#217 Soft Theory, Hard Evidence: Rational Choice and Empirical Investigation in Brazil
By Barry Ames
From the Introduction
In 1989 I began a study of contemporary Brazilian politics with the narrow goal of understanding the operation of Brazil's peculiar electoral system and assessing the contribution of that system to the nation's institutional difficulties. Gradually the project broadened as a result of efforts to link the electoral system to the Congress. Because the president had such enormous influence over deputies, through the power of pork-barrel projects and job nominations, no analysis could comprehend the Congress without also examining the executive. So the project evolved into an exploration of the entire institututional structure of Brazilian national-level politics.
In this essay I would like to show how rational choice reasoning, especially in the areas of concept and findings transfer, guided the development of my project. It will become clear that I have applied rational choice techniques quite unevenly. At times the failure is on the theoretical side, in the sense that formal theorists have paid little attention to non-American settings; at times the failure is on the empirical side, in the sense that crucial indicators simply do not exist.
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