My dissertation explores the factors that facilitated state-sponsored population expulsions in Botswana and Zimbabwe, for the sake of attempted commodification/capitalization of subterranean diamond reserves in two locales. Using a comparative and historical approach, I locate structural, strategic, and discursive selectivities across spatio-temporal horizons that [try to] impose modest degrees of regulation on commodification and capitalization processes, in order to create stable regimes of accumulation. This work challenges prevailing theories of ‘resource curses,’ ‘conflict diamonds,’ and ‘miracle [developmental] states’ by locating (inter)national forms of statecraft and coercion that influence states’ and MNCs’ ability to violently access and extract diamonds. Recently, I have also worked on several projects pertaining to theory building and expansion in the domains of globalization, culture, and political economy, including; (1) a manuscript bridging the insights of the late Nicos Poulantzas with current theories of globalization and development [forthcoming in Progress in Development Studies]; and, with a colleague at UC-Irvine, (2) a manuscript that puts World-Systems Analysis in dialogue with the Cultural Political Economy approach, creating a holistic framework for studying the interplay between semiotic and material phenomena as it pertains to social movements, populism, and more [forthcoming in Critical Sociology].
The Political Development of Urban Clientelism in Twentieth Century Latin America: Mexico City, Lima, and Caracas in Comparative-Historical Perspective
Since Tönnies, social theorists have tended to think of urbanization as central to modernization, and to qualify clientelism—informal and hierarchical quid-pro-quo relations mediated by brokers—as nonmodern and destined for extinction. Through a comparative-historical analysis of three twentieth century Latin American cities, I challenge these views by showing that urbanization underwrote clientelism. From the 1940s to the 1980s, that region experienced the fastest and most extensive urban growth in world history, during which vast squatter settlements were established around its large cities. Focusing on Mexico City, Lima, Peru, and Caracas, Venezuela, I show, first, that this gave rise to informal quid-pro-quo relations between squatters and the state which were mediated by brokers, relations characteristic of clientelism. Second, I find that urban growth bolstered brokers’ power: urbanization generated conflicts between older and newer squatter generations which drove the latter into urban brokers’ arms for protection, giving brokers the ability to mobilize them to extend control over settlement turf and extract rent. By linking the rise of clientelism to a central aspect of modernization, these conclusions may force us to revisit and rethink basic assumptions in political development.