The books under consideration here, written by the cream of Brazilian public intelligentsia and influential foreign analysts, are part of an emerging struggle to understand the turmoil of the recent past and how Brazil reached its worrisome present.

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 January 2022

American University, US


This essay reviews the following works:

Democracia em risco? 22 ensaios sobre o Brasil hoje. By Sérgio Abranches and twenty-three others. bold>São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 2018. Pp. 328. R$69.90 paperback. ISBN: 9788535932027.

Presidencialismo de coalizão: Raízes e evolução do modelo político brasileiro. By Sérgio Abranches. bold>São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 2018. Pp. 434. R$69.90 paperback. ISBN: 9788535931556.

Brazil Apart: 1964–2019. By Perry Anderson. bold>London: Verso, 2019. Pp. 224. $21.56 hardcover. ISBN: 9781788737944.

Dinheiro, eleições e poder: As engrenagens do sistema político brasileiro. By Bruno Carazza. bold>São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 2018. Pp. 324. R$69.90 paperback. ISBN: 9788535931259.

Valsa brasileira: Do boom ao caos econômico. By Laura Carvalho. bold>São Paulo: Todavia, 2018. Pp. 192. R$49.90 paperback. ISBN: 9788593828621.

Coalitional Presidentialism in Comparative Perspective: Minority Presidents in Multiparty Systems. By Paul Chaisty, Nic Cheeseman, and Timothy J. Power. bold>Oxford: Oxford University Press. US$85.00 hardcover. ISBN: 9780198817208.

O lulismo em crise: Um quebra-cabeça do período Dilma (2011–2016). By André Singer. bold>São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 2018. Pp. 392. R$54.90 paperback. ISBN: 9788535931150.

A batalha dos poderes: Da transição democrática ao mal-estar constitucional. By Oscar Vilhena Vieira. São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 2018. Pp. 233. R$49.90 paperback. ISBN: 9788535931815.

As Bruno Carazza points out in his smart, empirically grounded, and accessible study of the relationship between money and politics, there is plenty of reason for the political system to be worried by any corruption investigation. Low party identification, personalistic politics, and the foibles of the electoral system contributed to boosting politicians’ demand for campaign finance, while businesses’ interest in building political influence drove them to supply campaign donations ever more generously. The “umbilical connection” between the economic and political elite (76) generated a cycle of donations and favors, with fewer than five hundred donors accounting for three-fifths of formal corporate contributions between 1994 and 2014. Furthermore, Lava Jato made clear that formal donations were just the tip of the iceberg: plea-bargaining Petrobras official Paulo Roberto Costa suggested that two-thirds of campaign finance was illegal and under the table (via the so-called caixa dois); in his plea bargain, Marcelo Odebrecht suggested the ratio for his eponymous construction firm might be closer to three-quarters (35). On the supply side, the courts have now banned corporate donations, but there was no accompanying institutional change that would significantly reduce demand for campaign resources, suggesting that the incentives that contributed to the Lava Jato wrongdoing remain largely intact (243). Tragically, under the Rousseff, Temer, and Bolsonaro administrations, key political parties and incumbents have periodically managed to set aside their squabbles long enough to unite against many meaningful anticorruption reforms that would correct these perverse incentives (264).

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