ABSTRACT

If this perception is correct, then in the long run its words will help to construct an appropriate narrative to guide the political adjustments required in the twenty-first century-a narrative it still needs to improve significantly. And its deeds will help to bring about this new order. As with any other complex country, Brazil’s government behaves inconsistently over time, as a result of a multilayered political structure in which different actors clash in the long run. However, since at least the late nineteenth century, Brazil’s foreign policy has remained coherent, with a narrative that values legalism, multilateralism, and the equal treatment of states before international law as the best framework for conducting international affairs. Although the country sometimes lacked the means to contribute to

such an order, it has clearly positioned itself on behalf of legitimate international institutions. For example, it joined technical intergovernmental organizations in the late 1800s and supported efforts to establish legitimate institutions in The Hague and in New York; and it denounced what it perceived as the misuse of the League of Nations. Overall, successive Brazilian governments perceived their diplomatic abilities, and the stability of the official narrative, as assets that serve the construction-and occasionally the legitimate reform-of international norms. As this narrative goes, participating in the construction of international norms is a means, perhaps the most effective one for a country like Brazil, to advance interests in the international arena. This argument is developed here through a series of vignettes that

present Brazil’s vision for the twenty-first century in the context of the country’s traditional foreign policy. This chapter also examines Brazil’s role in South America, aiming at providing important services to the international community by supplying food, water, and energy to a thirsty and growing population. Finally the analysis elaborates on one key trait of Brazil’s domestic political culture that may be particularly useful in this century: the ability to reconcile contradictory social values through a sophisticated mix of tolerance and ambiguous political responses that redefine contexts and timeframes to manage conflicts.1