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Political crisis and democratic backsliding in Brazil

Focus: Political Science


The course offers an overview of the ongoing political crisis and democratic backsliding in Brazil. After three decades of political stability and a period of rising economic prosperity under the rule of the Workers’ Party, the country faces today the biggest crisis in its recent history. Since 2013 a succession of events has contributed to set in motion several changes in Brazilian politics, giving rise to a state of permanent instability and undermining the legitimacy of democratic institutions. One of the main features of this crisis is the rise and strengthening of far-right social and political groups with an anti-democratic discourse, a central variable to understand the election of Jair Bolsonaro in 2018 and the escalation of intolerance against religious, ethnic, and sexual minorities as well as the increasing violations and threats to individual, political and social rights. Alongside aggressive anti-state rhetoric, these authoritarian projects prompted a series of assaults on labor rights and significant regressions concerning central issues like education, health, and the environment.

This picture, which became more dramatic with the Covid outbreak in 2020, poses a serious threat to the pact established in 1988 in the Constitution. Such backsliding cannot be understood without attention to the long-standing problems and major social and economic transformations Brazil experienced in the last decades. Based on a series of analyses produced in the last years on the topic, this course aims to contribute to the comprehension of the critical causes and antecedents of the current crisis and its main unfolding.

The first lecture will offer an overview of the political crisis drawing attention to its antecedents and the key events and processes that contributed to the current state of affairs as well as its main consequences concerning public policies and basic rights. In the second lecture, we will turn our attention to the strengthening of far-right social and political groups who assumed a leading role in propagating moral issues and authoritarian discourses in the public sphere. Finally, the third and last lecture will discuss the most influential interpretations of the crisis produced in the last few years and the alternatives for overcoming it.


Marta Mendes da Rocha (UFJF)

Jorge Chaloub (UFJF)

Language: English

Courseload: 9 hours

Date&Time: 12th-14th, 9 am-12 pm (Brasilia time zone)

Target audience: undergraduate and graduate

Spots available: 25