© 2018, © 2018 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. In the recent Brazilian Netflix series 3% (Aguilera 2016), international audiences were presented with an array of visual reminders about the legacy of historic human rights abuses in Brazil. With the image of the pau de arara as a point of historic and semiotic reference, this paper adopts evidence and ideas from New Capitalist History to extend the interrogation of the historical memory of torture in Brazil in particular, to the rise and predominance of coercive practices in workplace cultures in free societies in general. This interrogation demonstrates the need for paradigm shifts within Western academic disciplines. First, to re-locate historically modern slavery in political philosophy as central to conceptions of “evil,” and second to overturn the notion of discontinuity and incompatibility between slavery and capitalism. Throughout this interrogation, a short story by Machado de Assis and Lissovsky’s critique of processes of memorialisation of human rights abuses open up the possibility of revisionist thinking about technologies of power, under slavery, military rule, and democratic regimes in Brazil; an approach which suggests systematic and sustained “cultures of cruelty” past and present (Giroux).