Bras. Political Sci. Rev.. 17/Nov/2018;12(3):e0009.
Still the Country of the Future
What went wrong?
The main cause of this failure — or worse: this retrogression, in Lavinas’ view (2017) — is the creeping financialization of social policy, as reflected in the book’s title. By financialization she means “an array of empirical features and processes… of a new accumulation regime in which macroeconomics and economic policies are increasingly dominated by the rationale of financial capital” (LAVINAS, 2017, p. 07). The influence of financialization, she stresses, is not only felt in the market place, with the predominance of financial markets and transactions over production and trade and the tendency for profits to occur in financial markets rather than in productive activity, which results in the increase of the economic and political power of a rentier class. It pervades all realms of social life and, as a consequence, it should come as no surprise to see it affecting social policy as well. What is indeed surprising is that a government of the left would not only fail to resist financialization but actually embrace and boost it as the PT has done, according to her analysis.
These notable changes in social policies were not, Lavinas argues (2017), a haphazard and fragmented occurrence, but rather part of a broader model of development deliberately adopted by the PT government, dubbed “social developmentalism” or “redistributive developmentalism guided by the state”, which bet heavily on the expansion of a mass consumption society. Her argument is that this model had biases and limitations which occluded the logics and dynamics of financialization. The complementarity between this model of development and the “financialized” social policies ended up failing to lead “Brazil into the post-war Golden Age, consolidating the welfare state” (LAVINAS, 2017, p. 05). As a consequence of this lost opportunity, “staggering inequalities remain the calling card” of Brazil and the search for a future “as a nation of all and for all” remains elusive.