Gerald E. Beller
Department of Political Science
West Virginia State College
NARRATIVE DESCRIPTION FOR BRAZIL COMPONENT OF POLITICAL SCIENCE 410
The first four lessons described here are connected to a format established by the basic text for this course, as indicated in the syllabus. The format evaluates several countries in terms of (1) formation of the state (2) political economy and development (3) governance and policy-making and (4) representation and participation. The first three lessons concerned with Brazil focus on items 1 and 2 (with lesson 2 putting the evolution of political economy in a historical context). The third lesson provides a focused evaluation of the crisis brought on by indebtedness and inflation, and its relationship to the democratic opening. The fourth lesson pays explicit attention to the current political system, and evaluates neoliberal policies. The fifth and sixth lessons provide special attention to environmental policy, focusing first on deforestation questions and secondly upon environmental issues and initiatives at key local settings.
Portions of these lessons will also be incorporated in an International Relations class (as indicated in an attached syllabus), as well as a class on public policy.
LESSON ONE: MAKING OF THE BRAZILIAN STATE TO 1945
CONNECTION TO SEMINAR EXPERIENCE: Use of materials from orientation lectures by Reed Andrews and Barry Ames at Morgantown, May 1-3, 1998, as well as assigned readings from the seminar, especially Joseph Page, The Brazilians. Use is also made of the visit to Recife on June 9-13, 1998, a site important for early stages of Portuguese (and Dutch) colonization.
In this lesson, three trends associated with the Portuguese presence are given emphasis: (1) establishment of a centralized state despite strong regionalist tendencies, which succeeded more than most other Latin American states in establishing a presence which defined territorial boundaries and reduced threats from regional oligarchs; (2) the state's elaboration of a bureaucracy before political participation was widely possible, reinforcing an ethos which made the oligarchy's connections to bureaucratic positions a central premise of political life; (3) the entrenchment of a "slave society," (borrowing Finley's use of this term to denote societies where slavery was fundamental to the economy and society).
I give special emphasis to slavery here, going well beyond the textbook for the course. I am especially influenced by a recent book by W. Anthony Marx, Making Race and Nation, which provides a comparative analysis of the role of race with respect to state legitimacy and the formation of national identity in Brazil, South Africa, and the United States. This book provides a basis for understanding the ideology of "racial democracy" that emerged with the end of the empire and slavery. The "black into white" dynamic of immigration policy and miscegenation in Brazil provides a direct contrast with the "one drop rule" and post-abolition national acceptance of regional racial segregation associated with the United States, and apartheid policy in South Africa. The point here is to explain why "race" would for some time be so central to political mobilization in the United States and South Africa, but not in Brazil, where the presence of racial slavery was much more universal. The presumption here is that purported "color blindness" in Brazil served state interests by defusing race as a political factor, even as informal racial discrimination continued to have a profound influence upon Afro-Brazilians. (A discussion with Reed Andrews at the orientation session indicated that he felt Marx understated the extent to which slavery's end in Brazil occurred without rebellious regional threats, and pressure from abolitionists and freed slaves. This does not detract, however, from Marx's central premise--that the lack of a regional focus to slavery and the sheer size of the Afro-Brazilian population made it necessary for the state to demobilize race identity, rather than reinforce it among non-blacks as in the United States and South Africa. Pedagogically, drawing attention to this three-fold comparison suggests the usefulness of a comparative historical focus if we are to understand the unique dynamics of any polity.)
In addition to examining the ideology of "racial democracy" in Brazil in the Old Republic, I draw attention to the pattern emphasized by Barry Ames, where relatively "democratic" settings (ignoring for the moment the very limited franchise of that republic and the highly elitist bias) are associated with the rise of regionalism. The rise of Getulio Vargas is presented as marking a fundamental shift from regionalism to a new "paradigm" of central rule, nationalism and concomitant policies of import-substitution and industrialization, and state corporatism marked by strategic concessions to labor.
LESSON TWO: MAKING OF THE MODERN BRAZILIAN STATE FROM 1945 TO 1985
CONNECTION TO SEMINAR EXPERIENCE: Use of materials from the two lecturers indicated above for the orientation session, plus use of slides and information obtained during visits by the FACDIS group to Brasilia, Cubitao, and the Billings Reservoir in Sao Paulo.
Initial discussion distinguishes populism in its Latin American setting from the rural populism of an earlier era in the United States, following Barry Ames' discussion of this subject. "Populism" in the Vargas era is in turn distinquished from the electoral populism under the republic from 1945 to 1964.
