Between Unity and Diversity: Historical and Cultural Foundations of Brazilian Management

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Between Unity and Diversity: Historical and Cultural Foundations of Brazilian Management Gazi Islam

Insper Working Paper
WPE: 218/2010

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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 Quatá Insper Moema São Paulo SP 04546-042 Brazil (11) 4504-2438

Cultural Foundations of Brazilian Management


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


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.g. 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,...
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