Bras. Political Sci. Rev.2017;11(1):e0008.

The Genesis of Participatory Democracy in Brazil: a Scientific (Re)Construction

Marie-Hélène Sa Vilas Boas

DOI: 10.1590/1981-3821201700010008

The rise of participatory democracy has often been explained by the renewal of collective action in Europe and Latin America. This review essay questions the ‘movement-based’ genesis of Brazilian participatory democracy by analyzing the idea of the state upon which it rests. It argues that the focus on social movements falls short of explaining the spread of participatory experiments, and that it rests on a simplified understanding of the dynamics of the Brazilian State prior to the 1980s. The argument is developed along three axes. First, the essay analyses how the ‘classics’ of Brazilian political sociology framed the early studies on participatory democracy. Second, it shows that even if the unifying notion of the state has been challenged, progress has focussed on the study of the democratic period. Third, it presents evidence that participation, as a practical category, was an integral part of the military regime’s discourse and practice. Finally, the essay defines lines of investigation to reconsider the origins of participatory democracy in Brazil.

The Genesis of Participatory Democracy in Brazil: a Scientific (Re)Construction