The still modest literature devoted to the history of the family in Brazil offers two conflicting interpretations of elite family organization. On the one hand, scholars have often ascribed an exaggerated organizing propensity to the elite extended family or parentela. Gilberto Freyre's early identification of ‘patriarchal cohesion’ as the foundation of Brazilian national organization persisted as the conventional wisdom until very recently. For Freyre, the elite patriarchal family assumed a ‘civilizing’ mission by imposing solidarity and order in an otherwise disorganized social milieu. Other commentators have been less impressed with the elite family's achievements over time. For them, Brazil's great families were disorganized, destructively violent, and even ‘schools of vice.’ Oliveira Viana, who probably best summed up the limitations of elite family organization, argued that the extended family (clã parental) lacked a common life except in crisis situations when its solidarity was only ephemerally evident.
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