In This Review

The Political Right in Postauthoritarian Brazil: Elites, Institutions, and Democratization
The Political Right in Postauthoritarian Brazil: Elites, Institutions, and Democratization
By Timothy J. Power
Pennsylvania State University Press, 2000, 296 pp
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In this important new book, Power addresses the central conundrums of Brazil's democratic transition and explains the long-term continuities that mark its political system and hinder reform. The old Brazilian military regime, he argues, rested on a long-lasting, symbiotic partnership with a group of conservative politicians. Although the regime eventually faltered, these politicians survived and dominated the political class on which the newly democratized institutions depended. As Brazil faced enormous economic inequalities, these conservative stalwarts adamantly opposed efforts to redistribute income or democratize the economy. Thus a paralyzing dilemma arose between the need to gain the former authoritarians' support to make democracy possible and the threat to reform that their participation posed. Another weakness also lingered: Many of the surviving institutions established (or gutted) by the authoritarian regime remained powerless. After examining the role of the right in political parties and the national legislature during the postauthoritarian period, the author concludes that these continuities have prevented Brazil from achieving the fundamental changes essential for a democratic consolidation. This powerfully argued and carefully documented work demonstrates the drawbacks of Brazil's conservative transition from military to civilian rule.