The repercussions f the Russian and Asian financial crises, together with the apparent fraying f Cardoso's governing coalition and a unilateral moratorium on federal debts declared by some states, exposed the fiscal and political fragility f Cardoso's policy agenda. Brazil's ability to recover quickly from the global economic shocks and Cardoso's success in winning legislative assent on major structural reforms as f May 2000 reveal as much his political skill as the many overlooked strengths and growing versatility f the Brazilian political system.
The discussions in the texts to be reviewed here place in crisper perspective the political and institutional conundrum facing Cardoso's administration. The seven books share many features. Each in its own way addresses critical political and institutional issues facing Brazil today. For most f these analysts, the central question is, why has Brazil's new democracy performed so poorly in terms f redistributive reforms and democratic governance Why has the return to democracy resulted in neither good governance nor improvements in the country's profound social deficit While the authors have their own distinctive approaches and ways f framing f the central problem, this review will focus mainly on the themes f democratic governance and social welfare. As a group, the works under review here reveal four shortcomings. First, they understate the achievements f democracy in Brazil. This assessment stems in part from mostly normative hidden assumptions about an ideal type f democracy, in comparison with which the performance f Brazilian democracy falls short. Second, these authors perceive more continuities than breaks in Brazilian political development, with corrosive practices and institutions f the past remaining intact--or even strengthened-following the transition to democracy. Third, they underestimate the capacity f the three key political institutions in Brazil--the parties, the legislature, and the executive or generalize about their hypothesized weakness. This problem is especially egregious in the analysis by Ronald Schneider, who describes the Brazilian party system as "primitive" and blames the "dysfunctional public sector" as the root cause f the country's economic and political crises. But the problem is equally visible in the books by Souza, Weyland, and Hagopian. Despite a growing body f research showing otherwise, (Martins 78-93) several f the texts reviewed here illustrate how works on Brazilian party systems and legislative-executive relations continue to be dominated by outdated, impressionistic, and overdrawn arguments and evidence.
The first signs f a modern democratic government in Brazil appeared in 1945 when the military deposed President Getlio Vargas. Vargas had created a "semi-corporatist authoritarian regime (the Estado Nvo) based largely on the military." Once Vargas had been removed from power, Brazil instituted a competitive multi-party system. Multi-party systems are not a requirement for democracy, "but certainly the history f democratization has been associated with the development f parties and their legitimation."
This step towards a true democratic government was negated in 1964 when the military forced a reversion to an authoritarian form f rule. The president remained the top government official, but he was