Brazil: Culture and Politics in a New Industrial Powerhouse

Brazil: Culture and Politics in a New Industrial Powerhouse

Brazil: Culture and Politics in a New Industrial Powerhouse

Brazil: Culture and Politics in a New Industrial Powerhouse

Synopsis

Myths and misconceptions about Brazil, the world's fifth largest and most populous country, are long-standing. Far from a sleeping giant, Brazil is the southern hemisphere's most important country. Entering its second decade of civilian constitutional government after a protracted period of military rule, it has also recently achieved sustained economic growth. Nevertheless, the nation's population of 157 million is divided by huge inequities in income and education, which are largely correlated with race, and crime rates have spiraled as a result of conflicts over land and resources. Ronald Schneider, a close observer of Brazilian society and politics for many decades, provides a comprehensive multidimensional portrait of this, Latin America's most complex country. He begins with an insightful description of its diverse regions and, then analyzes the historical processes of Brazil's development from the European encounter in 1500 to independence in 1822, the middle-class revolution in 1930, the military takeover in 1964, and the return to democracy after 1984. Schneider goes on to offer a detailed treatment of contemporary government and politics, including the 1994 elections. His closing chapters explore Brazil's rich cultural heritage and assess Brazil's place in the international arena.

Excerpt

Ours is a preponderantly, indeed lopsidedly, Northern Hemisphere—oriented world. Even South and Southeast Asia lie almost exclusively above the equator, and only two of the world's twenty-five most populous countries are located in the southern half of the globe: Brazil in the western quadrant and Indonesia in the eastern. With 157 million inhabitants, Brazil ranks fifth in the world in both population and territory, and its gdp, exceeding $560 billion, makes the country the globe's ninth largest economy. Making up nearly half the South American landmass—being twice the size of Mexico—Brazil constitutes most of the vast Amazon basin; it also anchors the Southern Cone and borders all but two of the Andean countries. Not only is Brazil territorially almost the size of the United States or China, and its Amazon by far the world's greatest river, but it also has an extremely diverse resource base, including most of the minerals required by modern industry; produces a wide variety of agricultural crops; and comes close to being world leader in livestock. Moreover, Brazil possesses much potentially productive farmland that has not yet been put to the plow and could double its agricultural output by 2005.

Brazil's vastness is matched by its diversity. Its population of at least partial African descent (roughly 70 million) is substantially greater than that found in North America including the Caribbean or that of any African country save Nigeria. Yet at nearly 90 million, European-descended Brazilians match the population of Mexico. Brazil has two of the world's largest cities, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, lying in close proximity to each other. in the entire Southern Hemisphere these are rivaled in size only by Buenos Aires and Jakarta; globally they are in a league with Tokyo, London, New York, and Mexico City. But huge as they are, these megametropolises account for but one-sixth of the country's population; Brazil also has another eighteen urban centers of between 780,000 and 3.8 million inhabitants.

Brazil has undergone wrenching transformations since the 1950s—analogous in many ways to Britain during the industrial revolution or Germany in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Individuals by the tens of millions have been uprooted from rural areas and small towns to swell the population of great and intermediate cities. in the process, serious social problems have spread and intensified, giving rise to the lamentable situation of thousands of homeless street children who frequently slip into a life of crime and too often become victims of brutal repression by "death squads" of renegade police. International media seize . . .

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