In This Review

Rethinking Party Systems in the Third Wave of Democratization: The Case of Brazil
Rethinking Party Systems in the Third Wave of Democratization: The Case of Brazil
By Scott Mainwaring
Stanford University Press, 1999, 424 pp

Mainwaring has useful, if depressing, things to say about Brazilian politics -- even though his long-winded political science jargon weighs the book down. He dissects the Brazilian party system in great detail, arguing that its institutions are weak and its party system fragmented. The relationships between social movements, unions, and business interests are patchwork, with political support going to individual politicians rather than to party organizations. The result is high electoral volatility, weak party roots, low levels of party identification, and sharp discontinuities in patterns of party support. Politicians, not surprisingly, act with great autonomy once elected. Such a system is also open to massive corruption. As one regional governor told Mainwaring, "the biggest party in Brazil is the Brazilian Clientelistic Party." Unfortunately, the struggle of the current Brazilian government to push a reform program through Congress only reinforces this observation. It is a pity this book was published too late to go on the IMF's reading list before it committed $41.5 billion to Brazil last October -- collateralized by promises of Brazilian politicians.