In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Brazilian Political Development

  • Introduction
  • Data Sources
  • Introductory Texts
  • The Electoral Connection: Political Parties and the Electoral System
  • Race, Religion, and Gender

Political Science Brazilian Political Development
Barry Ames
  • LAST REVIEWED: 12 October 2023
  • LAST MODIFIED: 22 April 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756223-0122


The study of politics in Brazil is arguably the most advanced of all non–Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries. Much of the credit for the depth and strength of political science in Brazil goes to Brazilians themselves. Beginning in the 1960s, Brazilian students began to come to the United States for doctoral-level study. Upon returning to Brazil, these students built strong graduate programs in Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Belo Horizonte, Porto Alegre, Brasília, and other cities. Non-Brazilians, mostly US and British scholars, have also contributed greatly to the development of Brazilian political science, and today cross-national collaborations are common. Without question, however, the study of politics in contemporary Brazil would be incomprehensible without considering the dramatic regime changes that occurred in the second half of the 20th century. In 1964, a military coup ended a democratic regime that had begun in 1946. Earlier military interventions had been short lived, but the 1964 coup led to the installation of a military regime that held power for more than twenty years. In the repressive atmosphere of the 1964–1985 period, political science research was severely limited. Most scholarship focused on critiques of “modernization theory” and the construction of theories of “dependence.” Such scholars as Theotonio dos Santos, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, and Andre Gunder Frank followed an essentially sociological tradition, relegating political institutions, unsurprisingly, to secondary importance. The dissolution of Latin America’s military regimes, beginning in the late 1970s and continuing throughout the 1980s, naturally rekindled scholarly interest. Research designs focusing on transition processes were typically comparative, emphasizing elite strategies, especially those of “hardliners” and “softliners,” as these actors negotiated transition arrangements. The “transitologists” dominating this strand of research—Juan Linz, Philippe Schmitter, Guillermo O’Donnell, Adam Przeworskitended to be senior scholars, in part because the absence of quantitative data discouraged graduate students embarking on dissertations and hindered entry to prestigious journals. With the New Republic (the post-military democratic regime) came the revival of legislatures at both federal and state levels along with the resumption of meaningful elections. In the open environment of a pluralist democracy, scholarly access to information became much easier. Today Brazilian political science research looks pretty much like its counterparts in advanced industrial countries, with most contributions falling in the broad categories of institutions, behavior, and political economy/public policy.

Data Sources

In addition to the usual institutional sources of information (such as the Brazilian Congress), two indispensable data banks are LEEX and IPEA.

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