The Deadlock of Democracy in Brazil

Barry Ames
A sophisticated application of rational choice theory


Many countries have experimented with different electoral rules in order either to increase involvement in the political system or make it easier to form stable governments. Barry Ames explores this important topic in one of the world's most populous and important democracies, Brazil. This book locates one of the sources of Brazil's "crisis of governance" in the nation's unique electoral system, a system that produces a multiplicity of weak parties and individualistic, pork-oriented politicians with little accountability to citizens. It explains the government's difficulties in adopting innovative policies by examining electoral rules, cabinet formation, executive-legislative conflict, party discipline and legislative negotiation.

The book combines extensive use of new sources of data, ranging from historical and demographic analysis in focused comparisons of individual states to unique sources of data for the exploration of legislative politics. The discussion of party discipline in the Chamber of Deputies is the first multivariate model of party cooperation or defection in Latin America that includes measures of such important phenomena as constituency effects, pork-barrel receipts, ideology, electoral insecurity, and intention to seek reelection. With a unique data set and a sophisticated application of rational choice theory, Barry Ames demonstrates the effect of different electoral rules for election to Brazil's legislature.

The readership of this book includes anyone wanting to understand the crisis of democratic politics in Brazil. The book will be especially useful to scholars and students in the areas of comparative politics, Latin American politics, electoral analysis, and legislative studies.

Barry Ames is the Andrew Mellon Professor of Comparative Politics and Chair, Department of Political Science, University of Pittsburgh.

Praise / Awards

  • "The most detailed and carefully researched empirical treatment of Brazilian politics ever written. Ames is unrivaled among Latin Americanists when it comes to teasing out what really happens and figuring out creative ways to bring rigorous data to bear on questions of theoretical and empirical interest. It will be a major resource for Brazil specialists and will be used by other Latin Americanists who want to make informed comparisons across countries."
    —Barbara Geddes, University of California, Los Angeles
  • "Barry Ames makes an outstanding contribution to the literature on Latin American politics and rational-choice institutionalism. The book is impressive in the wealth of data gathered and processed, the sophistication of the methods applied, the precision of the findings, and the importance of these findings for theoretical analysis and for the reform of existing institutions."
    —Kurt Weyland, Vanderbilt University
  • "Ames offers an excellent study of the Brazilian political system. He blends statistical analysis and narrative in a way rarely encountered in academic works, making the volume useful and accessible to a variety of readers. . . . In very readable prose, Ames paints an excellent and comprehensible picture of the intricacy of the Brazilian system, the fragility of political parties, and the temptations of corruption."
    —D. Schwam-Baird, Choice, Volume 39, No. 5
  • ". . . detailed and sophisticated. . . ."
    Foreign Affairs, September/October 2001
  • ". . . The wealth of information this book provides make it a classic study and essential reading for anyone seeking to understand Brazilian politics."
    —Peter Calvert, International Affairs, Volume 78, No. 1 (2002)
  • ". . . a major contribution by a very talented scholar. It is essential reading for any student of Brazilian politics and highly recommended for analysts of comparative political institutions as well."
    —Wendy Hunter, University of Texas, Austin, Perspectives on Politics, March 2003
  • "Barry Ames has produced an outstanding piece of scholarship. . . .[T]his book will become a landmark in the field of Brazilian and Latin American political institutions. It should also provide useful reference points for those concerned with patterns of electoral competition and governance in contemporary democracies."
    —Octavio Amorim Neto, Political Science Quarterly, Fall 2001
  • ". . .A pioneering study that makes creative use of unique data to study institutions and legislative behavior in Brazil. . . . Ames delves . . . deeply into how electoral law shapes the voting coalitions constructed by individual legislators. . . . This book is pathbreaking in the study of Latin American politics and is sure to become a seminal work in the literature of the personal vote."
    —Mona Lyne, The Journal of Politics, Volume 64, No. 1 (2002)

Look Inside

Copyright © 2001, University of Michigan. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 352pp.
  • 20 line drawings, 31 tables, 2 maps, 1 box.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Paper
  • 2002
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-08904-8

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  • $39.95 U.S.

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