This brief and highly readable work on Brazilian local government comes as a welcome addition to help fill one of the principal lacunae in English-language textbook materials on Latin American polities. It both supplements and complements the collection of studies in Perspectives of Brazilian State and Local Government edited by Ivan L. Richardson (Institute of Public Administration Series, No. 4; U.S.C. School of Public Administration, Los Angeles, 1965). Part of Frank P. Sherwood’s first chapter and most of his second chapter appeared previously in his contribution to Richardson’s book of readings.
The book is based both on prior studies of local government by Brazilian scholars and on the observations which Sherwood made in Brazil on a technical assistance mission to help in the establishment of institutions to teach public administration. It does not pretend to be the result of extensive goal-oriented field research.
The first two chapters contain introductory and demographic material. Chapter three provides a summary historical and juridical description of the Brazilian município from the colonial period through the revolution of 1964 and the constitution of 1967. Chapter four raises questions about the level of institutionalization of the Brazilian município, but gives inadequately refined answers for lack of a more substantial empirical base. Chapter eight renders an account of the dispute (settled by a plebiscite) over the proposed division of the new state of Guanabara (formerly the Federal District) into municípios. The ninth and final chapter is a plea for greater decentralization and participation.
The principal contributions of this book are concentrated in chapters five through seven, which attempt to apply a simple systems analysis to sketch the input-output functions of the município within its community and its political and economic relations with the state and federal governments. Sherwood points out that the dependent financial position of the município forces its political leader to exert great pressure upon state and national agencies for subsidies. Consequently the fund-raising role of the political leader in the state and national capital cities becomes more significant than his decision-making and conflict-settling role within his município. Sherwood also points out that low levels of purveyor outputs by the administration of the município tend to generate low levels of expectation. This process “traps them in a vicious circle, in which failure to produce has its direct effect on capability to produce. New input demands do not ensue from old outputs, nor do the resources necessary to finance them” (p. 83). Local governments tend to he regarded not as service agencies, but as distributors of rewards.
This discussion raises many interesting questions for further research. The critical reader will wish that the discussions and conclusions were fortified by more abundant substantive data and by more examples and case studies. Many of the data desired, however, are not easily obtained in Brazil. Some readers will be disappointed that a text on institutionalizing grass-roots local government has little to say about political recruitment, political socialization, community power structures, interest groups, or local political party systems. Perhaps in an enlarged edition of this worthy text Sherwood can deal with these subjects and produce a book with a broader scope.