Brazil has recently shifted from economic growth to recession, from left-wing to far-right politics and from neo-developmentalist to ultra-liberal economic policies. This regressive change in Brazil (and elsewhere) has prompted the need for empirical investigation and emancipatory movement-building, as urged by the Emancipatory Rural Politics Initiative (ERPI). This article responds to the ERPI call by reflecting on the politics of the past. It argues that the road to regression was paved during the tenure of the Workers' Party, when Lula's leadership emerged as representative of interests ‘from below' while advancing a political project that protected and nurtured interests ‘from above’ - a populist ambiguity. By offering an understanding from a class political economy perspective, this article concludes that reinforcing left-wing populism in the face of authoritarianism is unlikely to create a path to emancipation.

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Keywords Brazil, Lulism, populism, neodevelopmentalism, neoliberalism, agribusiness
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Journal The Journal of Peasant Studies
Andrade, D. (2019). Populism from above and below: the path to regression in Brazil. The Journal of Peasant Studies. doi:10.1080/03066150.2019.1680542