Brazil has recently undergone a shift from economic growth to recession, as well as from a left-wing, neo-developmentalist politics to one on the far-right, authoritarian and economically ultraliberal. Such an economic and political U-turn touched upon the countryside in contrasting ways. This paper reflects on the politics of the past. It suggests that the road to regression was paved during the tenure of the Worker’s Party (PT), when politics were considered both popular and progressive. And it was under the PT’s rule when the ‘rural world’ mattered the most for politics.
The stretch from Bakersfield to Arvin, California in Kern County, California reveals a great deal about the role of “Big Ag” and “Big Oil” in the wave of authoritarian populism that brought Trump to political power in 2016.