Date of Award

Spring 1981

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Between 1850 and the turn of the century the dominant mode of production in the export sector of Pernambuco shifted from a slave to quasi-capitalist. The labor transition was not an evolutionary outgrowth of existing work relations--it involved struggle and coercion. The first part of this research shows how repressive social control effected the transformation of the mode of production; the second part looks at a product of the transformation, crime.

This research focuses on a frequently overlooked type of human intervention, social control, as a source of structural change, and places the motives of modernizing elites in a less positive light than usual. The study shows that an elite used repressive social control to transform the mode of production from slave to quasi-capitalist in order to secure the material supports for their structure of domination. But, of course, social control effected the labor transition through intermediate social processes. In the case under review, and theoretically in other contexts, as well, the criminalization of behavior fueled structural change. The data on social control are police and presidential reports, arrest statistics, penal codes, legislative records, and the newspaper editorials covering a seventy-two year period.

The second part of this study examines crime as a product of social structure and of structural change. There is a tradition in sociology from Durkheim (1964) to Park (1924) suggesting a relationship between social disorganization and certain forms of deviance. In a different vein, radical criminologists such as Quinney (1977) and Spitzer (1975) argue that it is particular forms of social organization, rather than disorganization which produce crime.

This study used elements of both social organization and disorganization theory to understand the relationship between social structure, social change, and crime in Pernambuco. The data lent support to both approaches. Deep-cutting disruptive changes were associated with increases in crime in both the slave/feudal and quasi-capitalist modes of production. At the same time, crime increased with the increases in socially-structured inequality.

This dissertation was funded by a Latin American Teaching Fellowship from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, and by the Ford Foundation. The data were collected and translated during the two-year period the author was a Visiting Professor at the Universidade Federal De Pernambuco (Departments of Economics and Sociology), Pernambuco, Brazil.