Urban Power: Democracy and Inequality in São Paulo and Johannesburg


Wednesday, February 10, 2021, 12:00pm to 1:20pm

To watch the recording, click here

Speaker: Ben Bradlow, Postdoctoral Fellow, Weatherhead Scholars Program, Harvard University
Moderator: Bruno Carvalho, Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures and African and African American Studies
Discussant: Alisha Holland, Associate Professor of Government, Harvard University

The divergent trajectories of São Paulo and Johannesburg’s distribution of urban public goods — housing, sanitation, and collective transportation — since their respective countries’ transitions to democracy transform questions about the relationship between democracy and equality into an empirical puzzle: Why are some cities more effective than others at reducing inequality? I argue that Sao Paulo’s success relative to Johannesburg was thanks to the sequence and configuration of two factors: the “embeddedness” of the local state in civil society, especially housing movements, and the “cohesion” of the local state to coordinate across scales of government.

Benjamin Bradlow's research explores - why some cities more unequal than others, why government institutions reproduce or reduce urban inequalities, when and how does democracy transform the organizational resources available to people who aim to exploit or overcome urban inequalities. He is currently comparing the distribution of urban public goods - housing, sanitation, and transportation - in two mega-cities (Johannesburg, South Africa and São Paulo, Brazil) after transitions to democracy.

Presented in collaboration with the Harvard University Center for African Studies and the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs