About

Francisco Weffort (May 17, 1937 – Aug. 1, 2021)
An Appreciation by Abraham F. Lowenthal

Francisco Weffort – a leading Brazilian political scientist, public intellectual and political figure – passed away at the age of 84 on Aug. 1, 2021, during cardiac surgery in Rio de Janeiro. He remained lucid and active until the final day of his life, reading, thinking, and writing.

Professor Weffort was professor emeritus of political science at the University of São Paulo (USP), minister of culture during the government of Fernando Henrique Cardoso, and a founding member of the Workers’ Party (Partido dos Trabalhadores, PT), for which he long served as Secretary General.

Weffort was a prolific researcher and writer on Brazilian political thought, the nature and advantages of democratic governance, and the reasons for, characteristics and consequences of populism. He was a widely admired teacher as USP, with enormous influence on political science and political action, not only through his own writings and activities but through his many students and mentees.

Although he worked mainly in Brazil – at USP, the CEBRAP research institute, and at CEDEC, a think tank that he co-founded – Weffort was also active and well-known internationally, especially for his work at the Latin American Institute of Economic and Social Planning (ILPES) in Chile, University of Essex in the United Kingdom, University of La Plata in Argentina, the International Labor Organization (ILO), the Latin American Program of the Wilson International Center for Scholars, and the Helen Kellogg Institute for International Studies of the University of Notre Dame.

Francisco Weffort was admired for his research, his first-hand knowledge and understanding of Brazilian society and politics, especially of its working class, and for the passion and commitment he brought to all his work as a scholar, teacher, public reference, party official, and government minister. He was a leading figure in the group of social scientists and activist proponents of democratic governance who worked together from the 1960s on to challenge military authoritarian regimes and to build strategies and concepts for returning South America to democracy and strengthen its resilience and scope. The Wilson Center’s Latin American Program and Notre Dame’s Kellogg Institute were important allies and partners for this generation of Latin American social scientists, including Guillermo O’Donnell, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Sergio Bitar, Julio Cotler, Manuel Antonio Garretón, Marcelo Cavarozzi, Bolivar Lamounier, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, Edelberto Torres-Rivas and others – a brilliant generation with whom I had the great privilege of working closely over many years.

Abraham F. Lowenthal was the founding director of the Wilson Center’s Latin American Program and a charter member of the advisory council of the Kellogg Institute for International Studies, University of Notre Dame.

The following profile was from his final visiting fellowship in 2018.

Francisco Correa Weffort (PhD, University of São Paulo), a distinguished scholar and public figure, returns to the Kellogg Institute for the fall 2017 semester as the Brazilian Fulbright Distinguished Chair in Democracy and Human Development.

Weffort is professor emeritus at the University of São Paulo, where he has been a member of the Department of Political Science since 1964. His intellectual and academic interests include the political history of Brazil, political theory and, in particular, democratic thought and sociological studies of Brazilian and Latin American populism.

At Kellogg, Weffort will pursue the study “Social Democratization and Political Democracy in Brazil (1945–1988),” focusing attention on the permanency of patrimonial traditions in the face of the growth of political democracy. He plans to document the “authoritarian waste” that undermines the country’s representative traditions and puts democracy at risk.

His many publications include most recently Formação do Pensamento politico Brasileiro: Ideias e Personagens (Editora Atica, 2006) and Espada, Cobiça e Fé (Editora Civilização Brasileira, 2012).

Weffort served as Brazil’s Minister of Culture from 1995 to 2002. Additional academic appointments include a Wilson Center fellowship (1991–92) and a visiting professorship at the Instituto de Filosofia e Ciências Sociais, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (2003–06).

A member of the Kellogg Institute Advisory Council from 1998 to 2004, Weffort was a 1990–91 Kellogg visiting fellow and in 2003 held a Hewlett Residential Fellowship at the Institute. During his tenure as Minister, Kellogg partnered with the Ministry of Culture to host twelve distinguished holders of a Visiting Chair in the Study of Brazilian Culture.

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