Bras. Political Sci. Rev.. 25/Apr/2018;12(2):e0008.
Diplomacy as an Independent Variable
A few years ago, I was commissioned by a Dutch publisher to compose a short biography of Rubens Ricupero for an editorial project on former secretaries-general of international organizations (). This offered me the chance to interview this scholarly, polite, and sober character with an impressive career within both domestic and global bureaucracies. It is difficult not to be charmed by his personality. Therefore, like Homer’s Ulysses, I confess I had to tie myself to the mast so as not to provide an overly celebratory appraisal of Ricupero’s latest work – A Diplomacia na Construção do Brasil: 1750-2016 (Diplomacy in the Building of Brazil: 1750-2016).
One book is never the same for two different commentators. Indeed, each person has their own reading. For the case in question – an extensive and dense book – there are numerous doubts one might raise and criticisms one could make. My reading is informed by my own concepts, prejudices, and mental dispositions – not to mention the theoretical framework I happen to mobilize. But there certainly are alternative ways of interpreting this piece of work, which amounts to a monumental effort to synthesize 266 years of Brazilian history into no more than 800 pages. Although a career diplomat who is avowedly passionate about Itamaraty (the shorthand for Brazil’s Foreign Ministry), Ricupero (2017) does not repeat much of the dominant historical narrative about how Brazilian foreign policy was built. There are myriad passages where one might be surprised by the original stance he takes regarding Brazil’s formation through diplomacy. Ricupero claims that he wrote ‘A Diplomacia na Construção do Brasil’ because he never found a book that would commit itself to developing his argument, that is, to think from a long-term perspective about the ways in which diplomatic activity has shaped the Brazilian nation-state.