In the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, Brazil improved the health and well-being of its populace more than any other large democracy in the world. Long infamous for its severe inequality, rampant infant mortality, and clientelist politics, the country ushered in an unprecedented twenty-five-year transformation in its public health institutions and social development outcomes, declaring a striking seventy percent reduction in infant mortality rates.
Thus far, the underlying causes for this dramatic shift have been poorly understood. In Movement-Driven Development, Christopher L. Gibson combines rigorous statistical methodology with rich case studies to argue that this transformation is the result of a subnationally-rooted process driven by civil society actors, namely the Sanitarist Movement. He argues that their ability to leverage state-level political positions to launch a gradual but persistent attack on health policy implementation enabled them to infuse their social welfare ideology into the practice of Brazil's democracy. In so doing, Gibson illustrates how local activists can advance progressive social change more than predicted, and how in large democracies like Brazil, activists can both deepen the quality of local democracy and improve human development outcomes previously thought beyond their control.
About the author
Christopher L. Gibson is Assistant Professor in the School for International Studies at Simon Fraser University.
"Movement-Driven Development provides an original theoretical framework for understanding how mobilization can advance social policy. An impeccable, multifaceted study of a uniquely successful movement of public health professionals in Brazil, it is a foundational contribution to the evolution of social movement and development theory. Scholars, policy-makers, and activists will all gain from Gibson's analysis."
—Peter Evans, Professor Emeritus, University of California, Berkeley and Senior Research Fellow, Brown University
"Christopher Gibson's new book is a substantive, theoretical, and methodological success. It offers new ideas concerning social movements and institutional change, and harnesses a rigorous comparison of four case studies to teach us about the role of Brazil's public health movement in improving social development outcomes."
—James Mahoney, Northwestern University