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Decadent Developmentalism: The Political Economy of Democratic Brazil, Matthew M. Taylor

Reviewed by Guillermo Toral

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Representations of Brazil in the media and the academy have long oscillated between it being a country full of promise, at one pole, and it being a hopeless land of frustrated potential, at the other. This ambivalence is perhaps best reflected in the famous phrase “Brazil is the country of the future—and always will be.” The puzzle, then, is why Brazil has for so long combined promise and frustration, success and failure—and what it would take for the country to reach a more productive equilibrium.

In Decadent Developmentalism, Matthew M. Taylor provides a forceful solution to that puzzle. In a nutshell, he argues that Brazil is caught in a low-level equilibrium sustained by the ideas and legacies of developmentalism, the political institutions of the democratic regime, and the economic interests of business insiders. Significant institutional complementarities within and across the economic and political systems reinforce this equilibrium, in arenas as diverse as fiscal, industrial, tax, labor, and monetary policy; what Taylor calls the “developmental hierarchical market economy”; coalitional presidentialism; the electoral and party systems; campaign finance; and the bureaucracy. These complementarities make ambitious reforms that could turn Brazil into a more prosperous and fairer society less likely to emerge and

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