code, and a driver who is caught breaking the law.
When asked for his papers, the driver responds “do you know who you are talking to”? Rather than simple deviance, this response transfers the driver from the domain of generalized legal subjectivity to the domain of personhood, complicating the application of the law by the threat of informal personalistic repercussions for the policeman. The Cultural Foundations of Brazilian Management 17 credibility of this threat can short-circuit the application of rules, and the driver remains free as a “person”, not being caught up into the realm of “individual”.
This analysis is important when placed against the context of U. S. legal perspectives, in which rules are often viewed as guarantors of individual rights (e. g. Primus, 1999). Rather than an ideal to be reached, DaMatta describes individuality as a state of anonymity and danger to be avoided. In this context, actors will be more likely to use bureaucratic rules to block, rather than enable, action (for a discussion of coercive versus enabling functions of rules, see Adler & Borys, 1996). This inversion of the functions of institutionalization can have paradoxical consequences.
Following Prates & Barros (1997), resolving organizational problems such as corruption by tightening regulation can paradoxically augment the tendency toward informality, where actors rely more heavily on social relations in the face of an unrelenting administration. Alternatively, de-institutionalization can paradoxically erode social bonds formed in response to formal rules. In a striking historical case, Joaquim Nabuco, one of the key proponents for the abolition of slavery in Brazil, once wrote that his missed the former slaves (Nabuco, 1949, p 231).
Clearly, he was not referring to the institution of slavery, but of the personal patrocinial and affective bonds between slave and master than had become replaced by formalistic ties characterizing industrial free labor. As Holanda (1996) describes, these informal ties become embodied in the figure of the homem cordial, or cordial man, a gentle and accommodating yet paternalistic figure who at once is a social enabler and defender of hierarchy.
While deeply rooted in the agrarian historical foundations of Brazil, some organizational scholars of Brazil (e. g. Duarte, 2006; Freitas 1997) argue that this mix of formal regulation and informal social enabling remains central in contemporary Brazilian organizations. Freitas (1997) suggests that in many ways, the contemporary organizational Cultural Foundations of Brazilian Management 18 boss reenacts the role of the master of the manor, trading personal loyalty for extrabureaucratic favors.
Thus Brazilian organizations may be considered to embody a “double system”, whereby interpersonal outcomes may differ greatly depending on the register in which they are being enacted. Rituals of Inversion and Impermanence An intuitive difficulty in such a double system is how to transition back and forth between formal and informal levels within the administrative system. Where symbolic organizational transitions are common, organizations tend to mark such transitions though ritual, ceremony, or other cultural forms (e. g. Trice & Beyer, 1984).
Accordingly, DaMatta (1995) specifies three central types of ritual in Brazil: Civic rites, that reinforce and legitimate status quo formal structures, other worldly rituals that transcend and give respite from daily social struggles, and rituals of inversion, such as Carnival, which allow informal norms and personal desires to be enacted temporarily on the public stage in order to “let off steam” and prevent social fragmentation. With regards to navigating between the formal and informal, rituals of inversion can shed some light on how such navigations are achieved.
These rituals, while inverting organizational norms, must not overtly challenge the social structure, remaining transitory and exceptional. Perhaps the most famous of these rituals is the common quotidian ritual of the jeitinho, or “little way” (e. g. Barbosa, 1992; Duarte, 2006). Duarte (2006), surveying the various treatments of the jeitinho, finds it diversely described as a “para-legal institution” (Campos, 1966), an “institutional by-pass” (Rosenn, 1971), a “way of being” (Torres, 1973), a source of empowerment (Abreu, Costa & Barbosa, 1982) and a form of “social navigation” (DaMatta, 1984).
Consistent with all of these conceptions, my characterization of the jeitinho Cultural Foundations of Brazilian Management 19 as a ritual of inversion highlights its role in switching back and forth from individualistic to personalistic social spheres. The jetinho is essentially the use of personalistic ties to temporarily bypass formal rules, for example, by giving informal IOU’s when funds are unavailable or by moving to the front of the line because of personal connections, for example.
It is based on personal niceness or simpatia (Barbosa, 1991), because people know that formal systems often produce inefficient results and are prepared to make exceptions, leading to a cordial and informal social style (Holanda, 1996). In addition, offering someone a jeitinho may be part of a generalized exchange mechanism, whereby one would expect that, when the need arises, members of the community would be willing to bend the rules for one’s own sake (Barbosa, 1992; Duarte, 2006). Thus, the administrative order is temporarily inverted in order to consolidate the interpersonal order.
Key to the functioning of this inversion is the diminuitive “inho” part of the jeitinho. The favor is to be small, subtle, and temporary, and should not overtly criticize the formal order, but rather, by promoting harmony at the interpersonal and functional level, actually reinforces the hierarchical order by diffusing social discontent (Barbosa, 1995). The jeitinho presupposes a static and unchangeable order; otherwise, why not try to change the rules? The personalistic space consolidates the formal, and vice versa. A second behavioral artifact is the gambiarra, or quick mprovisational fix, which has received less scholarly attention than the jeitinho but is similar in its origins and aspects (Bonfleur, 2006). Examples of gambiarras at work would be gluing together a worn out piece of equipment rather than ordering a new one, or scribbling a name on a guest list rather than typing it in the system. The gambiarra represents flexibility and improvisation, but also a hesitation to work within the established rules. Gambiarras are generally meant to be tentative, make-do solutions until future formal solutions are found, although it may be
Cultural Foundations of Brazilian Management 20 questionable to what extent these future solutions actually occur (Amado & Brasil, 1991). Interestingly, while in Brazil gambiarra refers to an improvised solution, in Portugal the term refers to a light extension, used to illuminate hidden areas. The parallel will not be elaborated here, but is worth contemplating. Both the jeitinho and the gambiarra have in common the transitory and short-term nature of their application; although often repeated, they are not meant to promote long term change but occur in the immediate time perspective horizon.
