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Food for Thought: Social and behavioural research in Brazil

Thursday 8 November 2018
Pieter de la Court
Wassenaarseweg 52
2333 AK Leiden

The Dean of the Graduate School cordially invites you to this upcoming Food for Thought meeting on research in Brazil. The meeting will be chaired by professor Cristina Grasseni (CA-OS).

Erik Bähre: 'The ‘judicialisation of health’: controversies around social justice and inequality in Brazil'

The controversy about the ‘judicialisation of health’ takes us to the heart of Brazil’s polarized debate on social justice and inequality. Frequently, Brazilians take their insurance company or the state to court in order to force them to pay for medical treatments. Some refer this process as the ‘judicialisation of health’ (judicialização da saúde) and argue that legal action unintentionally undermines social justice and reinforces inequality in Brazil. Others point out that the term is a political statement and not a neutral description as it opposes individual rights to collective rights.

This debate reflects Brazil’s deep political and economic divisions and how these divisions relate to different economic rationalities, especially regarding the health budget.

This presentation is based on research by Erik Bähre and Fabíola Gomes and part of the ERC Consolidator Project ‘Moralising Misfortune: A comparative anthropology of commercial insurance’.

Jojo Nem Singh: 'Beyond the Rentier State Model: The Governance of “Presalt” under the Workers’ Party in Brazil'

Most research on Brazil’s oil industry focussed on the role of Petrobras in developing the sector as well as the SOE’s involvement in the country’s most spectacular corruption scandal, Lava Jato (Car Wash), which facilitated the fall of the Workers’ Party from power. These explanatory frameworks explore either the political economy factors linked to SOE governance or the traditional literature on party politics and rent-seeking.

The main findings in the debate suggest that Brazil has not succeeded in advancing a cohesive strategy to exploit its newly discovered pre-salt reserves, often citing the oil curse and rentier state models as explanation for this failure. This paper contributes to this debate by re-focussing the unit of analysis on the “state” and its governance strategies as a central explanation to the puzzle.

In this lecture, I make two key interventions. Firstly, I provide evidence on the degree to which the oil curse and rentier state theories apply to the Brazilian case, suggesting a more nuanced view of the Brazilian oil sector that does not necessarily comply with some of the key tenets of these theories. Secondly, I argue that state agency has often been taken for granted, and as such, we need to pay attention to the ways in which different governance strategies of Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff to manage the pre-salt reserves have been implemented in shaping the developmental outcome of oil-based industrialization efforts. My argument emphasizes the interactions between external circumstances – i.e. political economy factors beyond the control of states – and the responses of the PT government to these changing conditions.

Overall, the lecture rejects the rentier state explanation to the current development impasse in Brazil while bringing back ‘state agency’ as key to understanding the rise and fall of PT government and the perceived failure to manage the oil sector.

This research presentation is part of a book manuscript entitled Building Developmental Capacity: State-owned Enterprises and Natural Resources in Latin America. The fieldwork was funded by the Institute of Political Science, Leiden University conducted in May-June 2018. 

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