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Brazilian Political Science Review (Online)

On-line version ISSN 1981-3821


BORGES, André. Rethinking state politics: the withering of state dominant machines in Brazil. Braz. political sci. rev. (Online) [online]. 2007, vol.2Selected edition, pp. 0-0. ISSN 1981-3821.

Research on Brazilian federalism and state politics has focused mainly on the impact of federal arrangements on national political systems, whereas comparative analyses of the workings of state political institutions and patterns of political competition and decision-making have often been neglected. The article contributes to an emerging comparative literature on state politics by developing a typology that systematizes the variation in political competitiveness and the extent of state elites’ control over the electoral arena across Brazilian states. It relies on factor analysis to create an index of " electoral dominance" , comprised of a set of indicators of party and electoral competitiveness at the state level, which measures state elites’ capacity to control the state electoral arena over time. Based on this composite index and on available case-study evidence, the article applies the typological classificatory scheme to all 27 Brazilian states. Further, the article relies on the typological classification to assess the recent evolution of state-level political competitiveness. The empirical analysis demonstrates that state politics is becoming more competitive and fragmented, including in those states that have been characterized as bastions of oligarchism and political bossism. In view of these findings, the article argues that the power of state political machines rests on fragile foundations: in Brazil’s multiparty federalism, vertical competition between the federal and state governments in the provision of social policies works as a constraint on state bosses’ machine-building strategies. It is concluded that our previous views on state political dynamics are in serious need of re-evaluation.

Keywords : Federalism; state government; political competition; social policy; clientelism.

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