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  • Author: Atul Pokharel
  • Publication Date: 08-2016
  • Content Type: Research Paper
  • Institution: Watson Institute for International Studies, Brown University
  • Abstract: Implementing municipal-scale policies is challenging in megacities. Despite this, between 1986 and 2006, Delhi converted its entire public transportation network of nearly 100,000 vehicles to use Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) instead of diesel and petrol. The use of CNG is widely assumed to have been ordered by the Supreme Court of India. But this overlooks how autorickshaws, privately owned and making up three-fourths of these vehicles, came to use CNG even though the court did not order it. Using two new sources of data, I show that the conversion of autos was jointly led by the largest private manufacturer together with the city government. The court facilitated coordination between several other actors, allowed them to experiment, and monitored progress over two decades leading up to the auto conversion. After capping the total number of autos, it ultimately refrained from passing judgment on two consequential aspects of greening them: vehicle ownership and fuel type. As a result, auto owners were buffeted by decades of incremental policy experimentation. Eventually, these experiments reconfigured auto ownership as some sold their operating permits to become renters, while state institutions remained indifferent to this shadow conversion underfoot.
  • Topic: International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Patrick Heller
  • Publication Date: 07-2016
  • Content Type: Research Paper
  • Institution: Watson Institute for International Studies, Brown University
  • Abstract: This paper explores the interaction of politics and business through the lens of the city. The power of business to influence politics in India would lead to a prediction that Indian cities are, in the classic sense of the term, growth machines. Yet we argue in this paper that fundamental problems of governance in India’s megacities have precluded the possibility of business coalitions exerting cohesive influence over investments policies in cities. The result has been the predominance of what we call cabals, that are expert at extracting rents from the city, but in the end fail to promote development in the sense of an institutionalized process of economic and social improvement in the city. Where there has been high growth, it has not been accompanied by the expansion of the cities’ infrastructure and overall coordination capacities. In the end, what is good for business and politicians had neither been good for capitalism in terms of dynamic accumulation nor for inclusion of middle and poorer social groups.
  • Topic: International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Atul Pokharel
  • Publication Date: 07-2016
  • Content Type: Research Paper
  • Institution: Watson Institute for International Studies, Brown University
  • Abstract: What is the relationship between flexible governance and fairness? I examine this question in a new longitudinal dataset of irrigation canals in Nepal that were celebrated as paradigmatic cases of successful local governance. The prevalent explanation is that users have avoided knotty collective action problems by committing to rules and mutually monitoring compliance. These rules are understood to have been iteratively crafted over decades so as to render cooperative behavior reasonable. Embedded in a local context that is assumed to be common knowledge for users but ultimately impenetrable to outsiders, it is critical that locals discursively devise the rules and uniformly enforce them. Revisiting these cases three decades later, I first illustrate a distinction between two aspects of flexible governance: flexible rules and flexible enforcement. The former refers to changing rules over time, the latter to variations in enforcement. I document the predicted flexibility of the rules in these cases. I then show that a significant number of successes are associated with flexible enforcement. Whether flexible enforcement helps or hinders sustained collective action appears to depend on how fair users perceive the rules to be. Thus, discretionary enforcement may be related to the possibilities and limits of local governance in achieving fair outcomes, and not just for merely solving collective action problems.
  • Topic: International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Global Focus