Latin American Politics & Society 47.1 (2005) 115-122
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Brazil's International Relations at the Dawn of the Twenty-first Century
José A. da Cruz
George F. Kennan, in his book Around the Cragged Hill: A Personal and Political Philosophy (1993),places Brazil in the category of "monster country" for its geography and demography, its economic and political potential, and the magnitude of its problems and challenges. Brazil's twenty-first-century challenges include, but are not limited to, the security of its borders, drug trafficking, inflation, and a huge foreign debt legacy from the authoritarian years of military dictatorship, along with domestic problems such as unemployment, education, and health care.
Brazil is also a regional superpower. It has the world's eighth-largest economy and fifth-largest amount of territory. It is a global trader. As Paulo Roberto de Almeida states,
Brazil is one of the few peripheral nations that has actively participated in the construction of a new economic international order in various epochs, through its diplomatic presence at multiple multilateral conferences that presided over the conception and birth of those intergovernmental organizations of cooperation.
Despite these characterizations, however, little has been written about Brazil's place in the international system of the twenty-first century. [End Page 115] The study of international relations in Brazil still is relatively new; it has blossomed only since the 1990s. As Clovis Brigagão points out,
[S]ince the 1990s there has been an increase in the number of international relations courses being offered in Brazil . . . but the number of Brazilian international negotiators [negociadores internacionais brasileiros] is still relatively too small to deal with the complexity of the post-Cold War international system and Brazil's problems.
Written from different perspectives and approaches, the books under review here represent the first genuine Brazilian attempt to address Brazil's place in the international system.
The main objective of Wagner Costa Ribeiro's Relações internacionais: cenários para o século XXI is, according to the author, to inform readers about the international system and its various world orders. The international system is the product of old and new world orders, an aggregate of new social agents, new technologies, and also a great concern for the environment. The book is divided in two parts. The first part addresses how readers can understand the international system; the second deals with the new international system in the post-Cold War system of the twenty-first century. The author argues that in order to understand the contemporary world of international relations, the importance of the United Nations cannot be ignored; nor can the role played by a number of nongovernmental organizations be discounted. The international system has changed dramatically since the collapse of the Soviet Union in December 1991. Today, idealist values, such as representative democracy and neoliberal economic ideas (market values), dominate the old values of ideological rivalry and conflict that plagued the Cold War period.
The international system of today is the interaction of nation-states and multinational corporations (MNCs), as well as other international actors and agents, such as nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).
However, it is hard to be sanguine about the perspective that the international system today has...