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Revista de Sociologia e Política

On-line version ISSN 1678-9873


FERRAZ, Sérgio Eduardo. The Political Dynamics of the Empire: Instability, Offices and House of Representatives (1840-1889). Rev. Sociol. Polit. [online]. 2017, vol.25, n.62, pp.63-91. ISSN 1678-9873.

The article deals with the imperial politics in Brazil. Its main contribution is to outline an alternative understanding of the institutional dynamics of the “parliamentarism” prevailing at the time, suggesting the failure of the classical explanation of the period. New hypotheses are proposed on two issues: (i) government instability in the Second Empire (1840-1889) and (ii) the nature of the relationship between the Cabinet and the House of Representatives in the period. As for governmental instability (37 offices in about 50 years), the research strategy consisted of examining, through literature produced from various canons and Proceedings of the legislature, all the episodes of ministries replacement, including those involved in partisan alternation, to map the reasons associated with each withdrawal. This made it possible to construct a typology of the phenomenon, with the criteria of the presence or absence of intervention of the Crown and / or of the House at the ministerial replacements. The main result achieved shows that both the instability of ministries as alternating between parties resulted primarily from conflicts between the executive and the legislature, especially the House. This finding challenges interpretations that emphasize the role of the Crown in replacing governments. The conflict between the cabinets and the House led to the second question, which deals with this tension. It explores the hypothesis that the introduction of new electoral rules (“distritos”), replacing lists (“chapas”), in the context of an institutional arrangement characteristically “centrifugal”, changed important incentives – which worked as mainstay “centripetal” system – for relevant political actors. The change has exacerbated the disputes between ministries and legislatures, contributing to explain the phenomenon of instability. The hypothesis is supported by various evidence: monitoring the proceedings and vote in the House eight draft budgets between 1853 and 1860, in legislatures elected by different rules, exercise indicator of unequal ability of governments to pass their agendas under different institutional circumstances, confirming the ministerial weakening when crossing lists for “districts”; the lower average tenure of governments who ruled against legislatures “distritalizadas”; association between the fall of cabinets by legislative pressure and the validity of electoral rules “distritalizadas; convergence of sources and literature to emphasize the “centrifugal” consequences of the change of electoral system. Treading these pathways, the article innovates by proposing new interpretations of parliamentary experience of the Second Empire and by suggesting the fertility, to political science, of a research agenda that approximates periods of history Brazil's underexplored.

Keywords : ministerial instability; Empire; Second Reign; Executive-legislative relations; electoral rules.

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