In this discussion, I give special attention to the nationalist-populism of Kubitshek, paying particular attention to the building of Brasilia as the new capitol. Several slides from the FACDIS visit to Brasilia, including some useful slides of photographs on display in the mausoleum to Kubitshek and slides of architectural sites, are useful. I draw upon James C. Scott's discussion of "High Modernism" (in his Seeing Like A State) with its distinctive emphasis upon building an entirely new social order, rather than drawing upon tradition and allowing for the kinds of unanticipated social encounters one finds elsewhere in Brazil in the central public squares and untidy alleys and streets. The common presumption of this era among elites in the Third World that the existing social and natural order needs to be rejected in favor of an entirely new and more "scientific" and rational future is emphasized. Photographs in Kubitshek's mausoleum show bulldozers tearing down trees as examples of "progress, " while the city itself resembles nothing so much as a 1950s version of what the future would be. Juxtaposition of street scenes from elsewhere in Brazil with the very empty open spaces in Brasilia provides a dramatic notion of how nonbrazilian Brasilia is, and gives some opportunity to discuss what Marshall Berman terms the "Faustian model of development," in his book All That Is Solid Melts Into Air.
The problems raised by industrial development at high speed without regard for social consequences is well demonstrated by the environmental catastrophe at Cubitao. There are slides from this area from a field trip by the FACDIS group, at the location where a 1980 investigation found industrial wastes had destroyed rivers and streams and contributed to hideous birth defects and a rate of infant mortality exceeding any other location in Brazil. The FACDIS group had an extensive briefing from an official in the State Secretariat for the Environment in Sao Paulo state and a day in the field concerning the Billings Reservoir, which provides water for hydroelectric capacity so important for industry in Cubitao, as well as drinking water for Sao Paulo. Because of huge water sanitation problems, the reservior has been divided into two sections, to provide for systematic methods to insure safe drinking water in one portion. The discussion of the conflict between water needed for bodily sustenance and water needed for industrial growth speaks volumes about intrinsic developmental dilemmas. The current difficulties faced by those who are given the responsibility to deal with this problem provides a useful case study of the kinds of situations many countries face as payment comes due for developmental excesses. Since water sanitation problems are associated with a large migration to the area with illegal settlements along rivers and streams, this is also a useful example of the kinds of problems associated with extreme inequalities and large migrations to urban areas.
The demise of electoral populism is described as intrinsically connected to a populism which makes promises without having the social and political base to fulfill them. The military coup d'etat is analyzed as a deeply embedded social conflict, not mere pretension by military brass. Developmental needs could not be fulfilled without a political base, as many Third World countries have learned.
The period from 1964 to 1985 is described as a move from a kind of military populism, where the military was for a time considered an embodiment of the nation by many, to a much more coercive rule determined to achieve rapid economic growth without redistribution. This period, with its many examples of gigantism and the "Pharaonic complex," is usefully portrayed through a discussion of the hydroelectric complex at Itiapu, which displaced 42,000 families (just on the Brazilian side) and drowned farms that would have produced 600,000 tons of foodstuff each year. I use slides from this site, and from Iguassu Falls nearby to indicate the kind of natural bounty that was submerged, obtained through a side-trip by four members of the FACDIS group.
LESSON THREE: DEBT, INFLATION, AND THE IMF: THE END OF THE BRAZILIAN MIRACLE AND THE DEMOCRATIC OPENING
CONNECTIONS TO SEMINAR EXPERIENCE: Lectures at the orientation session, and an extensive discussion of the Brazilian economy with Minister Luis Fernando Ligiero at the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs for Matters of Social Communication on June 22, 1998. Reading materials assigned for this seminar were also consulted.
For a portion of this lesson, I make use of a video, "Capital Sins," from the Americas Series of the Annenberg/CPB Collection. The video is 50 minutes in length. It describes with unusual clarity the intersection of economic globalization with Brazil's problems of indebtedness and inflation, along with the latter's connection to the loss of legitimacy by military elites and the related push towards democratization. The emphasis on the role of international lending in a time of high energy prices and inadequate domestic energy resources despite frenetic dam building, the IMF, and the Brazilian attempt to push the developmental envelope beyond its fiscal limits provides insights that can be applied to many countries caught on the cusp of the desire and need for rapid economic growth and rising energy costs in the 1970s.
After the video, I draw attention to the inability of military elites to engage an economic crisis where they do not have the political skills to expand their social base, nor the means to develop the legitimacy which can sustain them through rough times. I also emphasize the characteristic pattern of economic inequality in Brazil, discussing the reasons why growth did not benefit a larger portion of the population. One reason, I suggest, is a lack of democracy. The effort to move gradually, with state controls, towards a kind of tutored democracy is discussed. I draw upon common hypotheses which attempt to explain democratic transitions--e.g., the rise of "middle" classes, the use of "pacts" to insure that the transition won't be short-circuited, the "contagion" effect of democracy spreading elsewhere-- suggesting how they may or may not accord with the Brazilian example.
