Brazil at the Precipice

An essential guide to understanding the current crisis in Brazil
Brazil is currently facing its greatest crisis since democracy was wrested by workers and social movements from the generals in 1985 after a brutal twenty-one-year military dictatorship.

In Brazil at the Precipice, Sean Purdy tells the story of how Brazil got here, starting in 2002, when the Workers’ Party (PT) came to power under its founder Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, overseeing a ten-year period of sustained economic growth in the context of a booming world market for Brazilian commodities. Purdy traces the government’s implementation of successful social programs, jobs creation and modest reduction of economic and social inequality. Yet, he shows, the PT maintained the dominant neoliberal economic framework and constructed dubious alliances with a range of centrist and right-wing parties in order to advance its political agenda and effectively tamed unions and social movements, guaranteeing the PT’s victory in four successive elections.

Purdy’s engaging narrative brings us to the global economic crisis, which reached the country in 2012, and the point at which the PT’s success began to unravel: the government’s adoption of an outright neoliberal program of cutbacks that undermined their support. Conservative political parties and social movements launched a concerted attack against the government, focusing on a corruption scandal that snowballed in little more than a year to the impeachment of President Dilma Rouseff.

In tracing the trajectory and defeat of the Workers’ Party experiment with socialist politics, Brazil at the Precipice offers us valuable lessons for the experiments of the future.