This week Hannah Arendt’s notion of “past and future” has been revealed at DC. We have addressed a variety of different issues, trying to orient our future action, by thinking about our experiences. We have looked at the headlines, but also looked elsewhere and thought about different experiences to support the imagination.
I was particularly happy to receive Sergio Tavolaro’s post on President Obama’s visit to Brazil. Following cable news logic, it was a big mistake for the President to go to Brazil, given the pressing problems at home, centered on the impending budget crisis and the great debate about jobs and the deficit, and the military engagement in Libya and the growing uncertainties in North Africa and the Middle East. Yet beyond news sensation, there are important ongoing developments in the Americas, with very significant changes and challenges. Paying attention to Latin America, not only connected to drug and immigration issues, is a necessity especially when there are problems elsewhere.
Brazil is an emerging global power. Brazil and the United States have a long, sad history, marked by domination and political repression. As Brazil has emerged politically and economically, it often has defined its independence against the United States. Obama’s trip worked to change this. The highlight: the historic appreciation of the first African American President of the United States meeting the first woman President of Brazil. Tavolaro reports that there is a fascination with a shared progressive heritage, working against racism and sexism. And he notes that Obama embodied the declaration of equal partnership between nations: the President of the United States visited Brazil before he had an audience with the Brazilian leader in Washington, reversing the usual order. Using a sad past, the Brazilian population could and did imagine a hopeful future with the great American superpower to the north. This is important news for them and for us.
Karl Marx famously said “History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.” Gary Alan Fine shows how sometimes it works the . . .
Read more: DC Week in Review: Between Past and Future
Sergio Tavolaro is a sociology professor at the University of Brasília. He presents today his account of Barack Obama’s recent visit to his country. -Jeff
It is nearly impossible to speak of one Brazilian approach to the United States, given Brazil’s domestic diversity and complexity. Indifference, suspicion, admiration, anger and interest can all be found among Brazilian citizens when invited to reflect upon the North American giant partner. Yet, by and large, it is fair to say that President Obama’s first visit to Brazil was widely welcomed. More than a mere encounter of two heads of states simply complying with protocol obligations, the meeting had a great deal of symbolic charge. To be sure, the historical importance of Obama’s rise to the presidency was greatly appreciated by Brazilians from the very beginning. As the rhetoric tone of his campaign was closely followed by the local media, a significant portion of Brazil’s public opinion shared the excitement experienced by Americans when Obama was sworn in.
But many additional ingredients contributed to the success of this diplomatic event. To begin with, as President Dilma Rousseff herself highlighted, one should not underestimate the privilege of witnessing the encounter between the first US Afro-American president and the first Brazilian woman president – especially if one remembers how filled with racial problems both societies are and the subordinate status of women in Brazil.
National Congress of Brazil, Brasília © Rob Sinclair | Wikimedia Commons
Besides, there are signs indicating that Brazil – US relations are now changing in a positive way, in comparison with the recent past. One ramification of President Lula’s independent and bold foreign policy was a distancing between the two countries on a varied set of issues. The divergence over the recent political crisis in Honduras was just one manifestation of mounting diplomatic rifts, which also included different views regarding Venezuela, Bolivia and, for sure, Iran’s nuclear policies. The US reluctance to legitimate President . . .
Read more: President Obama in Brazil: A View from Brazil
This week we have had been responding here at DC to the massacre in Tucson and to President Obama’s speech addressing the tragedy. We also have been considering Presidential speeches more generally.
Gary Alan Fine has presented an unorthodox account of the identity of the assassin. I presented a quick analysis and appreciation of Obama’s address, focusing on the media response to it. And Robin Wagner Pacifici and I have thought about Presidential speech making more generally. We will continue exploring these issues in the coming days, continuing our exploration of the speech and the response to the act of Jared Lee Loughner. I will give a critical overview of our discussion in next week’s DC Week in Review.
Here, instead, I want to draw attention to a post of a few weeks ago, specifically to the replies it has generated. I think the discussion as a whole provides insight into an important practical and theoretical problem, the relationship between realism and imagination.
First recall the initial post by Vince Carducci, he opened:
“Brazil is fast setting the pace for both developed and developing nations by declaring itself the world’s first “Fair Trade” nation, an announcement that comes on the heels of the election of its first woman president. Scholars and advocates have taken note. But while Dilma Rousseff’s election has been reported, the Fair Trade story has gone unnoticed in the mainstream Western media.”
And he closed expressing his hope by citing Kenneth Rapoza who:
“characterizes the election of Rousseff, Lula’s handpicked successor, as a refutation of the Washington Consensus that prescribes privatization and so-called open markets as the pother to success for lesser-developed countries. Fair Trade Brazil marks yet another step down a road less traveled.”
Carducci used Brazil to reveal that there are alternatives to “neo-liberalism.” But Felipe Pait as a Brazilian pointed out:
“This seems to be a marginal phenomenon in Brazil. …Lula’s economic policies have been rather conservative, and so have his and Dilma’s presidential campaigns. No one in Brazil is interested in autarky – not university graduates looking for every opportunity to study and . . .
Read more: DC Week in Review: The Imagined and the Real Brazil
Vince Carducci is a doctorial candidate in sociology at the New School. In his post, he highlights an important development in trade policies–one that was ignored by the mainstream Western press.
Brazil is fast setting the pace for both developed and developing nations by declaring itself the world’s first “Fair Trade” nation, an announcement that comes on the heels of the election of its first woman president. Scholars and advocates have taken note. But while Dilma Rousseff’s election has been reported, the Fair Trade story has gone unnoticed in the mainstream Western media.
On November 17, President Luis Ignacio “Lula” da Silva, whose tenure ends at the end of this year, signed a decree formally establishing a National System of Fair Trade. At the same time, he initiated a national business incubator network to encourage grassroots economic development. The actions continue the evolution begun in 2004 with the establishment within the Ministry of Work and Employment of the National Secretary of Solidarity Economics to liaise with federal government bureaus, local municipalities, and civil society organizations in developing policies and programs that foster economic and political equity and social inclusion in Brazil.
What is “Fair Trade?”
To better understand this event, one must distinguish between the concepts of Fair Trade and solidarity economics. Fair Trade is more commonly known to American consumers and entails a specific set of exchange practices. These include: pricing floors, living wages, long-term financing guarantees and purchasing agreements, profit sharing, community reinvestment, and the like, the costs of which account for the extra two bits or so one pays at the local coffeehouse for an “ethically sourced” cup of cappuccino.
Fair Trade is sometimes called alternative trade because it seeks to circumvent prevailing market transactions, especially those espoused under neo-liberalism and the process of globalization. For reformers like Joseph Stiglitz, Fair Trade is a viable model for international development in that it advances “trade not aid” as the solution to growing global inequality. Yet Fair Trade has also been criticized as a new form of dependency, tying the livelihoods of Third World . . .
Read more: Brazil Leads the Pack on “Fair Trade” Policies