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Observers in the past decades have commented on increased urbanization in India, which has led to new challenges for development, housing, and labor. But the majority of India’s population, and thus electoral power, remains in rural regions.

In a 2018 article, SAI BALAKRISHNAN examines how agrarian political power manifests in urban spaces, looking to real estate markets in Mumbai.

From the paper:

“The electoral power of the agrarian countryside is evident in the relationship of Mumbai to its hinterland. India is the second largest exporter of sugar in the world and more than 40% of India’s sugar exports come from the western Maharashtra region. Sugar production in the region is organised in the form of cooperatives. These sugar cooperatives have been heavily subsidised by the state: 90% of sugar cooperative finances came from state-guaranteed cooperative bank debt; over three quarters of the equity was a direct handout from the state budget. It was Mumbai’s thriving industrial economy that was the source of sugar subsidies. Mumbai’s industrial classes tolerated the diversion of capital from the city to the countryside, as they understood that the state government legislators relied on the peasants for their votes, and that capital diversion was the price to be paid for the political stability from subsidised agrarian prosperity.

In a market-oriented urbanising economy, these elites continue to influence the making of urban real estate markets by flexing their regulatory muscle. The price of a plot of land increases when it is well connected to roads and transport networks, when it has uninterrupted water supply, when it can rise high in the air and thus maximise development rights. Politicians control these road, water and air resources, and in a context where local governments are not yet fully empowered as decisionmakers, state-level politicians wield immense control over resources that get capitalised into the price of land.”

Link to the piece.

  • “Over two-thirds, perhaps as much as three-fourths, of the nation’s GDP is generated in cities where less than a third of the country lives.” In a 2011 column, Ashutosh Varshney examines the power of urban India. Link. And in a 1995 book, Varshney digs deeper into the urban-rural electoral balance. Link.
  • In a 2020 opinion piece, Balakrishnan traces the Covid-induced migrant crisis in India, in which millions traveled from cities to villages, to patterns of unequal agricultural development dating back to the Green Revolution. Link.
  • “Caste structures not only access to land, resources and power, but also the agrarian land transition in the context of a ‘new city’ project.” In a recent article, Carol Upadhya studies land pooling in Andhra Pradesh. Link.


Prisons & Shelters

Assistant professor of Urban Studies at Barnard College CHRISTIAN SIENER studies the political economy of homelessness. In his dissertation, he analyzes the foundations of homeless shelters in New York City by looking at the case of Camp LaGuardia, the city’s largest homeless shelter until its closure in 2007.

From the text:

“The appearance and expanded use of homeless shelters is concomitant with the rise in prisons across New York since the early-1980s. This study demonstrates further, historical continuity with a case study of conditions surrounding the transition of Camp LaGuardia, a prison that slowly transformed into a homeless shelter. The dissertation thus examines the continuities and ruptures between homeless shelters and prisons, both of which have historically been institutions intending to effect individualized behavior modification. Rather than seeing these institutions as disconnected, I position them in their historical relationship: the invention of the homeless shelter out of prison restructuring through its earliest example in New York City. I understand this relationship not only through the overlap of people who spend time in each place, but also through the ideological configurations of what the institutions are meant to do.”

Link to the paper.

Each week we highlight research from a graduate student, postdoc, or early-career professor. Send us recommendations: editorial@jainfamilyinstitute.org.

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  • “Rich countries’ pandemic policies are sucking growth and capital out of the developing world.” Jayati Ghosh warns of stagflation in emerging markets. Link.
  • Brett Christophers examines how US single-family homes became an asset class following the Great Recession. Link.
  • Temesgen Tesfamariam Beyan on migration, remittances, and the transformation of agricultural societies in Eritrea. Link.
  • Fabian Pape on swap lines and the Fed’s role in domestic and global markets. Link. (ht: Paul)
  • “Inflation, in short, does not have to be a totalizing problem…the far greater threat, history shows, is inflation fearmongering.” Andrew Yamakawa Elrod in the Boston Review. And see Yamakawa Elrod’s PW piece on inflation from earlier this year. Link.
  • Shinsuke Tanaka, Kensuke Teshima, and Eric Verhoogen on how battery recycling regulation in the US led to negative environmental outcomes in Mexico. Link.
  • “By the time significant PPP money arrived in some minority neighborhoods, they’d already lived through the months of shutdowns and the worst of the pandemic’s economic impact.” In Bloomberg, Shruti Singh, Andre Tartar and Christopher Cannon on delays in PPP funds in Chicago. Link.
  • “Between 1881 and 1910, Swedish society underwent two transformative developments: the large-scale roll-out of a national railway network and the nascence of grassroots social movements which came to dominate economic, social and political spheres well into the twentieth century. I implement a market access framework to show that, by reducing least-cost distances between localities, railways intensified the influence exerted by neighbouring concentrations of membership, thereby enabling social movement spread. Subsequently – in Sweden’s first election with universal male suffrage in 1911 – localities with greater social movement mobilisation exhibited higher turnout and Social Democrat vote shares.” By Eric Melander. Link.

Each week we highlight research from a graduate student, postdoc, or early-career professor. Send us recommendations: editorial@jainfamilyinstitute.org

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