Policy Analysis and Institutional Change in Developing Countries: The Brazilian Experience

Published date01 March 2015
Date01 March 2015
334 Public Administration Review • March | April 2015
Public Administration Review,
Vol. 75, Iss. 2, pp. 334–337. © 2015 by
The American Society for Public Administration.
DOI: 10.1111/puar.12348.
Sonia M. Ospina and Rogan Kersh, Editors
Sandro Cabral
Federal University of Bahia, Brazil
Policy Analysis and Institutional Change in Developing
Countries:  e Brazilian Experience
Jeni Vaitsman, José Mendes Ribeiro, and Lenaura
Lobato, eds. , Policy Analysis in Brazil (Bristol:
Policy Press, 2013). 286 pp., $142.50.,
ISBN: 978-1-4473-0684-9.
A fter the transition to democracy in the
mid-1980s, Brazil has experienced several
institutional changes. These included the
introduction of participatory and decentralization
mechanisms that emerged from the 1988 Constitution
and managerial reforms associated with the pursuit for
economic stability, which started in 1994 under the
Real Plan. After 2003, Brazil focused on social policies
and income distribution programs, and reinforced the
role of the internal market to circumvent external tur-
bulences. These changes, and the underlying positive
outcomes, have attracted international attention to the
largest country in Latin America, as Brazil has become
an even more relevant actor onto the global arena. To
a large extent, these changes are influenced by policy
choices designed by a complex set of actors including
political leaders, government bureaucrats, state agen-
cies, NGOs, advocacy groups, multilateral organiza-
tions, and business associations.
In Policy Analysis in Brazil , Jeni Vaitsman, José
Mendes Ribeiro, and Lenaura Lobato have gathered
an impressive amount of evidence about the evolution
of policy analysis in Brazil, and more importantly,
about how the changes described above influenced
policy outcomes in several domains. The editors were
able to attract top scholars from reputed universities
and research centers in Brazil to collaborate and offer
good contributions on the state of the art of policy
analysis in the country. As a public management
scholar, I found it a pleasure to read this book and
learn how scholars are addressing policy analysis issues
in Brazil.
In the introduction, the editors highlight the dif-
ferences between the policy analysis tradition in the
United States and Brazil. In the former, policy analysis
is oriented to policy problem-solving. In Brazil,
according to the editors, policy analysis has a more
academic character and has evolved from the inter-
play among distinct fields such as political science,
public administration, economics, sociology, urban
planning, and social service. This multifaceted origin
may impose some theoretical and empirical constrains
and eventually hamper the dialogue with tradi-
tional policy analysis authors in other regions of the
world. Nevertheless, I believe that the richness of the
Brazilian approach to policy analysis may illuminate
theory building and offer an enhanced understand-
ing of social phenomena in correlated areas of social
science. For instance, in a chapter addressing the
collaborative dynamics of the Brazilian HIV policies
(Chapter 12 by Fonseca and Bastos), we learn of the
relationships developed among several actors involved
in this collaborative arena (NGOs, bureaucrats at vari-
ous governmental levels, multilateral organizations,
researchers). This case is likely to shed some light
on interorganizational collaboration in the public
administration realm (Ansell and Gash 2008 ) engag-
ing a conversation with scholars interested in topics
related to co-production (Bovaird 2007 ), or even in
the reality of service provision to stigmatized groups
(Goffman 1963 ). In the same vein, the interesting
taxonomy Andrews offers in Chapter 3 to character-
ize the methodological diversity of policy analysis in
Brazil uses a simple but worthwhile 2 × 2 matrix that
considers style (economic and sociopolitical) and
scope (macro- and micro-analytical). This taxonomy
can be useful to better understand policy analysis in
other geographical contexts as well.
The book editors present a broad view of policy
analysis in Brazil in 20 invited chapters, structured
in four sections. Contributions in Part 1 address how
policy analysis has been shaped in the country. Part
2 contributors show variations in policymaking at
different levels of government from local to federal.
Contributions in Part 3 draw attention to the inter-
play between politics and policy. And Part 4 explores
the role of expert communities and knowledge
institutions in policy making and analysis. Offering a
Sandro Cabral is associate professor
of operations and strategy at the School
of Management of the Federal University
of Bahia (UFBA). His research focuses on
public–private interactions, organizational
boundaries, and eff‌i ciency of governments.
He was a CAPES-Fulbright Visiting Professor
at NYU-Wagner (2013–14), and he has
published in journals such as
of Public Administration Research and
Theory , Long Range Planning , Strategic
Entrepreneurship Journal , Public Choice ,
Public Money & Management
, among
E-mail : scabral@ufba.br

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