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May 14, 2012

Library of Congress to Award President Fernando Henrique Cardoso Kluge Prize for Study of Humanity

Cardoso to Receive $1 Million Prize at July 10 Ceremony at Library

Librarian of Congress James H. Billington will award the 2012 John W. Kluge Prize for lifetime achievement in the study of humanity to Fernando Henrique Cardoso, one of the leading scholars and practitioners of political economy in recent Latin American history. His scholarly analysis of the social structures of government, the economy and race relations in Brazil laid the intellectual groundwork for his leadership as president in the transformation of Brazil from a military dictatorship with high inflation into a vibrant, more inclusive democracy with strong economic growth.

The Library will present the Kluge Prize to Cardoso at a ceremony on July 10 in the Library’s Thomas Jefferson Building. Cardoso is the first prize recipient whose work spans the fields of sociology, political science, and economics.

Throughout his life, Cardoso has asked difficult questions and often defied conventional wisdom, whether with respect to race relations, the relationship among key structures within the economy, or integration into the world economic system. His deeply original analysis of the interplay among political, economic, and social processes substantively informed his later governmental policies. Perhaps the strongest evidence of his intellectual accomplishment is that his successors have continued so many of his policies and ensured his legacy as one of Brazil’s greatest leaders.

Cardoso is the eighth recipient of the $1 million Kluge Prize, which recognizes and celebrates work of the highest quality and greatest impact in areas that advance understanding of the human experience. A scholar of enormous intellectual energy, he has written or co-authored more than 23 scholarly books and 116 scholarly articles, with versions of each produced for a wider public.

Trained as a sociologist, Cardoso broke new ground in revealing the impact of Brazil’s slave heritage on contemporary economic patterns. His analysis demonstrated that the over-reliance of industry and labor on subservience to an authoritarian government did not promote development, but rather reinforced structural barriers to an efficient, well-functioning economy. Dynamic, new patterns of development required ending stagnant domestic monopolies and introducing the innovative potential of foreign investment.

Cardoso became known internationally for his breakthrough insight, developed with Chilean Enzo Faletto, in the debate on the best path to development. Most agreed that the international economic system set constraints on a developing nation’s sphere of action. Cardoso’s and Faletto’s originality lay in countering the argument that association with foreign companies would not lead to development because they would extract and transfer wealth to the power centers of the economic system. Cardoso and Faletto disagreed and argued that a nation could make wise, strategic choices among alternative paths of participation within that evolving system and achieve positive economic outcomes. This interpretive framework opened the way for fresh thinking about options, influenced generations of scholars in Latin America, the United States, and the world, and anticipated the later concept "globalization."

Cardoso spent several years in exile during the Brazilian military dictatorship (1964-1985) publishing prolifically, teaching at leading research institutions in Latin America, France, and the United States, and creating a research institute in São Paulo. His intellectual and political resistance to the authoritarian government reinforced his commitment to democratic processes. His writings argued that both economic development and social welfare could flourish in a liberal society.

He shifted from scholarly studies to practical politics a decade after the military banned him from academic activities and at a time when political changes opened possibilities for democratic action. He was elected to Brazil’s Federal Senate as an alternate in 1978, and became a member of the Senate in 1983. In the late 1980s he helped found the Social Democratic Party of Brazil. He served as Minister of External Relations during 1992-1993, and as Finance Minister from 1993-1994, he turned the tide against radical hyperinflation. He was elected president in 1994 and reelected in 1998, both times in the first round with more than 50 percent of the popular vote.

As an elected official and then as President, Cardoso instituted policies that followed the logic of his earlier scholarly analyses. At the same time he crafted specific policies that were also shaped by the evolving situation in Brazil and the world, as well as by his own continued reading, intellectual analysis, and principled political engagement. The structural reform of governing institutions, including elevating the role of Congress, strengthened democracy. Changes in the relationships among economic entities--ending state monopolies and privatizing companies, continuing support for independent labor unions, closing insolvent banks to make the financial sector more robust, creating an independent regulatory system to foster competitiveness and prevent monopolies, and others--made both the public and private sectors more transparent and accountable. Conditional cash transfers to the poor, universal education and universal public health, as well as policies to address racial disparities, began breaking down the cycle of poverty and raising the standard of living for all Brazilians. Cardoso’s policies demonstrated that strategic integration into the international capital system would lead to increased prosperity and thereby laid the foundations for Brazil’s rise to world prominence.

In the years since his presidency, Cardoso has continued his commitment to scholarship and democracy. He established the first presidential library in Brazil’s history, and he co-founded the Club of Madrid, which celebrates democratic transitions in power and encourages democratization in the world’s developing nations. His written reflections on his political career include "The Accidental President of Brazil," which he worked on while in residence as a Distinguished Visiting Scholar at the Kluge Center of the Library of Congress in 2003.

"President Cardoso has been the kind of modern scholar who combines deep study with respect for empirical evidence," Billington said. "His fundamental aspiration is to seek out the truth about society as it can best be determined, while remaining open to revisiting conclusions as new evidence accumulates whether from a more probing analysis or from changing political and economic realities. He has used and embodied many different aspects of the modern social sciences, and kept a humanitarian perspective. The Library is pleased that through the generosity of the late John W. Kluge, we are able to recognize his accomplishments by honoring him with this prize."

The Kluge Prize is awarded for lifetime achievement in fields of humanistic and social science studies that are not included in the Nobel Prizes, most notably history, philosophy, politics, psychology, anthropology, sociology, religious studies, linguistics, and criticism in the arts and humanities. The study of humanity is a key part of academia, but it is a study not pursued solely in academic institutions. The prize recipient can make his/her contribution in fields such as the media, the performing or literary arts, or in public service institutions. Unique insights and understandings are also developed in these arenas. Prize winners must have earned unusual distinction within a given area, and their body of work must demonstrate growth in maturity and range over a sustained period of time and must affect perspectives and vision in other areas of study and walks of life. The work of the prize-winner must exemplify values and ways of thinking that have meaning for scholars in a variety of fields, for those involved in public affairs and for the average layperson.

The prize is administered by the Kluge Center in the Library of Congress. The center was established in 2000 to foster a mutually enriching relationship between the world of ideas and the world of action, between scholars and political leaders. The center attracts to Washington outstanding figures in the scholarly world – both very senior and very junior—and facilitates their access to the Library’s remarkable collection of the world’s knowledge and engages them in conversation with the U.S. Congress and other public figures. Lectures and other scholarly events contribute to a vibrant community and enrich the intellectual life of Washington. For further information on the Kluge Center, visit

Founded in 1800, the Library of Congress is the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution and the world’s largest library. It seeks to spark imagination and creativity and to further human understanding by providing access to its incomparably rich and multi-faceted collections, many of which are freely available on its website at

Previous Kluge Prizes have been awarded to Leszek Kolakowski (2003); Jaroslav Pelikan and Paul Ricoeur (2004); John Hope Franklin and Yu Ying-shih (2006); Peter Lamont Brown and Romila Thapar (2008). Further information is available at

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PR 12-098
ISSN 0731-3527

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