ESSAY TITLE – ACCOUNT FOR THE FRAGILITY OF LIBERAL DEMOCRACY IN ARGENTINA AND BRAZIL PRIOR TO THE 1980s.
This discussion is a comparative study that will be a focused comparison, what this means is that the study is going to focus on four specific factors that made liberal democracy difficult to maintain in Argentina and Brazil during this period. The discussion will examine the internal and external factors that contributed to the erosion of liberal democracy.
The first section will examine the impact of export orientated economics on politics and society in Argentina and Brazil between 1900 and 1930. This changed after 1930 and a new economic development strategy would emerge to replace export orientated economics, this was state led industrialisation in the form of Import Substitute Industrialisation (ISI) and will be discussed in the second section.
The third section will evaluate the similarities and differences in populist thinking under the leadership of Vargas in Brazil (1938 – 1945) and Peron in Argentina (1946 – 1955). This section will also consider the impact the ISI’s had on the establishment of the ‘populist state’ in both countries.
The final section of this discussion is going to examine some of the conditions that resulted in a sustained period of military authoritarianism from the mid sixties through to the mid eighties. This will consider some of the factors that can be linked to this such as, the Cuban Revolution in 1959, the failure of ISI’s and weak leadership in Argentina and Brazil.
The central focus will be on the internal factors that had an impact on restricting democratisation, but, there will be some external factors that will also be considered. There will be no historical context included in this discussion
There are several different approaches that could be considered when explaining why liberal democracy was fragile in Argentina and Brazil. There are two main approaches that will be used throughout this discussion, the first is the structural approach (mainly between 1900 and 1960) the aim of this is to look at the relationship between economic development, politics and class structures that made it difficult to maintain liberal democracy. The second approach is the transitional approach (from 1960s onwards); this examines the process of moving towards democratisation. The modernisation approach could also be considered here, but, David Potter identifies that it does not add weight to the argument in the same way and the structural and transitional approach; therefore the modernisation approach will not feature in this discussion. (Potter, 2000, pp 145 – 166).
Both Brazil and Argentina experienced some economic and political stability at the beginning of the twentieth century, this had evolved out of the export orientated economics that both countries used at this time, what is export orientated economics? Paul Cammack defines it as “economies based on the export of primary commodities. In turn, the income generated by rising exports paid for manufactured goods from the USA and Europe” (Cammack, 1999, p 160). In Brazil the main export was coffee and in Argentina it was beef and wheat.
What this did in Argentina and Brazil was increase foreign trading which in turn produced extra income from the taxes received for exported goods. Not only did this create some political stability, it produced a high level of wealth in some sectors of society. (Cammack, 1999).
In Brazil the establishment of a ‘constitutional regime’ in 1891 created the new Republic of the United States of Brazil that allowed for a move away from the centralised ideology of the Dom Pedro’s. This was modelled on the federalist system in the United States of America that distributed control to regional political leaders who used a traditional approach that was somewhat oppressive towards the local communities. Decisions were made by the most authoritative two states of Sao Paulo and Minas Gerais who alternated the presidency between them. (Wynia, 1998, pp214 - 282)
The political structure that was formed after 1891 had noticeable and real prospects, but, what emerged was two structures. There was the constitutional arrangement which added legitimacy by enfranchising those who lived in the towns (middle classes) and agricultural workers (peasantry), but, there was the real system of unwritten contracts in which the local bosses were in favour of self-government, this was known as the ‘politics of the governors’ Under this the local land owning elites chose the state governors, who in turn selected the president. (Lamounier, 1999, p 131 – 189)
By the time the new constitution was in place Argentina had been developing a lucrative export economics strategy for twenty years, externally, the demand for Argentinean products to satisfy European ‘industrialization and urbanisation’ (Waisman, 1999, p77) had been rewarded with huge financial gains and a massive influx of immigrants. The impact this had on the political and social infrastructure would eventually lead to a class structure that was unhelpful to maintaining liberal democracy.
The lack of state intervention at this time and the uneven nature of political power restricted and weakened the level of liberal democracy in Argentina and Brazil. Before the 1912 Reform Act was introduced in Argentina political participation was restricted to the land owning elites and a few of the middle classes, the rest of society were excluded and very few were politically mobile. The politics that did take place was done so with a lot of fraud and deception used to gain political leverage. Another factor was the landowning elite’s inability to distribute the wealth gained through export orientated development, this was causing tension between them and the growing middle and lower classes who had been central in making export orientated development a success. (Waisman, 1999, pp 71 – 131)
The Oligarch parties were being challenged by a growing Radical party that was mobilising those who had been disenfranchised; their main argument was for voting rights to be extended through ‘universal and secret manhood suffrage’, (Waisman, 1999, P79), the introduction of Reform in 1912 helped to ease the tensions. What is important is that Waisman identifies that the Oligarchic regime were prepared to risk giving up their power over the state so that the infrastructure to support liberal democracy was realized. (Waisman, 1999).
Like Argentina the political system in Brazil was similar in that the state system was controlled by the Oligarchic parties, any political negotiations were conducted at federal level between the oligarchic leaders (Landowning elites) and the president who had control and influence over the state, their central focus was on improving their own wealthy status and promoting export orientated economics. ( accessed on 1st February 2005)