Goals of this Project

The goal of this Project is the creation of a Center for Comparative and International Studies, aimed at the systematic comparative study of the changes that have taken place in Brazil since the transition to democracy. These changes have influenced the performance of political institutions, the production of public policies, and Brazil's overall standing in the international community.

Democracy is a method for resolving conflicts. Much has been said about the inefficiencies of democracy. Even more has been said about the weaknesses of Brazilian democracy specifically, which result from problems with specific institutions and civil society. Brazil is known for its deep social cleavages, which can complicate democracy and the peaceful resolution of redistributive conflicts. Yet Brazil has undergone radical changes under a highly competitive political regime, such as: 1) Important gains in reducing inequality and extreme poverty; 2) The redesigning and redefinition of public policies and inter-governmental relations; and 3) Gains in international standing, both in terms of its participation in global governance, as well as its diplomatic activity. These changes are interrelated to the extent that new patterns of Brazilian economic and social development closely link its domestic agenda to its external, including trade.

Our proposal it to create a world-class center for the comparative study of the Brazilian democracy and society, focusing on both its domestic and external dimensions. The connection between the domestic and external dimensions of the changes in Brazilian society has not received the attention it deserve. Much of our understanding of these changes suffers from an excessive emphasis on Brazilian singularity, and fails to compare Brazil to its global peers. The emphasis on cross-national comparison will permit us to dialogue more closely with a vast international literature, while providing the foundation for sounder, methodologically-advanced study.

The Center will draw on previously extant research groups both inside and outside the University, such as the Center for Metropolitan Studies (CEM), a Cepid/Fapesp and INCT/CNPQ research center, the Departments of Political Science (DCP) and Sociology (DS); and the Institute of International Relations (IRI). These research groups have already established partnerships with several international partners located at institutions such as Princeton University and the University of Illinois (US), the European University Institute (Italy), Science Po (France), King's College London, Warwick University, and the University of Edinburgh (UK).

The transformations Brazil has undergone challenge our understanding about the nature of the political social conflicts in the country, and have redefined the country's foreign relations. Brazilian social science has tended to emphasize the pervasive backwardness and paralysis of the country, and in so doing, could not predict, much less explain, the huge transformations that took place over the past generation.

At the international level, for all the recent talk of the emergence of the lesser-developed countries, there has been little study of whether Brazil is gaining a sustainable toe-hold on the international stage, or how rising international prominence will influence domestic inequalities in Brazil. Will local elites limit Brazil's projection as an economic, political, and military power on the world stage? Will greater international projection force Brazil to more emphatically address domestic inequalities?

On the domestic front, we know little about the mechanisms by which democracies affect public policy delivery and income inequality. How do the various forms of social, economic, and political inequality Interact to undermine or buttress each other? What are the social mechanisms that lay behind their durability? What is the role of territory, both large-scale (regional) and small-scale (intra urban) in the reproduction of these mechanisms? What sorts of institutional forms have been successful in generating policies to address inequalities? Can international governing bodies be constructed that wield effective power to resolve long-standing global power differentials?