The Problem of Democracy in Latin America

By Martin C. Needler | Go to book overview

11
The Colossus of the South

With respect to democracy, Brazil presents a complex and ambiguous case.In general, the country's culture seems democratic in the sense that nobody stands on ceremony, in personal relations people are generally treated as individuals rather than as members of categories, and no one suffers legal disabilities because of his race. This is not quite to say that Brazil is the "racial democracy" praised by both Brazilians and foreigners.As in the Caribbean countries, despite the absence of laws enforcing segregation or second-class facilities for blacks, there is a great deal of social snobbery related to color of skin. Politically, Brazil's history in recent years has been mixed with respect to democracy, with some periods of constitutional rule and others of dictatorship.

The attempt to understand the country's politics must start, in Brazil as elsewhere, with the pursuit of economic interests and the search for political domination to safeguard those interests. Of course, this takes place in the context of a particular set of geographic and demographic factors and is conditioned by the realities impinging on Brazil from outside her borders, from shifts in international trade, from hegemonic pressures, and from the unanticipated effects of wars. The dynamics of the country's evolution can be clarified by comparisons with Hispanic America; but in its size and complexity, and in the role played by black slavery, Brazil is more profitably compared to the United States.As we have seen in previous chapters, the aspect of the economic system most important in understanding political history is the supply of, and demand for, labor.


Economic Development and Slavery

Brazil was a vast territory and the Portugese were few in number.Lacking the resources to organize an effective national colonial system, the Portugese crown divided up coastal Brazil, the only part of the country that

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The Problem of Democracy in Latin America
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • The Problem of Democracy in Latin America *
  • Contents *
  • Figure and Tables *
  • Preface *
  • Acknowledgments *
  • 1: Premises and Preconceptions *
  • 2: The Latin American Tradition *
  • 3: Change and Development *
  • 4: The Hegemonic Factor *
  • 5: The State *
  • 6: Revolutionary Regimes and the Case of Mexico *
  • 7: The Politics of Coffee *
  • 8: External Dependence *
  • 9: Regionalism in Plural Societies *
  • 10: Echoes of Europe *
  • 11: The Colossus of the South *
  • 12: Conclusion *
  • Notes *
  • Bibliography *
  • Index *
  • About the Author *
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