Review of Transforming Brazil. A History of National Development in the Postwar Era *

By Loureiro, Maria Rita | Brazilian Political Science Review, May 1, 2015 | Go to article overview

Review of Transforming Brazil. A History of National Development in the Postwar Era *


Loureiro, Maria Rita, Brazilian Political Science Review


Review of Transforming Brazil. A History of National Development in the Postwar Era *

What is the need for another book on national development policy in Brazil? In the introduction, the author, a professor of Latin American History at the University of Denver, United States, seeks to undo the impression of a possible déjà vu. He indicates that the book not only includes the extensive literature published in Brazil and abroad on the subject but also an analysis of many new empirical material collected from government and private archives of many Brazilian and American research institutions. It also includes an analysis of information from newspapers and magazines and the latest literature through which he seeks to review certain interpretations of the national development policy in Brazil in the 1950s.

As a meticulous historian, the author aims to construct a broad summary of this process through an analytical focus on the Juscelino Kubitschek (JK) administration when it was at its apogee during the post-war period. Thus, the book seeks to integrate into its analysis the economic transformations linked to industrialization and the intense political and ideological debate of the period with other dimensions, which are seldom taken as a whole. Such dimensions include the expansion and diversification of the consumer society in the country, the remarkable cultural effervescence of the turbulent JK years, and the union activity of steel workers in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro-one of the most mobilized segments of the working class, which increasingly became a political player in the context of the mass electoral democracy.

The author justifies the revival of the issue because of the absence of multidimensional and interdisciplinary analysis that interpret, in a broader and more nuanced manner, the complexity of the political-ideological, cultural, and labor debates of the period that are still relevant to the current Brazilian society (p. 12). Further, the rationale for the revival also depends on his assumption that intellectual creativity, cultural innovations, and the increasing politicization of workers are linked to the tragic 1964 military coup that blocked these processes (pp. 221-222).

What is the result of this great and difficult enterprise? On the one hand, it succeeds, on the flip side, it does not. This is what I propose to indicate here after a brief description of the volume.

In the first chapter, the author elucidates the emergence and consolidation of what might be referred to as a developmental consciousness in the country. This is defined by a sense of optimism due to the workability of industrialization as the path to development and the awareness of the need to create institutions and government agencies dedicated to promote it. Through the extensive literature examined, he tracks the emergence of this process during the second Vargas administration and its consolidation in the JK era. He also demonstrates how this president maintained political stability while accelerating the industrialization process, because he clearly regarded development as an instrument for reconciling the conflicting interests of developmental industrialists, conservative groups, and the demands of the working class. The following statement by JK, cited by Ioris, defines his profile as a political leader: "The social stability of our nation can only be sustained through rapid economic progress, (that way) the enemies of freedom will not thrive on the basis of poverty" (p. 38).

He refers to the convergence of the development debate in Brazil with similar processes concurrently occurring in countries in Asia and Africa during decolonization. Thus, Chapter 02 draws attention to the innovative action of Brazilian leadership on the international stage, such as Operation Pan America, defined as "the most ambitious diplomatic project of the 1950s" (p. 75). The author extensively describes the frustrations of diplomats and other government leaders, and of JK himself, with the low priority accorded by the US government to Brazil and Latin American countries. …

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