First Advisor

Jacob Fried

Term of Graduation

Fall 1972

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in Anthropology






Patron and client, Northeast Brazil -- Social life and customs



Physical Description

1 online resource (68 pages)


Northeast Brazil is a region characterized by economic poverty and human misery. Poor ecological conditions contribute to the nature of the dilemma, but another factor in the apparent cultural stagnation of the Northeast, may be the persistence of values and social practices traditionally aligned with the colonial sugar plantation system. Thus, this thesis represents an examination of the continuity of a given pattern, the man/patron relationship. This pattern is a contemporary parallel to the master/slave relationship which was the key to understanding of the social system of the colonial period. An historical overview reveals the nature of the traditional system, which proceeded to decline in the late nineteenth century. A review of present day conditions of the rural worker in the Northeast indicates numerous aspects of the colonial system which remain almost as they were. This review is followed by several case studies which particularly reveal various manifestations of the man/patron pattern in contemporary situations other than those associated with the remaining sugar industry.

The information presented in the case studies was collected in 1968-69 when the author was living in Recife on a Fulbright-Hays grant. The case studies do not represent conclusive documentation but, rather, provocative evidence that certain aspects of the traditional social system, namely the man/patron pattern, persist in a contemporary society which is no longer solely dependent on nor dominated by the production of sugar. Furthermore, the thesis implies that the continuity of traditional cultural patterns may, in fact, obstruct efforts of economic and social development.


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