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Review: “The Political Economy of an Emerging Global Power: In Search of the Brazil Dream”

Lourdes Casanova and Julian Kassum. The Political Economy of an Emerging Global Power: In Search of the Brazil Dream. (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014).

Reviewed by Matthew Michaelides

In the aftermath of the recent October 2014 reelection of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, pessimism has set in about Brazil’s future. After prior years of sustained economic growth and an acceleration of its economic fortunes, the country has experienced a period of low growth and underwhelming investment, generating uncertainty about the country’s direction. Now, many question the ability of the president to deliver on her economic and social promises as she prepares to begin her second term.

It is against this background that Lourdes Casanova and Julian Kassum make a timely argument for Brazil’s enduring potential in their new book, The Political Economy of an Emerging Global Power: In Search of the Brazil Dream. Casanova and Kassum demonstrate through a detailed analysis of the various challenges facing Brazil – from its poor public education system to its lacking infrastructure – that the recent economic slowdown constitutes a temporary delay, rather than a permanent halt, to the unleashing of Brazil’s economic power. Moreover, the text points to the ongoing development of a “Brazil Dream” based in the fight against social determinism, the development of strong public services, and the cultivation of international recognition, all alongside a relaxed – yet passionate – lifestyle.

Using the lens of political scientist Joseph Nye, Casanova and Kassum analyze Brazilian social and economic life by their contributions to Brazil’s soft and hard power. While they find that Brazil’s main asset is its soft power – its vibrant culture coupled with the new Brasília consensus economic model – gains in diplomatic means, military capabilities, and economic might have also enhanced Brazil’s power on the global stage. At the same time, the authors add to Nye’s original typology a third indicator, social inclusion, in which Brazil has made great strides in the last decade but still has a strong need for improvement.

In combination, the authors’ analyses of Brazil’s weaknesses and its areas of strong potential, paint a humbling and inspiring portrait of a country on the rise. While challenges remain, the country’s fundamentals are strong. With some effective policy-making in the next few years, Brazil may still capitalize on them.

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