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The transformation of state-business relations in an emerging economy: The case of Brazilian agribusiness

Kristen Hopewell (Department of Sociology, University of British Columbia, Kelowna, Canada)

Critical Perspectives on International Business

ISSN: 1742-2043

Article publication date: 30 September 2014




The aim of this paper is to revisit the Brazilian case in an effort to shed light on how state-business relations have been transformed in the contemporary era of globalization. Brazil has long been considered the archetype of “dependent development”, having served as the inspiration for the classic theory of the relationship between states and capital in the semi-peripheral states of the developing world. Since the theory of dependent development was initially formulated in the 1970s, however, both the Brazilian political economy and the global context in which it is situated have changed dramatically.


The analysis draws on 15 months of field research conducted in Sao Paulo, Brasilia, Beijing, New Delhi and Washington, as well as at the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Geneva, involving 157 interviews with senior government officials, trade negotiators and representatives of industry and non-governmental organizations, ethnographic observation and extensive documentary research.


The author shows how the emergence of a highly competitive export-oriented agribusiness sector in Brazil has prompted the expansion and internationalization of domestic capital, leading to the emergence of an independent, private sector lobby with considerable influence on the Brazilian state. Driven by the rise of Brazilian agribusiness, the state and capital have allied together to aggressively pursue the expansion of markets for Brazilian exports, specifically through dispute settlement and negotiations at the WTO.


These findings challenge conventional understandings of state-business relations in emerging economies such as Brazil.



The author would like to thank Greta Krippner, Jeffery Paige, Amy Quark, Sandra Comstock, Andrew Schrank, David Smith, Roselyn Hsueh, Stephen Gill and participants in the University of Michigan Economic Sociology Workshop and the Emerging Market Multinational Corporations and the State Workshop for their comments on earlier drafts of this paper. This research was supported by grants from the USA National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Social Science and Humanities Council of Canada (SSHRC).


Hopewell, K. (2014), "The transformation of state-business relations in an emerging economy: The case of Brazilian agribusiness", Critical Perspectives on International Business, Vol. 10 No. 4, pp. 291-309.



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