The Political Economy of an Emerging Power: In Search of the Brazil Dream

The Political Economy of an Emerging Power: In Search of the Brazil Dream

A new book by Johnson’s Lourdes Casanova encapsulates Brazil’s role in the new order of emerging economies and the steps the country needs to propel its economic growth

Twelve years of significant growth with social-development programs have made Brazil the seventh largest economy in the world, but it now looks for a second wind. In the new book “In Search of the Brazil Dream,” Lourdes Casanova, senior lecturer and academic director of the Emerging Markets Institute at the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University, analyzes its achievements and looks at its soft and hard power.

The country’s international stature has progressed on the back of its ambitious and friendly foreign policies, but it has reached an economic standstill. “To correct this situation, we need political consensus and social inclusion,” Casanova says, “which can kick start growth again. Social development programs need to be maintained and scaled up,” she says.

The book, written with Julian Kassum, an independent consultant and author of “The G20: A Business Guide” explores whether Brazil’s rise on the global stage is barely beginning, or whether it has already hit a plateau, held back by numerous domestic challenges and the external constraints of the global governance system.  The work shows that Brazil’s hard power capability is greater than it is often believed, that this power largely rests on its energy, food, and financial reserves.

But Brazil’s biggest strength lies in soft power, as Brazil is able to “seduce” other states with its culture, values, and policies.  Casanova’s book describes how Brazil is developing its own model of growth and development with some features of state capitalism and innovative forms of welfare.  The authors examine the role played by the state in the Brazilian business and industry sector and ask whether the ‘Brazilian model’ can be an alternative to the old ‘Washington Consensus’.

Finally, the authors assess the Brazil’s numerous domestic challenges and how these may prevent it from becoming an effective global power.  These challenges are found in the economic and social areas, as well as in the educational area.

“For academicians and policy makers, the book provides a political and economic framework that can be studied and applied in Brazil and in other emerging nations,” says Casanova. For students, she hopes, her book will provide insights on Brazilian economy and emerging markets, in general.

“Brazil’s problems are similar to those of other emerging countries. People who moved from poverty to middle class now demand better services: affordable and efficient public transportation, education, and healthcare,” says Casanova. “But the government has not kept up with it.”

On the global scale, the country enjoys the presence of large, local companies that provide economic stability, and but only a few at the top wield a lot of power. More generally, the economic model – The Brasilia Consensus – that worked to this point now needs updating.

The book also addresses Brazil’s role on the global stage. A survey of Brazilian opinion leaders, experts and practitioners revealed that the outlook for its international policies needs to be focused. “Brazil has to establish a clear international policy – whether it wants to be under the umbrella of the U.S. and Europe or be a part of BRICS,” she says. “The country now needs to be vocal as one of the leaders in South America.”

–Pallavi Rao

Links to the book’s website and Casanova’s Twitter feed