Academic journal article Brazilian Political Science Review

Diffusion of Good Government: Social Sector Reforms in Brazil

Academic journal article Brazilian Political Science Review

Diffusion of Good Government: Social Sector Reforms in Brazil

Article excerpt

(SUGIYAMA, Natasha Borges. The Diffusion of Good Government: Social Sector Reforms in Brazil. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2012)

The book Diffusion of Good Government: Social Sector Reforms in Brazil by Natasha Sugiyama is one of the most important recent contributions to a litera- ture dedicated to confronting the policy choices made by States who face the persistence of poverty and social inequality in Latin America. With a theoretical and methodological support that mixes traditional and sophisticated approaches to the study of the formation of new agendas, the author presents an original analytical vision of the factors which ori- ent the mechanisms behind the formulation of public policies in countries with a complex institutional arrangement, such as Brazil, a highly decentralized federation with specific attributes as to the definition of a social protection network. The author's central inter- est is to investigate why and how these social reforms originate and are diffused among sharply distinct governmental units in terms of their administrative capacity, fiscal contri- bution, socioeconomic development, and political and cultural history. In order to develop her analysis the author selects two programs implemented in the country from the mid- 1990s, which currently represent two of the main national policies in health and educa- tion: Family Health Program and School Grant Program1 (Programa Saúde da Família and Programa Bolsa Escola). Therefore, based on the municipal adherence to both pro- grams, the object of the research is to investigate why ideas which represent social solu- tions arise and are adopted by a set of governments in time. According to theorists such as Heclo (1974) and Kingdon (2011), these ideas are proposals marked by new forms and resources potentially applicable in a conservative system dominated by traditional rules and models for public policies. In a rereading that approaches classical views such as the one by Cohen, March and Olsen (1972) concerning the institutional changes in anarchi- cally organized systems, Sugiyama then becomes interested in explaining the factors that motivate similar political behavior within contexts of diffuse social reforms. To this goal the author defines a multi-method research framework that brings together qualitative and quantitative approaches with an extensive fieldwork, comparing major cities and applying the Event History Analysis (survival analysis) statistical model with an interest in analyz- ing the factors that explain the different time periods for adopting the programs among government leaders.

According to the author, the advantage in applying survival analysis is that the model allows us to annually observe the interdependence among jurisdictions, thus allowing for a more thorough analysis of the internal and external determinants in diffusion processes. In diffusion studies that seek to investigate the political behavior of actors in political de- cision-making, the determinants employed in the analysis are based in three explanations: political incentives, ideology and the role of social networks.

Starting from this approach, the author skillfully develops and adapts each one of these theoretical perspectives in order to test how electoral motivations, ideological for- mation or participation in social networks influence or motivate political actors to emulate innovative social programs. By treating these schools of thought as rival explanations, the author points out, in reference to Walker (1969), that more electorally competitive jurisdictions probably replicate more policies since the actors act rationally in the sense of attending the voters' social demands. When referring to Mullins (1972), the author signals that certain principles or worldviews guide ideological preferences and, to this sense, po- litical actors in an ideological spectrum closest to the left are eventually more inclined to adopt innovative institutional designs. …

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