LESSON FOUR: DEMOCRACY IN BRAZIL: THE INSTITUTIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL CONNECTION
CONNECTIONS TO SEMINAR EXPERIENCE: At all of the sites visited by the FACDIS participants, there were references to how "new" the democratic system was to Brazil, drawing attention to growing pains when emerging from a military dictatorship. This constant reminder has considerable importance for discussion of Brazilian democracy. The orientation lectures, again, were very helpful, especially the discussion of problems of representation in a PR setting for elections.
The push towards neoliberalism and early resistance to this by elected leaders is discussed. This resistance is described as a reflection of the desire not to "sell off" or privatize the "national patrimony," or state industry; the need not to restrict spending which shored up their political support; and the continued belief that economic growth could eventually finesse problems of indebtedness. When the state could no longer mobilize adequate resources to finance industry and shore up patronage because of fiscal deficits and the foreign debt, it finally moved to the Real Plan, which emphasized a new currency and an exchange rate linked to the dollar, privatization, and a redefined role for the state in infrastructure, as opposed to production of industrial goods.
Some discussion of Cardoso's approach to governance is addressed, drawing attention to his earlier identification with dependent development theory, and the move, like so many other current heads of government, away from the traditional "left," towards an embrace of global markets. Some attention will be drawn to comments by many in Brazil during the FACDIS trip that Cardoso has dropped his early commitment to social justice or redistribution. A key issue here is just how much room for maneuver developing states have, given the imperatives of a stable currency, a good credit rating, and the need to sell in global markets.
At this point, discussion of Brazil's political institutions becomes relevant. It was emphasized time and again during the FACDIS tour that substantial money now goes to the states without strings attached, under the 1988 constitution. This reinforces the ability of states to define their own priorities. Many of the government officials we spoke to emphasized local initiatives, and regional, as opposed to national, problems. In this lesson segment, a discussion of the proportional representation system in the electoral system follows, with attention drawn to the debilitating effect this has on development of strong parties (contrary to the usual expectations). The president's relative weakness without a party base in Congress, and the inability to establish effective interest aggregation because of weak parties, is described as a fundamental problem in Brazilian democracy, suggesting the need to look beyond the mere fact of elections to the purportedly representative institutions that are supposed to make democracy work effectively. Finally, attention is given to the narrow middle class basis of civil society in Brazil, as evidenced by our discussion with NGOs during the FACDIS seminar. The connection with Brazil's historical patterns is emphasized: lack of a social base for political participation beyond regional oligarchs and an expanding, but still limited, middle class; the consequent continued reliance upon bureaucratic connections and political patronage to obtain valued resources; and the ongoing weakness of political institutions which often fail to provide effective governance.
LESSON FIVE: THE POLITICS OF DEFORESTATION IN BRAZIL
CONNECTIONS TO SEMINAR EXPERIENCE: The FACDIS group had discussions with several groups interested in issues of deforestation: SOS Mata Atlantica in Sao Paulo (Perhaps the the most widely known environmental NGO, focused on protecting what remains of the Atlantic rainforest), IBAMA officials in Manaus and Brasilia (the key national agency concerned with forestry and related environmental regulations), SIVAM at air force facilities in Manaus (dedicated to surveillance of the Amazon basin for drugs and illegal logging), and INPE, also in Manaus (the National Institute for Research in Amazonia, connected to the Ministry of Science and Technology).
This lesson opens with a discussion of what a rainforest is, comparing them with forests from less tropical climates. Broad patterns of rainforest destruction around the world are mentioned.
An analysis of the destruction of the Brazilian Atlantic Rainforest follows, borrowing from discussions with the Director of SOS Mata Atlantica, as well as Warren Dean's study of the subject in With Broadax and Firebrand. Special attention is given to the effect of export-driven crops, like sugarcane and coffee, both of which have had immensely destructive impact. The connection to slavery is drawn, noting that slaves fled plantations to develop settlements called quilombos in the forest interior. The use of aldeias to sequester the indigeneous population is also noted; in this case, a large amount of forest lore was lost as such populations were isolated and ignored, except for purposes of labor in large landholdings. However, the progressive nature of rainforest destruction is emphasized in the twentieth century, especially the second half, using estimates of rainforest destruction provided to us at several sites. In the latter instance, attention is drawn to the impact of railroads, other transportation routes (with the immense "edge effects" into the interior of forests noted by an INPE researcher), industrialization (pointing out, for instance, that steel mills were still using charcoal from the forests as late as the 1970s), and urbanization (where homes and businesses used surrounding forests for fuel).
