None of the transformations highlighted above were predicted by dominant theories in the social sciences. At the domestic level, theories about transitions from authoritarian to democratic regimes offered pessimistic forecasts about the sustainability and quality of the competitive regimes that followed authoritarianism. These new democracies were considered unstable due to the nature of their institutions and the political practices of their elites, and were thus condemned to populism, clientelistic practices, corrupt electoral processes, and an absence of governability.
In reality, although some of these behavior are present, recent studies from a variety of sources have found evidence of regular and predictable electoral behavior; of political negotiations between the various levels of government in the sectorial reform of public policies; of high levels of public access to policy, especially among the poor; and of significant changes in urban and metropolitan dynamics. The labor market has changed, and access to education has expanded, generating opportunities for previously marginalized groups. Many of these changes have shown up in improved social indicators, such as reduced poverty, decreased income inequality, and access to policies, despite continued instability in formal labor markets.
Dominant theories predicted that globalization would undermine the integrity of national states. The Brazilian case once again appears to challenge these predictions. In the field of international relations, theory predicted little or no autonomous action by countries that were not economic and military powers. For such theories, the economic and political rise of the global south and the deepening of south-south relations were not credible possibilities within the logic of a system defined by the relations between great powers and developed economies.
The labor market, as the primary source of income, has been performing in ways that belie the dominant narrative. Productive structures have been reorganized, especially in metropolitan areas, in ways that create new demands and challenges that have not yet been incorporated into the research agenda. In particular, scholarship on education policy - including primary, secondary and university education - and its relationship with labor markets, needs to dialogue more with the international literature.
Brazil's trajectory over the past two decades contradicts the predictions of these theories dear to political science, sociology and international relations. Understanding these domestic and external transformations can lead to contributions relevant not only empirically, but also theoretically.
This is the research agenda for the proposed Center. It is a broad and long-term research agenda, anchored on the possibility of integrating the multiple skills of the participating team members. Our emphasis will be on studies that adopt a comparative perspective that is in dialogue with, and deeply integrated in, cutting-edge international political science research.
The study of recent Brazilian experience will always have a comparative perspective, concentrating on the following themes:
- electoral behavior and party dynamics;
- federalism and intergovernmental relations;
- social policy and inequality;
- employment and labor markets;
- urban policy and social and spatial inequalities;
- foreign trade;
- foundations of domestic/international South-South coalitions;
- interdependence and political cooperation in international organizations.