The Limits of Pragmatism: The Rise and Fall of the Brazilian Workers’ Party (2002–2016)
by Pedro Mendes Loureiro, Alfredo Saad-Filho
Under favorable external circumstances, the pragmatic political and economic strategy of Brazil’s Partido dos Trabalhadores (Workers’ Party—PT) helped to secure short-term political stability, boosted growth, and supported an unprecedented distribution of income. However, it also meant that the PT had to accommodate to rather than transform the constraints on growth in Brazil and that stability would involve unwieldy political alliances preventing deeper reforms. When it was confronted with deteriorating global economic conditions and increasingly ineffectual economic policies, the PT’s strategy immobilized the party, facilitated the dissolution of its base of support, and expedited its ouster from power. The Brazilian experience suggests that political pragmatism can, within limits, support progressive economic change but that the outcomes depend heavily on external circumstances and the stability of the political coalitions supporting the administration.
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