An analysis of the rainforest destruction in the Amazon Basin follows. A "social ecological" perspective is given here, emphasizing the connections between land hunger by the poor and protection for large landholdings, as well as the long-term historical pattern of holding lands by force as much as or more than by legal title The current government's push on resettlement in the Amazon as an instance of "agrarian reform" is discussed. (In this context, the fact that the president of IBAMA told the FACDIS group in Brasilia that the Brazilian agenda is the "brown" one, not a "green" one, and criticized Northern distortions of realities in Brazil is especially interesting) Discussion follows of the push by Asian and other international logging operations to obtain "concessions" in the Amazon basin. (Here, one official from IBAMA in Manaus emphasized the destructive impact of this, while another in a more superior position emphasized how minimal the impact was). The effects of the Transamazon highway and plans for other transportation routes is discussed also, as an instance of the "Faustian" model of development in Brazil.
LESSON SIX: ENVIRONMENTAL POLITICS IN BRAZIL
CONNECTIONS WITH SEMINAR EXPERIENCE: Of course, every site visited by the FACDIS group discussed environmental politics in Brazil. Government officials in every state and city we went to tended to push the virtues of their own agency, of course, while NGOs often criticized their efforts. One key lesson learned in Brazil was the importance of initiatives at the state or city level in dealing with ongoing environmental difficulties.
This lesson opens with some discussion of the over-all political context of environmental policy, drawing attention especially to Brazil's federal system, the 1988 constitution with its explicit environmental provisions, and political and cultural differences between states which influence differences in policy. IBAMA's central role is discussed as the key national environmental agency, which combines functions associated in the United States with the U.S. Forest Service, the Interior Department, and EPA.
(Here, it can be noted that IBAMA representatives in Brasilia emphasized the regional nature of environmental policy, as did legislative advisors to the Defense Commission for Consumers, Environment, and Minorities in the House of Representatives in the Brazilian Congress)
There follows a discussion of local initiatives encountered in different sites in Brazil by the FACDIS group. Thus, Sao Paulo's efforts to deal with sanitation and housing problems by the large migrant landless population in the Cingapura initiative is discussed, with use of slides of one favela and a nearby housing development meant to help resolve this problem. Pernambuco's concern with water shortages and urban pollution is described, using material from state officials who discussed this with us in great detail. The impact of economic development in the Amazon basin is discussed, drawing upon what we learned about the consequences of a free port in Manaus upon the surrounding indigeneous and "caboclo" population, and discussion by an NGO representative of efforts to "reserve parks" and "jungle hotels" as alternatives to logging and burning forests. The environmentally sensitive policies of Curitiba are analyzed, using extensive slides from the city's "green exchange" program (where residents in outlying areas exchange sorted garbage for food from the city), and discussing the extensive planning that went into that city's successful efforts to control traffic flow and maintain a vital pedestrian-friendly urban center. Rio's extensive plans to deal with water sanitation problems, and to clean up threatened beaches is also analyzed. The attempts to incorporate favelas into larger urban planning is also described.
Obviously, there is a very substantial amount of information in these lectures which probably can not by conveyed as completely as the lessons suggest. However, the richness of data and experience developed through the FACDIS experience should serve well to energize classrooms.
Amazon: Land of the Flooded Forest. 1990. Superb, realistic look at life among caboclos in the Amazon region, and their ecological connection to their surroundings. Much more than just the usual, over-romanticized view of the rainforest, this video suggests how hard life really is for people who live there.
Bye Bye Brazil. 1980. A love story connected to the Carnival in Rio.
Capital Sins , 1993. From the CPB/Annenberg collection on the Americas. Useful for showing the interconnections between global economic changes and democratization in Brazil.
Emerging Powers: Brazil. 1996. From the series "Emerging Powers," this video has similar useful connections, and is more up to date. However, it does not give adequate attention to the vast poverty of Brazil, overplaying its successes with the emerging middle classes.
Hour of the Star. 1986. A young woman migrant from NE Brazil in Sao Paulo experiences fantasies, and finds survival in them in a drab, depressing urban environment. A very honest film, which lacks the vital imagery of the novel.
Kayapo: Out of the Forest . 1989. Concerns opposition by Indians to a hydroelectric dam.
Voice of the Amazon. 1989. Superb, but highly partisan, view of Chico Mendes and the politics of deforestation in the Amazon.
