Handbook of Research on Development and Religion
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Handbook of Research on Development and Religion

Edited by Matthew Clarke

With eighty percent of the world’s population professing religious faith, religious belief is a common human characteristic. This fascinating and highly unique Handbook brings together state-of-the-art research on incorporating religion into development studies.
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Chapter 28: Religion and development in Brazil, 1950–2010

Rowan Ireland


Brazil has long been an important case in the study of religion and development. This is because of its status in development studies for more than half a century, and also by virtue of recognition by scholars that its religions, particularly Catholicism, have been centrally involved, negatively and positively, in its processes of development. Let us consider first Brazil’s status in development studies, leaving aside, for the moment, considerations about what development might mean in contemporary Brazil. Geographical and population size, joined with the apparent magnitude of its developmental problems, have guaranteed attention, scholarly and diplomatic. In area, Brazil is by far the largest country in developing Latin America (and the fifth largest in the world, larger than Australia, or the area of the contiguous states of the USA). In the Americas, it is the second largest in population, after the USA. In the six decades noted in this chapter, it has grown from 52 million in 1950 to 195 million in 2010. In world terms, Brazil’s economy is very large: just recently it displaced Great Britain to become the sixth largest in the world, and has never been less than ninth over several decades. But over much of that time too, the size of Brazil’s developmental problems has kept it in the limelight.

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