chapter  5
28 Pages

Globalization and local agony in Brazil

ByChristopher Marc Lilyblad

Chapter 5 offers a contextualization for understanding the development of favela territories over the course of a century-long Brazilian modernization process deeply impacted by international and global political, economic, and social forces. This begins by describing how the institution of slavery, occurring during a period when Portuguese colonialism laid the basis for an independent territorial-sovereign state under the Brazilian Empire, was an important precursor to favela development and contemporary race relations. Thereafter, with the establishment of the Brazilian Republic in 1889, Brazil witnessed a century-long developmental process that, while subjected to vacillations between democracy and dictatorship, nevertheless occurred within the framework of a modern, legal-rational veneer legitimized by national collective identity. Transcending political discontinuity across four regimes was an institutionalized, path-dependent modernization project manifested by interlinked processes of industrialization, migration, and urbanization, simultaneously nurturing uncontained growth of informal settlements. Furthermore, the fall of the pseudo-democratic regime in 1965 and rise of a nationalist military government was particularly influenced by international state-systemic influences seeking to steer Brazilian state-making consistent with prevailing doctrines of the post-war international order. Ensuing counterproductive state policies, especially violence and repression, strengthened leftist rebel factions, whose fugitive remnants later helped establish Brazil’s first large-scale criminal gang. Following a period of extremely high growth under the military’s rule, exogenous economic shocks resulting in hyperinflation and exuberant debt levels aggravated vulnerabilities, particularly among the poorest segments of the population, leading to widespread criminal activity. In short, historical processes in the domains of violence, socioeconomic security, and legitimacy transcending all levels of social organization culminated in a crescendo of fragility in local territories. Accordingly, localized fragility occurring in a context of globalization contributed to the constitution of transient territorial power vacuums where modern, legal-rational authority remained ineffective, thus establishing niches vulnerable to exploitation by illicit authorities.