Historical sociology and path-dependence theory both try to understand how change and continuity interact in long-term social processes. Even so, there is still a lot of uncertainty on the ways that the two methodologies can be adopted together. This paper addresses this question by studying 70 years of interaction between the state and the market in Brazil. Particularly, it shows how an understanding of the historical process that characterized modernization from above in Brazil sheds light on the argument that, despite de facto changes in the country’s politico-economics in the 1990s, there is still a strong influence from the state institutions formulated during the 1930s. The paper discusses the main economic, political and administrative changes in state structures that happened over 70 years to provide new insights into the ways in which the historical perspective can contribute to the interpretation of the period of reforms in Brazil.