Wednesday, 5 October 2016

REVIEW: "The Political System of Brazil" by Dana de la Fontaine, Thomas Stehnken

Book Review by Sapphire Ng

The Political System of Brazil
by Dana de la Fontaine, Thomas Stehnken
ISBN: 978-3642400223
Copyright October 2015
Hardcover, 419 Pages

The Political System of Brazil is incontestably intellectually-stimulating. The book very methodically and logically examines the Brazilian political system in its historical, political and socio-economic contexts. Customary of titles published by Springer, this book is unsurprisingly excellently researched, well-written, and offers an exhaustive, and of course scholarly, coverage of the subject matter.

This book would prove to be a valuable resource for political pundits and enthusiasts, political science scholars, students and researchers, and certainly also for passionate students of life—the gaining of such specialized knowledge and increased understanding of foreign systems could nurture the reader to become a more sophisticated, and even more productive, global citizen. This book also makes a great companion for courses of political science, foreign studies, and even comparative law studies. Not to mention the book's incredible segmentation of material which potentially helps the reader better digest the information and navigate the book.

The book furnishes an in-depth investigation of a fascinating range of issues subsumed under the Brazilian political system, including for example, the Brazilian electoral system—specifically an open list proportional representation (OLPR) system—; and of the intricacies, functioning, subtleties, composition, organization and structure of, and interplay between, the Brazilian executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government—discussions of for example, the particularities of presidentialism as adopted in Brazil, the fragmentation of the Brazilian parliament, and legislative instruments such as the powerful provisional decree.

Of course, the book provides an overview of the Brazilian party system along with the range of political parties in the country; the former was evaluated in terms of pertinent characteristics including fragmentation, polarization, and institutionalization, whilst the latter consisted of substantial detailing of the 4 major parties of Brazil—the Party of the Brazilian Democratic Movement (PMDB), the Worker's Party (PT), the Party of the Brazilian Social Democracy (PSDB), and the Party of the Liberal Front (PFL) otherwise called the Democratas (DEM).

The book substantially investigates the administrations of Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, and Dilma Rousseff. Lula's government for example, was examined in terms of his strategy for foreign policy diversification and characteristics of his brand of environmental policy, his agenda of reforming the public education system and his political agenda for the judiciary, his role in tackling social inequalities such as income inequality, and even issues such as the prominent transformation of Brazil from recipient to donor country under his administration.

The book very aptly covers an abundance of material on Brazil's socio-economic climate and historical content which undoubtedly contributes to, and bolsters the reader's learning and understanding of the country's political system. The eclectic range of subject matters examined include Brazilian economic policy, social policies, media policy, environmental policy, research, technology and innovation policy, and more.

The reader will be introduced to the specificities of Brazilian journalism through critical issues such as its degree of independence, threats of governmental censorship, intervention and repression, and ownership issues; Brazilian social activism and the significance of the MST; references to the period of military dictatorship in Brazil, the autocracy's “crisis of legitimacy,” and the exacting transition thus from dictatorship to political democracy. Or matters such as Brazil's urban and rural social movements; the country's industrialization process, and subsequent premature deindustrialization—with explication of associated factors such as the loss of a national development strategy from the loss of political power of industrial entrepreneurs, leading thus to a snowball effect—; or Brazilian diplomatic strategies.

These are but only a sampling of the wide-ranging scope of subject matters which the book encompasses. Other distinctly memorable and refreshing assessments as applicable to Brazil include the phrase “feminization of poverty;” the notion of the 1930s corporatism—a type of “public-private arrangement” of “interest intermediation”—; investigations of the implications and significance of the various Brazilian Constitutions; and analyses of the institutional and constitutional history of Brazil and its political system respectively.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Springer in return for this review.

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