Book review: The Political Economy of an Emerging Global Power: In Search of the Brazil Dream, by Lourdes Casanova and Julian Kassum.

Book LourdesIn this book, published recently by Palgrave-Macmillan, the authors focused on Brazil´s rise to the global scenario and the challenges the country currently faces in its pursuit of a new role on the global stage. Lourdes Casanova (interview here) and Julian Kassum made a superb job presenting the reasons that helped Brazil to champion the use of its softpower in the country´s relation with other nations. According to the authors, what distinguishes Brazil´s rise in prominence from that of other emerging powers is its quasi-exclusive use of “soft power”, a theory developed by the political scientist Joseph Nye.

Another key concept presented by the authors is the “Brasilia Consensus”, an expression that has been used to describe Brazil´s socio-economic model. This consensus is composed by five pillars which are briefly explained bellow:

  1. Macroeconomic stability: the commitment to the macroeconomic orthodoxy started in the 90s, which helped to tame inflation
  2. Social programs: the conditional cash transfer called Bolsa Familia (Family Grant) coupled with an improved coordination and increased funding of several existing initiatives, which helped millions of people to overcome not only poverty but also income inequality.
  3.  Domestic demand: a consequence of the creation of millions of formal jobs and the expansion of credit for low-income populations.
  4. State-led industrial development: Even after the liberalization plan of the 90´s, Brazil is far from embracing open trade. Many forms of support for local industries, with its pros and cons, are present in Brazilian industrial sector, a fact that makes, according to The Economist magazine, Brazil to be an ambiguous member of the state-capitalist camp.
  5. Political consensus: the cement that makes all four pillars stand together, a sort of convergence of interests between the industrial private sector and the  organizaed labor force.

For Casanova and Kassum an important consequence of Brazil´s rise in the global scenario (exemplified by the impressive economic growth in the last 20 years) is the increase of the number of Brazilian companies that abandoned the exclusive focus in the local and regional markets and became global players. Havaianas, Embraer, Marcopolo (link here), Natura, Weg, Vale and Petrobras, to name a few, can be considered multinational companies and all benefited from the worldwide rise of the Brazil brand.

In addition to recognizing the increase of the Brazilian role in the game of international politics, the writers do not avoid the  task of introducing tothe readers to the many deficiencies that the country stubbornly presents, such as the difficulties of dealing with violence, the poor infrastructure and the inefficiency in its educational system

“The Political Economy of an Emerging Global Power” concludes with a comparison between the strengths and the weaknesses of Brazil´s soft and hard power, which is presented below.

Imagem livro Lourdes

This is a must-read book for the ones involved in political economy, internationalization of multinationals from emerging countries and Brazil. As Tom Jobim (singer/writer of Girl From Ipanema) once said, “Brazil is not for beginners”. Casanova´s and Kassum´s work will surely make managers and academics to become professionals about Brazil.

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