Realism under Hegemony: Theorizing the Rise of Brazil

Kurt Weyland

Abstract


What light can international relations theory shed on how developing countries such as Brazil have achieved regional leadership and international influence? This comprehensive examination of Brazilian foreign policy over the last few decades argues that Realism provides a better account of Brazil’s strategy than Liberalism and Constructivism. Despite changes of government and regime, Brasília has persistently pursued relative political gain, especially international influence. However, because this rising country has faced an established hegemon in the form of the United States, it has not been able to employ conventionally Realist instruments and tactics. Its subordinate position in the current power constellation has forced Brazil to forego political or military confrontation and instead use economic cooperation, both with the hegemon and its weaker neighbors. Through this collaboration, Brazil hopes to derive disproportionate benefits that will enhance its relative power. By elucidating these complex calculations, the present essay explains the Realist strategy that ambitious nations such as Brazil have pursued and helps design a version of Realism that captures recent power dynamics in the international system.

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