Joseph L. Love
This chapter examines the evolution of the structuralist school of economic thought in the Brazilian context. The intellectual roots of structuralism are analyzed, as is the influence this set of ideas has had on economic policy formulation in Brazil. Prominent structuralists such as Celso Furtado and Raul Prebisch influenced the governments of Getúlio Vargas and Juscelino Kubitschek, while Furtado himself played a key role in establishing the national development bank (BNDES) and the Northeast development agency, SUDENE. Furtado “historicized” CEPAL structuralism and showed how losses in the coffee sector were spread across the whole economy in the 1930s. He furthermore developed a model of internal colonialism and arguably was the first dependency theorist. The crisis of structuralism in the mid-1960s ultimately resulted in neostructuralism in 1990, a reformed version of the doctrine that emphasized the export market, technological change, and continual “learning by doing.”
This chapter begins with an overview of the nature of neoliberalism. As markets evolved and globalization made progress, governments introduced reforms meant to adjust policies and regulations to a more open and competitive environment and reduce the relative weight and role of the state. Policies such as privatization and trade liberalization were introduced in Brazil shortly after a civilian, Fernando Collor de Melo (1990–1992), was elected president. But the neoliberal agenda was relegated to second place as all energy was turned toward the fight against inflation and the debt crisis. After a first term dedicated to consolidate public finances, President Cardoso (1995–2002) introduced a number of “market-oriented” reforms aimed at flexibility and efficiency. Under President Lula (2003–2010), social programs were improved, transfers were increased, and the minimum wage was raised. Since 2009, a recession has threatened the joint imperatives of forced development and social justice.