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Volume 65 / Social Sciences

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS: BRAZIL


ENRIQUE DESMOND ARIAS, Associate Professor of Government, John Jay College of the City University of New York (CUNY)

SCHOLARSHIP ON BRAZILIAN POLITICS has followed the same general patterns as in the previous Handbook volume. Publications cover a range of issues including state level politics, political history, and the overall conditions of democracy. Nevertheless, key research remains focused in a few areas. Much scholarly writing, especially journal articles rather than books, examines the deep mechanics of Brazilian political institutions and elections. A substantial amount of work is focused on civil society and, in particular, on the role of participatory budgeting in helping city administrations promote an engaged citizenry. Finally, a considerable amount of writing on Brazilian politics has looked at the evolutions and vicissitudes of electoral politics, and in particular the fortunes of the Lula administration and its relationship with the Partido das Trabalhadores (PT).

One of the most important issues in Brazilian politics today and the issue that has had, perhaps, the most profound impact on the ongoing political direction of the country is corruption. In his book O Operador: Como (e a mando de quem) Marcos Valério Irrigou os Cofres do PSDB e do PT, Lucas Figueiredo provides a vivid portrait of one of the key figures on the congressional kickback scandals that rocked the first Lula administration in 2005 (item #bi2009000435#). Figueiredo goes into some depth showing the mechanics and the complex ongoing relationships that gave rise to the scandal and that have curbed the political ambitions of some of the most distinguished politicians in the country. This book is a must read for all those interested in the Lula administration and for those studying corruption.

Beyond the debate on corruption during the Lula administration there has been a wide discussion in Brazil on the nature of the left in power and the direction of the PT and the Lula presidency. Many publications have addressed this topic in recent years. Francisco de Oliveira's article "Lula in the Labyrinth" examines the paradoxes of a PT administration operating in a neoliberal world in which the working class is allowed to rule but not really to benefit collectively from that rule (item #bi2008001238#). Luiz Carlos Bresser Perreira contributes a similarly thoughtful piece entitled "O Paradoxo da Esquerda no Brasil" in which he argues that, despite support for leftist governments in Brazil, it is difficult to govern from the left (item #bi2008001050#). Vicente Palermo and Germán Feierherd have published an article entitled "El Liderazgo como capital político temporal: Lula y el proceso de adaptación del PT a la hora de gobernar" that examines and contrasts Lula's experience as a leader with his predecessor Fernando Henrique Cardoso, arguing that Lula's political capital comes not from expertise but from long term respect for his leadership among certain segments of the population (item #bi2008004308#).

Those interested in a wider panorama of Brazilian politics should examine Renato Lessa's Presidencialismo de animação, e outros ensaios sobre a política brasileira, 1993–2006 (item #bi2009000430#). This book covers a series of engaging newspaper columns and other writings in which this noted scholar discusses an array of issues in national politics ranging from the nature of the Brazilian presidency to institutional reform.

While regional and state level politics are often overlooked in the English-language literature on Brazil, analyses of state level politics receive substantial attention from Brazilian publishers. Among recently published books, Angela de Castro Gomes' edited volume Minas e os fundamentos do Brasil moderno stands out (item #bi2009000438#). Bringing together a group of noted social and political historians of the state of Minas Gerais, this volume provides a detailed examination of the emergence of developmentalist thought within the Minas political elite. Chapters focus on a variety of historical periods from the late 19th up to the mid-20th century examining how an array of prominent state leaders helped set the stage for the political and economic structure of modern Minas Gerias and for national level development policy.

One critical issue in the debates about subnational policy making and innovation is participatory budgeting, a program first initiated in Porto Alegre but which has expanded to numerous cities around the country. While many earlier analyses have principally focused on these efforts in Porto Alegre, more recent writings have broadened their focus to other parts of the country. Vera Schattan P. Coelho and Marcos Nobre have published an edited volume that brings together debates about participation and deliberation in democratic politics (item #bi2007005437#). Sergio de Azevedo and Rodrigo Barroso Fernandes have organized an edited volume that examines the participatory budgeting process in the city of Belo Horizonte in Minas Gerais (item #bi2007005404#). Finally, Terence Wood and Warwick E. Murray's interesting article compares participatory democratic efforts in Belo Horizonte and Porto Alegre (item #bi2008001448#).

A great many quality articles have been published on the structure of Brazilian political institutions and electoral processes. For some time Brazilian academics have worked to provide substantial insights into elections and activities in the chambers of Congress. A piece by Fabiano Santos and Acir Almeida provides insights into the choice of committee rapporteurs in Congress as a strategy for understanding how bills are shepherded through the legislature (item #bi2007004233#). The edited volume La democracia brasileña: balance y perspectivas para el siglo XXI provides a wide array of studies addressing institutional questions in thecurrent political system (item #bi2009000423#). Licínio Velasco Junior has published an article examining coalition building and state reform during the Cardoso administration (item #bi2008002526#). Looking at elections, Lúcio Renno and Anthony Spanakos have published an interesting article on the role of economics in election decision-making and César Zucco has published an article on pragmatism and voting in the 2006 presidential elections that reflects on the advantages on incumbency and wealth transfers in securing a second Lula term (items #bi2008002330# and #bi2008003307#). Finally, perhaps one of the most dynamic issues in Brazilian elections is the role of the growing evangelical population. Two recent books contribute substantially to this debate. The first, edited by Joanildo A. Burity and Maria das Dores Campos Machado, brings together a series of essays examining issues related to the participation of Evangelicals in politics and in particular in the 2002 election when Anthony Garotinho, the governor of Rio de Janeiro, ran third on the strength of support from this group (item #bi2007005409#). Machado has also published a separate monograph entitled Política e religião: a participação dos evangélicos nas eleições that provides analysis of Evangelical participation in Rio de Janeiro through interviews with Evangelical officials and observation of campaign events (item #bi2007005401#).

Finally, at the broadest level is Alfred P. Montero's Brazilian Politics: Reforming a Democratic State In a Changing World (item #bi2009000548#). This book offers a succinct yet sophisticated introduction to Brazil that should provide students and other's seeking a deeper understanding of Brazilian politics with entry into this complex field. With regular revisions and updates this volume may become a key general reference source on Brazil for years to come.


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