The recent victory of the conservative populist Jair Bolsonaro in the Brazilian presidential elections brought the name of the philosopher Olavo de Carvalho to the center of Brazilian political debate. Many have since stated that Carvalho is an intellectual precursor to the populist candidate – as someone who was able to reshape the Brazilian political discussion in ways that cleared an intellectual path for Bolsonaro’s electoral victory. It is not a coincidence that when Bolsonaro gave his victory speech, Carvalho’s best-selling book The Minimum You Need to Know not to be an Idiot (2013), was in plain sight.
Carvalho’s influence over the Brazilian new right is indubitable. Many of his disciples supported Bolsonaro since the beginning. Some of them were elected to the Congress in the conservative wave that shifted Brazilian politics. So how was Carvalho able to provide public debate in ways that helped bring Bolsonaro to power?
First and foremost, Carvalho provided a political philosophy capable of structuring conservative ideas in ways that undermined the intellectual hegemony of the left.