Brazil in the World-System between 1989 and 2016: The Rise and Fall of a Semi-Peripheral Dream

Author: Gelis-Filho, Antonio
Almanac: Evolution:Evolution and Big History: Dimensions, Trends, and Forecasts


In this paper the author analyzes Brazil's situation inside the Western capitalist world-system (WCWS) from 1989 to 2016. He splits the period into five phases, each roughly corresponding to a new presidential mandate in Brazil: ‘cleaning up the house: 1989–1994’, when the Plano Real finally managed to curb the country's hyperinflation; ‘the good pupil: 1995–2002’, when with variable success Brazil applied to its economy the IMF receipt; ‘the westernized BRIC: 2003–2012’, a period when Brazil benefited from a windfall associated with China's hunger for commodities, and when it had managed to become a darling for both the global right and the global left; and finally ‘the banquet of consequences: 2013–?’. In the last phase, still unfolding, Brazil paid the price for the lack of a comprehensive and realistic national plan to go beyond benefitting from another cycle of high prices for commodities, a plan that should have encompassed economy, internal politics and geopolitical stance. Too isolated geographically to have any pressing strategic issues, Brazil does not seem to have the motivation to decisively place the geopolitical bets that are inevitable if a country plans to make it into the major league of national powers. The country that until recently dreamed of being a major player in international affairs is again only a spectator of the great geopolitical game being played in our times, essentially waiting in the sidelines to see which will be the winners of such momentous contest.

Keywords:Brazil, World-System, semiperiphery, hegemony crisis.