Bric Analysis

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  • Topic: Great power, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Regional power
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. Volume 42, Number 1 . January 2010

r 2010 Northeastern Political Science Association 0032-3497/10

Brazil, the Entrepreneurial and Democratic BRIC*
Leslie Elliott Armijo Portland State University Sean W. Burges University of Ottawa By most objective metrics, Brazil is the least imposing of the ‘‘BRICs countries’’— less populous than China and India, slower-growing in recent years than China, India, or Russia, and the only member of the group lacking nuclear weapons. We argue that Brazil’s material capabilities are more significant than commonly supposed. Moreover, Brazil’s democratic transition in the mid-1980s, along with that of its neighbors, has for the first time enabled Brazil to realize its promise of becoming a regional leader in South America. On the basis of its democratic and regional prominence, Brazil has become an effective political entrepreneur at the global level, initiating and participating in multilateral fora as diverse as the trade G20, the financial G20, and now the BRICs club. On issues of style, inclusion, and distributive justice, Brazil reliably sides with the ‘‘South.’ Yet its core public policy instincts ’ embrace familiar ‘‘Northern’’ preferences: liberal, and mixed-capitalist, democracy. Polity (2010) 42, 14–37. doi:10.1057/pol.2009.15; published online 7 December 2009

Keywords BRICs; Brazil; global governance; democracy; power transition; emerging powers Leslie Elliott Armijo is a visiting scholar at the Mark O. Hatfield School of Government, Portland State University. The editor of Financial Globalization and Democracy in Emerging Markets (1999), Debating the Global Financial Architecture (2002), and a special issue of Asian Perspective on the BRICs countries (2007), she has published widely on the policymaking process in the larger countries of Latin America and Asia, especially Brazil and India. Her current research analyzes South American regional integration and the role of emerging powers in global financial and monetary governance.

*The authors thank Parag Khanna, Cynthia Roberts, and Christine A. Gustafson for their helpful comments. Any remaining errors are our responsibility.

Leslie Elliott Armijo and Sean W. Burges


Sean Burges is Adjunct Professor with the School of Political Studies, University of Ottawa, and Senior Research Fellow with the Washington, DC, based Council on Hemispheric Affairs. In addition to a range of articles on Brazilian foreign policy and inter-American affairs, he is author of Brazilian Foreign Policy After the Cold War (2009). Although there is an emerging consensus that China and Russia are major powers in the interstate system and India soon will be, the notion of Brazil as a country of global significance retains a sense of the exotic and the incredible. Travel changes this perception; even the briefest of trips to the Americas makes the regional importance of Brazil clear, be it through the profusion of Brazilian pop music in the cantinas of Peru, the ubiquitous oil exploration of Brazil’s state´ controlled oil-giant Petrobras, or the constant reference made by the national media in each country to opinions from Brasılia. Yet for the non-Latin ´ Americanist, the description of Brazil as a notable player in world politics is new and controversial, and frankly owes much to Brazil’s inclusion by Goldman Sachs in its analyses of investment opportunities in the ‘‘BRICs countries’’ of Brazil, Russia, India, and China. Building on initial contacts in 2006, Brazil has participated eagerly in BRICs summitry organized by the Russians. Does this mean that Brazil ought to be considered a significant player in the emerging global system? We argue yes, which raises the questions of what Brazil wants and what it brings to the BRICs club. ´ Brazilian President Luiz Inacio ‘‘Lula’’ da Silva recently characterized his country’s international profile thus: ‘‘We are not important because of the amount of...
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