Posted: July 19th, 2023

Economic Geographies of Contemporary Brazil

Economic Geographies of Contemporary Brazil

Economic geographies of contemporary Latin America (Brazil), using globalization theories

Economic geography is defined as the branch of Geography that is concerned with the interrelations between the economic and the physical conditions to the production and distribution of the available commodities or resources (Merrriam Webster Incorporated, 2011). It deals with the influence of both the organic and inorganic environment on the activities of man.

This paper is focused on divulging how the physical conditions relate to the resources available for the people living in Brazil and the Latin America in general. In the bid to find out this relationship, there will be several globalization theories that will be looked into in order to be able to understand clearly the relationship and the distribution that there is.

Definition of terms

According to Hunington (2011), the economic geography covers the distribution of various types of resources, institutions, capacities, activities, customs and variety of ability that concerns earning a living. This then means that economic geography includes three major entities; industrial, agricultural and commercial.

There are various theories that try to explain the factors behind the physical conditions and the distribution of the resources. They try to sow why some of the resources are concentrated in some areas and not others and the effect that they have in the regions. One of these theories is the Globalization theory.

Globalization theories

Globalization theory tends to aim at understanding the complex proliferation of connection among the various factors of production and the recipients and the resources taking into account that these affects the social life and existence across the myriad of spheres that there are. Under the globalization theories, there are three basic theories therein that have been used all along to explain the economy of various countries or parts of the world, these are;

World-System theory

World Polity theory

World culture theory

These are the theories that will be covered within the scope of this paper in a bid to explain the economic geography of Brazil and the Latin America in general.

The economy of Brazil and the World-System theory

The world-system theory refers to the historical social system that is dominated by the interdependence of parts of the society that ultimately form a single unit or definite structure that has distinct rules. It has one labor system with various cultural systems (Wallerstein, 1974).

It is characterized by the world empires, mini-systems and the world economies. It came into being after the feudalism as a system underwent a major crisis that created a rush to get new resources and market. This then meant that everything was commercialized and viewed as a commodity; even the availability of labor was equally commercialized and turned into a commodity.

The structure of the world-system theory is such that there is a homogenous division of labor in the world market though there are several states as well as cultures. The labor is classified into geographically distinct and functionally defined sections.

There are the core states that are more focused on the higher skills and capital intensive production, militarily stronger than others and control much of the world economy.

Then there are the peripheral states that focus on the low-skill, extraction of the existing raw materials and labor intensive production and the states found in this section are the poor states that are highly dependent on the core states.

The third category under this theory is the semi-peripheral states. These are the states that are dependent lesser on the core states than the peripheral states. Their economies are more diversified and are composed of stronger states than the peripheral states (Frank Lenchner, 2001).

The position of Brazil and indeed most of the Latin American countries is at the semi-peripheral states since though they are somehow dependent on the core countries for the economic fortification and the enhancement of their production and processing, they have a well developed mining, agricultural, manufacturing and service sectors.

It is a fact that the economy of Brazil outweighs most of the South American countries and has steadily improved its presence in the world market scene by stabilizing its macroeconomic sector, reduction of the debt profile and investing in the foreign reserves.

Brazil is also known for the strong growth it has exhibited in the various sectors in its economy and the high interest rates that it has posted over time hence making it a destination for many foreign investors. The currency has highly appreciated over the last few years and eventual increase on the tax on foreign investors due to the large capital inflow. Brazil had achieved a $2.024 trillion GDP by 2010 which placed it at number eight in the world map in terms of purchasing power and parity (The World Factbook, 2011).

Further, though the military is strong and stable, there is not much spending that is allocated to it as compared to the core countries with 1.7% of the GDP being directed to the military of Brazil hence placing it at number 91 in the world military expenditure.

Brazil exhibits the characteristics of both the core as well as the periphery countries which is an outstanding characteristic of the semi-periphery countries. Despite the stabilizing economy, large foreign investment and the industrialization that is going on in the country, there is still a large portion of Brazilians still living in the slum areas otherwise known as Favelas.

It was observed that in a population of 192 million people, a significant 54 million still live in the shanty houses or the Favelas (South American Experts, 2011). This is a significant 28.2% of the total population which is a cause of concern for the government. However, this display of polarity and duality of the economic classes and the ability is a predominant characteristic of the semi-peripheral countries.

The Latin American economy has seen an interesting trend where there emerged a grand consolidation and integration in the major market sectors including the banking sector. In the period between 1995 and 2000 there was a rapid decrease of banks as a result of integration, foreign participation increase and decrease in the financial intermediation cost in the Latin American region. The integration in Latin America was however a bit different from the developed countries where integration is mainly motivated by acquisitions and mergers; in the Latin American region consolidation was motivated by the economic stabilization and the liberalization of the financial services (Jose Carlos Wong Davila, 2011).

The agriculture in the Latin America is also one that can be pointed at as having contributed significantly to the economy of the region. The crops that thrive in the region are wheat, maize, rice, beans, beef and milk. The fishery sector is also one that stands out in the region and even the world over. The Latin American countries are known to be the major exporters of fish and fisheries products catering for up to 11% of the world exports, Chile being the main exporter (FAO, 2011). The fish and fisheries production product has been so steady in the Latin America and Caribbean with the peak year being 1994 with a 24 million tones which catered for 22% of the world total.

The economy of Brazil and the World polity theory

According to Meyer (1980) a polity is defined as a “system of creating value through the collective conferral of authority.” It is characterized by a set of rules which are referred to as the framework or the models. The participants in the polity are motivated by the frameworks that exist and the fact that it contains no single institution or actor that defines the values of the world.

The polity theory is bent on propagating the world culture, which is a set of universally applicable standards that are to be followed by the members of this world culture. In this theory, the sovereign states are the key actors in the culture. The states maintain their sovereign status and their identity is highly stable, but still belongs to the universal cultures. There is then the institutionalization of the models or the standards which then leads to the ultimate similarity in structure. This in turn makes the states to adopt similar constitutions, education systems and policies.

Since there is an apparent influence of the powerful states, each of the world culture member states will want to have the influence, hence there will be a tendency of the states to comply with the economic systems of the more powerful states of the world culture.

Most of the economies of the powerful states in the world culture, which happen to be the Western countries, are capitalist in nature. Brazil initially had not warmed up to the capitalism ideology but relied mostly on the industrial development and a utilization of the internal market that was equally large. However, the economy of Brazil has turned capitalistic and there is no turning back about this as indicated by Juan De Onis (2000). This is a shift from the nationalist mercantilism which saw a heavy government control of the commerce and credit. The infrastructure and service was provided for and controlled by the state.

However, this economic system has changed by wide and far and Brazil has warmed up to and embraced capitalism as many other countries have done. This is compliance to the world culture that is postulated in the polity theory. In the new economic system, the investors in Brazil are free to make their own investment decisions and choices according to the changes in the market trends and setting. This has been observed to work for Brazil and they continually borrow a lot from the Western countries in a bid to ensure that their economy is and remains to be strong and prosperous (Ted Goertzel, 2008).

Technically, the world polity refers to the political structures, cultures and associations at an international level with an aim of having a homogenous world culture through the policies and associations like the NGOs, an idea which is very apparent in the Brazilian economy and the political leadership and trends.

The economy of Brazil and the World culture theory

Under this theory, globalization is viewed as a compression of the world into a single unit and the intensification of the world consciousness in totality. This theory emphasizes on ensuring that the participants in the globalization process become aware of the idea of living in the world as a single unit or entity. Compression of the world and the conscious view of the world as a single entity is the main focus in this theory (Kathryn M. Anderson-Levitt, 2003).

Here, there is a dissolved autonomy of the member states but rather a connection of the various member states and a constant stimulation of the connection among them. The members are therefore under pressure to adopt an identity that is similar and relative to the new global whole. There is homogenization of culture, globalization of ideologies, technology as well as social globalization. The biggest odd here is the combination of the cultural diversity with cultural uniformity since the world is plural.

There is an influence in this system that runs across the member states in that, the new unit that arises in the world order takes shape relative to the others that surround it. There is also a lot of emulation in that the member states pursue their goals in comparison with the other member states, taking up some common yardstick as a means of measurement (Yu Xitian, 2010).

This has been achieved in the economic sector of the Brazilian people and the Latin America as a whole since there are trade trends and the economic changes that are in tandem with the various first world countries or the Western countries.

There is always a pursuit of economic stability and social provisions like the Western countries and that is why, in order to be as competitive as other economies in the world, Brazil had to change their economic system so that it fits the common system in the world. It has highly encouraged foreign direct investment which saw Brazil take up a significant 23.5% of all the direct foreign investment flowing into the Latin America and Caribbean areas in 2005 (Celio Hiratuka, 2008).

There is also the availability of world known brands and products that are dominating the market in Brazil, an indication that the world culture has had influence in Brazil. These are the brands that are doing well in the international markets like the coca cola brands, HP, Nike and unilever which takes up a whole 18% share of the detergent market among many others (SlideShare Inc., 2011) all these supported by the liberal market structure that has been adopted by the Brazilian government. These are the brands that drive the economy of the particular sectors that they are concerned with like technology, food and beverages, clothing and so on. The globalization of the governance system has also shown that the universal beliefs can be concretized in Brazil.

It is then appropriate to insinuate that the Brazilian economy and that of the Latin America has had substantial share of the world culture influence and the economy is driven pretty much like the international standards. This is further supported by the fact that the governments there are becoming less controlling over the types of investments and the external investors that troop to the region due to the available large consumer base.


There are various ways that the economy can be looked at in terms of the trends it follows and what influences it. For the development of any country in the modern society, the three discussed theories and even more are vital in the explanation and study and possible direction giving of the economies. However, it is worth noting that the theories more often than not give the framework and that is why they are highly overlapping and one is bound to find the qualities discussed in one still existing in the next theory with just slight adjustments or variations.


Celio Hiratuka, (2008). Foreign Direct Investment and Transnational Corporations in Brazil:

Recent Trends and Impacts on Economic Development. Retrieved May 29, 2011 from

FAO, (2011). Agriculture in Latin America and the Caribbean. Retrieved June 5, 2011 from

Frank Lenchner, (2001). Globalization Theories. Retrieved May 30, 2011 from

Jose Carlos Wong Davila, (2011). Market structure, competition and intermediation in the banking industry. Retrieved June 5, 2011 from

Juan De Onis (2000). Brazil’s New Capitalism. Retrieved May 30, 2011 from

Kathryn M. Anderson-Levitt, (2003). Local Meanings, Global Schooling: Anthropology and World Culture Theory. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Retrieved June 1, 2011 from

Merrriam Webster Incorporated, (2011). Definition of Economic Geography. Retrieved May 29,

2011 from

Meyer, John W. (1980). The World Polity and the Authority of the Nation-State. Pp. 109-137 in A. Bergesen (ed.), Studies of the Modern World-System. New York: Academic Press.

SlideShare Inc., (2011). Unilever Brazil Case. Retrieved May 29, 2011 from

South American Experts, (2011). Brazil’s Favela Conditions Improving. Retrieved May 29, 2011


Ted Goertzel, (2008). Making Capitalism Work: The Brazilian Model. Retrieved June 1, 2011


The World Factbook, (2011). South America: Brazil. Retrieved June 1, 2011 from

Yu Xitian, (2010). Combining Research on Cultural Theory and International Relations.

Retrieved June 1, 2011 from

Wallerstein,( 1974). The Rise and Future Demise of the World-Capitalist System: Concepts for Comparative Analysis. Comparative Studies in Society and History 16: pp.387-415.

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