HKS Authors

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This article examines three types of organizations – the party, the labor union, and the church – to help explain how right-wing authoritarianism returned to power in Brazil, once the largest social democracy in the Americas. Drawing on four decades of time series data from three government organs and a multi-year qualitative study of political terrain shifts, the author shows that Pentecostal churches eclipsed left-leaning civic organizations as the primary settings in which large segments of the population experienced politics. As the evangelical electorate grew – eventually forming one of the most powerful (albeit heterogeneous) social movements in the country – political and clerical leaders constructed and articulated this new identity around specific projects. In 2018, this project was bolsonarismo, marking a shift away from evangelicals’ historic support for lulismo. The implication of this argument is that even in an age of diffuse media, atomized protest, and fragmented party systems, the political labor of group-making that happens inside organizations can critically affect the conditions that give rise to (or protect against) illiberal politics.


McKenna, Elizabeth. "Taxes and Tithes: The Organizational Foundations of Bolsonarismo." International Sociology 35.6 (November 2020): 610-631.