Urban Governance and the Politics of Planning in the Developing World

This course starts from the premise that politics and governance arrangements will both enable and constrain effective urban planning action. Using a focus on cities in the developing world, the course examines an array of governance structures (centralized versus decentralized states, local versus regional versus national authorities, participatory budgeting, etc.) and political conditions (democracy versus authoritarianism, neoliberal versus corporatist versus leftist party politics, social movements) that are relatively common to cities of the global south. In addition to assessing the impacts of these structures and conditions on urban policy formation and implementation, we also ask which governance arrangements and political contexts are more or less likely to produce equitable, inclusive, and sustainable cities. The course not only aims to develop student comprehension of key concepts and debates in the field, including those relating to state autonomy and capacity, the connections between decentralization and democratization, and the trade-offs between legitimacy and efficiency; it also uses case study materials to document the conditions under which authorities have been able to finesse politically charged or institutionally bounded terrains in the service of effective planning action. Among the wide array of urban policy domains to be discussed, special attention is paid to transportation, housing, informal vending, and mega-project development, with most examples drawn from Latin America, South Asia, and East Asia. There are no prerequisites for the course. Evaluation is based on several short writing assignments and in-class presentations.