Drawing on the concepts of “delayed dependent capitalist development,” “patrimonialism,” “political co-optation,” and “corporatism,” James Malloy has written a succinct and valuable analysis of social insurance policy in Brazil in the twentieth century. The case study is organized around a conceptualization of four stages of Brazilian political development: 1889–1930, oligarchic democracy; 1930–45, organic authoritarianism; 1945–64, populist democracy; 1964 to the present, bureaucratic authoritarianism. The author follows the evolution of social insurance policy “as a central theme within the contrapuntal interplay between periods of ‘democratic’ and ‘authoritarian’ governance” (p. 18). Within each of the four time periods or stages, Malloy sees social insurance policy as a key and very politicized issue, directly linked to the broad themes of resource distribution, patterns of political participation of social groups and classes, and the general distribution of power in Brazilian society in the twentieth century.

A general concern runs through the book: the continuing linkage between social insurance policy and styles of decision-making. It is Malloy’s belief that the evolution of social insurance in Brazil is less the result of political action and pressure by societal groups and factions and more of the attempts of the state to define its relationship with civil society in the context of uneven and dependent development. A short, concluding chapter compares Brazil’s social insurance policy evolution with that in other Latin American countries. Malloy argues that the failure of democratic governments to reform their social insurance systems in the twentieth century has contributed to the emergence of authoritarian regimes in the region.

Hermes Pio Vieira has written a sympathetically boring biography of Eloy Chaves, a São Paulo businessman, state government official, and federal legislator. Chaves was the author of the first Brazilian federal legislation that created a fund for retirement and survivors’ pensions in the railway companies. The 1923 law was extended in 1926 to cover dock and maritime workers, and it became the legal base for creating a national social insurance system in Brazil. Although a calculated response by Brazil’s oligarchical elite to new social pressures, the Lei Eloy Chaves was the first extension of social protection into the private sector. The author captures the nature of the Brazilian elite—paternalistic in their social relations—without evaluating its importance or its implications for Brazilian society. Malloy’s volume provides a good summary of the Lei Eloy Chaves and the historical context within which it was promulgated.