The Political Right in Postauthoritarian Brazil: Elites, Institutions, and Democratization

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Brazil was an early case of a “conservative transition” from authoritarian rule, wherein civilian elites associated with the outgoing military regime assumed a commanding role in the early years of democracy. When this phenomenon was first theorized in the mid-1980s, there were few other comparable cases, with Turkey and South Korea perhaps the best known. In the past decade the proliferation of new democracies in Eastern Europe has drawn attention to the impressive survival skills of ex-authoritarian elites.

In this book Power examines this cohort of civilian politicians, showing how they adapted to competitive politics after the 1985 regime transition and how their socialization to politics in the 1960s and 1970s shaped their initially negative attitudes toward institution building in the 1980s and 1990s—with deleterious consequences for Brazil’s fledgling democracy. Power’s study sheds new light on the paradoxes, tradeoffs, and drawbacks of conservative transitions to democracy.

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Editorial Reviews

Power (political science, Florida International University) offers an appraisal of Brazilian democracy, focusing on implications of certain political continuities in the postauthoritarian era. He addresses tensions between authoritarian legacies and democratic institution-building in Brazil's New Republic (1985- ), and considers the juxtaposition of continuity and change as reflected in the world of professional politicians and in the institutions that politicians inhabit. He also poses questions concerning individual politicians' political survival in the transition from military dictatorship to democratic regime, and asks what effect their behavior and attitudes may have on the consolidation of democracy. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
From the Publisher

“If the purpose of this study was ‘to generate concepts and hypothesis that can be employed in cross-national analysis of conservative transitions to democracy’ (p. 5), both comparativists in general and Latin Americanists in particular will find here an originally operationalized and clearly explained research strategy on democratic consolidation.”
—Alejandro Groppo, Political Studies

“Power’s book is a must for those who want to understand the role played by the Right in Brazil during the 1980s and the 1990s.”
—Jorge Zaverucha, American Political Science Review (APSR)

“Power’s evidence suggests that the right cannot be ignored, but it also shows that the right can be bargained with and that it may be evolving in ways that favor political reform. The Political Right in Postauthoritarian Brazil represents one of the best efforts in recent years to understand this core agent in Brazilian politics. The book is an astute complement to Frances Hagopian’s excellent study of traditional politics (Traditional Politics and Regime Change in Brazil) that should rest on the shelf of all Brazilianists, alongside the best work on Brazilian politics.”
—Alfred P. Montero, Luso-Brazilian Review

“This book makes a significant, original contribution to Brazilian political studies in the post-authoritarian period as well as to the extensive case-study and comparative literature on democratic transitions and consolidations. It weaves together in sophisticated, carefully nuanced, and persuasive fashion a large body of literature in English and Portuguese bearing on elites, parties, electoral systems, and representative institutions. Power succeeds in shedding new light on the behavior of professional politicians affiliated with pro-authoritarian parties as they adapt to the more open and competitive political environment. I expect Power’s book will become an obligatory reference for future work in Brazil and elsewhere on political elites and representative institutions. It should rapidly become a standard item on the bookshelf of all Brazilianists who study contemporary Brazilian politics and history.”
—William Smith, University of Miami

“But Power has given us an illuminating study on how the Brazilian right obstructed, distorted and undermined the democratic state for which millions of Brazilians had worked and prayed.”
—Thomas E. Skidmore, Journal of Latin American Studies

“Power’s research is careful and well designed. His analysis is intelligent and nuanced. His results are persuasive. The book is well written. This work is a subtle and effective analysis of a key political actor-dominant in Brazil under dictatorship, powerful still under constitutional government, and theoretically significant for understanding the prospects for democratic consolidation in a great many countries.”
—Jorge I. Dominguez, Political Science Quarterly

“Timothy Power’s book, The Political Right in Postauthoritarian Brazil, is an excellent addition to the body of literature that examines the transition from authoritarian rule to Brazil’s New Republic.”
—Brian Wampler, Latin American Research Review

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780271020099
  • Publisher: Penn State University Press
  • Publication date: 8/28/2000
  • Format: Library Binding
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.88 (d)

Meet the Author

Timothy J. Power is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Florida International University.

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Table of Contents

List of Figures and Tables
1 Continuities in Political Democratization: Politicians and Institutions in Postauthoritarian Regimes 1
2 Definitions and Concepts: Consolidation, Institutions, and the Right 21
3 ARENA and Its Ancestors: The Brazilian Political Right, 1946-1985 41
4 ARENA in the Afterlife: A Portrait of the Political Right in the New Republic 73
5 The Right in the Party System: Politicians Against Institutions 101
6 The Right in Congress: Implications for Legislative Institutionalization 147
7 Class Reunions: Collective Action within the ARENA/PDS Cohort, 1987-1999 183
8 The Impact of Conservative Democratization: Legacies and Lessons in the Brazilian Case 203
App. A Classification of the ARENA/PDS Cohort 241
App. B The 1990, 1993, and 1997 Surveys of Congress 245
Bibliography 265
Index 279
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