Lynne Rienner Publishers Logo

Desenvolvimento: Politics and Economy in Brazil

Wilber Albert Chaffee
ISBN: 978-1-55587-747-7
1997/232 pages/LC: 97-21301
Critical Perspectives on Latin America’s Economy and Society

"Summing up, this book gives a broad, valuable description of Brazil's economy and society."—Manuel A. R. Da Fonseca, Latin American Studies


The Brazilian economy has long been characterized by rapid growth—but equally by high inflation and an extreme maldistribution of wealth, despite the strong international reputation of the country's economists. Seeking to explain this, Chaffee links political interest with economic policy, showing how short-term political needs have dominated over long-term economic values.

The book begins with a brief economic history of Brazil since 1940 and a discussion of desenvolvimento, the ideology of growth that has shaped Brazil’s economic decisions for more than five decades. Subsequent chapters address political macroeconomic issues—particularly inflation, unemployment, and a range of inequalities—and consider the relationships among political institutions, popular support, and politicians seeking to maximize their personal gain.

Chaffee then applies his themes to three periods: the military governments (1964-1985), the civilian presidency of José Sarney (1985-1990), and the terms of Fernando Collor de Mello and his successor Itamar Franco. Here, he systematically compares attempts at economic stabilization and the political decisions that defeated their implementation. The final chapter of the book discusses the Real Plan, Brazil’s latest attempt at economic stabilization.


Wilber A. Chaffee is professor of government at Saint Mary's College. His recent publications include The Economics of Violence in Latin America: A Theory of Political Competition.


  • Introduction
  • Political Macroeconomy.
  • The Inflation Tax.
  • Jobs, Quasi Jobs, and the Cost of Unemployment.
  • The Distribution of Wealth and Income.
  • Politics, Parties, Politicians, and Profits.
  • The Economics of Political Support.
  • Regime Change and Economics.
  • Growth, Legitimacy, and Inflation.
  • New Republic, Old Politics: The Bossa Nova of José Sarney.
  • Neoliberalism: Fernando Collor and Itamar Franco.
  • Conclusion.
  • The Future: Real Reform or Regression?