This aspect fits nicely with the small existing empirical literature on time perception in Brazil. For example, Levine, West & Reis (1980) found that, compared with the U. S. , Brazilian tended to have more flexible definitions of timeliness, reported time in more general terms (e. g. five o’clock versus two minutes past five), were less likely to attribute lateness to personal failure, and were less likely to hold negative judgments of people who arrive late to appointments.
On a more theoretical level, DaMatta (in Amado & Brasil, 1991) posits that the individual-person distinction translates into a time division among Brazilians, whereby formal time, like that of the U. S. , is linear and progressive, whereas personal time or time at home is cyclical; at work, Brazilians tend to vacillate between the two forms of time through daily rituals such as coffee breaks (cafezinhos, note again the “inho”), an important part of organizational life (Amado & Brasil, 1991).
The National and the Foreign As mentioned above, the figure of the foreign has played an important role in the construction of a Brazilian self-image (e. g. Caldas, 1997; Motta, Alcadipani & Bresler, 2001). In many ways, the distinction national-foreign may be overlaid upon the informal-formal dimension, since many of the formal structures used in contemporary organizations are foreign in origin (Caldas, 1997; Caldas & Wood, 2002). Rather than simply originating abroad, some have argued that these systems helped to construct an image of Brazil that was
Cultural Foundations of Brazilian Management 21 outside of its reality, and that everyday actors struggled to conform to (Caldas, 1997; Motta et al, 2001), further distancing the formal from the informal. The sense of the superiority of the foreign was reinforced through the educational system (Fischer, 1984), and the national academic production (Sento-se, 2005). According to Sentose, a driving question in the Brazilian social sciences has been “What do we lack to become modern” (Sento-se, 2005, p 16).
Studies on the lack of education (the first universities in Brazil emerged much later than in the rest of the continent) reinforced this tendency. Many corporations send expatriates abroad in order to be socialized in business norms from the U. S. and Europe, as a condition for success in Brazil (Caldas & Wood, 1997). More recently, Brazilian elites have viewed modernity as fundamentally a post-national phenomenon, seeing development as essentially externally driven, rather than a national project (Sento-se, 2005).
Wood (1997) argues that Brazilian culture, from its colonial past, searches for a guide, a populist and paternal streak that predisposes the culture to authoritarian leadership. However, as in the formal-informal dimension, things are more complex than simply an idealization of the North. As Caldas & Wood (1997) argue, Brazilian firms seek and adopt Northern administrative systems and technologies less in the logic of instrumental rationality, but as a symbolic status and legitimacy marker.
These authors warn that organizational analyses in Brazil often go awry because they take at face value the convergence of Brazilian firms with those of the rest of the world, taking the facade for the reality. Rather, it is argued, Northern administrative techniques take their place among the canons and structures that make up the formal discourses of administration. Underneath, however, these techniques are rewired and remixed (according to the logic of gambiarra) to meet the diversity of organizational peculiarities that characterize the Brazilian reality.
Wood and Caldas (2002; 1998) term this process “organizational anthropophagy”, an echo back to the modernist Cultural Foundations of Brazilian Management 22 movement described earlier in this chapter, and ultimately, an illusion to the original encounter of the Portuguese with the indigenous people of Brazil. Beyond an interesting and piquant metaphor for intercultural appropriation and dialogue, the notion of anthropophagy constitutes an interesting social theoretic concept that Brazil can offer to the general study of organizational behavior.
In fact, athnropophagy has been described as one of the most interesting and original theoretical concepts to come out of Latin America more generally (Viveiros de Castro, in Cocco, 2009). This is because, in an age of increasing multicultual mixture and self-conscious identity, anthropophagy becomes a middle road between the extremes of cultural essentialism and isolation and cultural assimilation and homogeneity. As some have suggested (e. g. DaMatta, 1995), the Brazilian approach to multicultural relations may give Northern countries a glimpse of their future, and offer a solution to the problem of living together in a multicultural world.
Conclusion In this chapter, I have outlined some of the cultural foundations of Brazilian administrative behavior, attempting to move beyond essentialistic trait approaches by describing behavioral aspects as adaptive within a social and historical context. It is hoped that such a foray can add idiographic density to the important nomothetic work done in crosscultural psychology and organizational behavior, and serve as one more piece to the “Brazilian Puzzle” (Hess & DaMatta, 1995). However, as was suggested in several places, such an exposition should be of interest not only to the Brazilianist scholars or managers working with Brazilians.
Rather, the Brazilian context, as one marked by post-colonial dilemmas such as highly concentrated urban development and high social inequality, mutlicultual negotiations, and tensions between a dynamic and flexible informal environment and a rigid formal system, exhibits features key to understanding the contemporary global environment. If, as DaMatta (1995) suggests, Cultural Foundations of Brazilian Management 23 Brazil can serve as a mirror to the North, then theorizing about Brazil becomes especially urgent. This chapter has attempted to demonstrate paths that may be followed in future research projects.
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