Since the end of the military dictatorship in 1985, diverse social movements have played a crucial role in shaping the return to democracy and defining the ethical basis of the new Brazilian republic. The new republic promised to transform Brazil's political process and social history from one of exclusionary authoritarianism, disguised discrimination, and inequality into one of political transparency, full citizenship, and social and economic justice for all. Yet with the consolidation of democratic institutions in the years immediately following promulgation of the 1988 constitution, these promises remained unfulfilled.
This course will examine the history of the interplay of social movements and national politics in Brazil's new republic, with the goal of understanding how the establishment of democracy has consolidated popular demands for a more just society and more ethical leadership — expressed clearly in each presidential election — and a political system and leadership that seem to breed corruption. We will also use the case of Brazil to address questions that are relevant to other republican systems: What is the role of ethics in contemporary republics? Must citizens be ethical in order for a republic to function effectively? Does political practice become more republican when ethics becomes the major issue of public debate, as it has in Brazil? Is it more effective to push for ethical politics, or for greater control by citizens over state power and institutions?
Flávio Limoncic is Associate Professor of History at Universidade Federal do Estado do Rio de Janeiro (UNIRIO). A specialist in the twentieth-century political and economic history of Brazil, he has published widely in major Brazilian political and scholarly journals on the history of the automobile industry, fordism, civil society, contemporary political institutions, immigration, and ethnic identity.