INTERNET TEACHING RESOURCES
Like the rest of the world, Brazil is coming on-line. Almost all of the organizations visited by the FACDIS group provided us with web-site addresses. Most of these are in Portuguese, however, and a little difficult to use as a consequence. Listed below are the URLs for some useful sites, some of which were obtained during the seminar, and others upon returning from Brazil:
http://lanic.utexas.edu/la/brazil connects to a University of Texas link that combines a large number of URLs for Brazil. I did not fully explore these links, but they seem extremely useful. Many are in Portuguese, but several sites are in English. Types of sites indicated include: numerous newspaper sites, government agency web pages, basic English-language reference information, and a special brazil/on-line page with links to electronic bulletin boards.
www.foreignaffairs.org/links.html contains hundreds of links to international sites, including Brazil. UN agencies, the U. S. Department of State, embassies, journals, and news sources are all available.
www.worldbank.org/laler/rio-htm#main+findings is a World Bank site that contains extensive information about Rio de Janeiro's problems and plans with respect to the environment.
www.sosmataatlantica.org.br/home.htm is the website for SOS Mata Atlantica, an NGO visited by the FACDIS group. At present, this site contains little of interest, and is in Portuguese. However, we were told that satellite and ground-level photos of rainforest conditions would be shortly posted to this site. If and when this happens, they would provide dramatic illustrations for any class that is concerned with rainforests and their destruction, if they are anything like what we were shown.
www.bdt.org.br/bdt/index/database is a treasure-house of information about environmental conditions in Brazil. This is a website for "bioscientists" that contains extensive links to listings of endangered species; ecological conditions within key micro-regions, cities, and parks and reserves; bibliographic information on a wide range of biological subjects; reports by environmental groups and educational institutions; and web pages and reports by government agencies.
www.cetesb.br/ingles/ingles.htm is one of the few English language web sites connected to a government agency in Brazil, in this case the Sao Paulo Environmental Sanitation Agency. While largely self-congratulatory about agency efforts, it does contain useful information about bureaucratic jurisdictions and functions, as well as about ongoing environmental regulations and plans.
www.envirolink.org can be consulted for links to news about Brazil from the Reuters agency that has relevance to environmental issues. Brazil gets less coverage in English in basic news sources than the rest of Latin America, and a source like this can become useful. BIBLIOGRAPHIC INFORMATION
Ames, Barry. 1995. "Politics in Brazil." Chapter from Shively, Comparative Governance. Especially useful for background on political institutions and problems of representation in Brazilian democracy.
Burns, E. Bradford. 1993. A History of Brazil. The standard work, very readable.
Dean, Warren. 1995. With Broadax and Firebrand: The Destruction of the Brazilian Atlantic Forest. The very cusp of the wave of "environmental" histories now out. Dean's expertise goes well beyond that of the traditional historian to agronomy, silviculture, and a host of related disciplines. Very readable.
Desai, Uday, ed. 1998. Ecological Policy and Politics in Developing Countries: Economic Growth, Democracy, and the Environment. Does NOT contain a chapter on Brazil, but contains useful data to compare with Brazil from similarly situated countries. Skip the introductory chapter, and concentrate on the chapters that follow, which are up-to-date and well-written pieces by individual experts.
Hanchard, Micael. 1993. "Culturalism Versus Cultural Politics: Movimento Negro in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paul, Brazil" In Kay B. Warren, ed., The Violence Within: Cultural and Political Opposition in Divided Nations.. A useful discussion of how "culture" should be redefined with respect to racial issues, especially with respect to Brazil.
Lamounier, Bolivar and de Souza, Amaury. 1993. "Changing Attitudes Towards Democracy and Institutional Reform in Brazil." In Larry Diamond, ed., Political Culture and Democracy in Developing Countries. A very useful discussion of problems of democratic transition in Brazil.
Marx, Anthony W. 1998. Making Race and Nation: A Comparison of the United States, South Africa, and Brazil. This broad comparative historical study is useful largely because it sees Brazil as taking a route opposite of that in the U. S. and South Africa concerning the political salience of race, and locates that salience in strategies deployed by states to obtain legitimacy.
James C. Scott, 1998. Seeing Like A State. This book has a section on Brasilia, seen from the context of the vast "simplifying" actions of states which seek to reject tradition and build a new order: has very useful comparisons with other cities like St. Petersburg, Chanigarh (Punjab), and Paris.
Tendler, Judith. 1997. Good Government in the Tropics. Despite an unexciting writing style, this book is important for its insistence that higher level state authority is important for successful decentralization: the two go together, and do not function well separately. It also show how the state in Brazil (and presumably elsewhere) creates, and does not just respond to, civil society.