- Brazil, 1964–1985: The Military Regimes of Latin America in the Cold War by Herbert S. Klein & Francisco V. Luna
How can a book balance national and regional events in Latin America in the tumultuous period of the Cold War? Klein & Luna's recent work on the Brazilian military regime provides an example of how to skillfully tackle this difficult task. Covering the long period between 1964 and 1985, the work richly compares and contrasts the experiences of Brazil's authoritarian rule with similar administrations then in place in several neighboring countries, such as Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Peru and Uruguay.
Uniquely meritorious in providing a concise and well-rounded description of the developmental experiences of Brazil's most influential and long-lasting military regime, Brazil, 1964-1985 offers a useful examination of the most relevant literature on the topic, including some of most recent works and unpublished academic studies. These materials are brought together under the critical eyes of two of the country's most acclaimed experts in a book particularly able in convincingly demonstrating that though we can still treat the so-called bureaucratic authoritarian experiences of the southern cone under one analytical frame, we should also be careful in differentiating between some of their underlining ideologies, the local context of their military structures and, above all, their developmental plans.
The book persuasively shows the long-term continuities of the developmentalist mindset present in the Brazilian case since several of the regime's policies and logics harkened back, in many ways ironically, to the Vargas' authoritarian regime of the 1930s and 40s. These included the centralization of the decision-making process, the unification of welfare policies, and the top-down conservative revamping of the country's complex economic base, particularly overhauling the tax system and enhancing pro-industrial subsidies and programs. Together, these reforms were instrumental in shaping the Brazilian economy and society during the existence of the military rule and had a long-lasting influence on the country as a whole.
Essentially a work that summarizes and reflects on an abundant secondary literature pertaining to several countries, the book is organized into four substantive, well-researched chapters. The first chapter of the four is the only overtly comparative one, where Klein and Luna accurately review each of the cases of [End Page 1457] the military regimes in the southern cone in the 1960s and 70s (with the warranted exception of Paraguay), proceeding, at the same, to assessing the commonalities and uniquely distinct features of each case. Particularly relevant for the Brazilian case, examined in the remaining three chapters, the authors identify the authoritarian yet nonetheless modernizing or developmentalist nature of a regime that would seek through violence, censorship, repression, and unquestioned technocratic rule to revamp much of the economic, political and social base of the country so that an alternative, leftist path of transformation could be prevented, by all means necessary.
Chapter two deepens the analysis of the Brazilian experiences by focusing on the political reforms, mostly repressive one, implemented by the military regime. The internal disputes between military leaders representing not always reconcilable views of how to develop the country are well scrutinized. This portion is then complemented by a detailed analysis of the economic policies pursued in the period, which is the focus of chapter three. In addition to a path of continuity found in the deepening of the ISI programs of previous administration, some of the most important contributions presented here relate the case of the modernization of the tax system and agriculture base of the country, both of which would prove instrumental for the economic growth pursued by the regime, as well as set the basis for the country's present-day insertion in the global economy as an agriculture powerhouse. Potentially the more controversial one, chapter four scrutinizes some of the most important social and administrative reforms taken by the military regime. These included the expansion of the welfare network, particularly in the areas of public pensions...