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Title: From industrial capital to modern 'urban miracle'? : the political economy of governance, growth and development in Medellín, Colombia
Author: Franz, Tobias
ISNI:       0000 0004 6500 5689
Awarding Body: SOAS University of London
Current Institution: SOAS, University of London
Date of Award: 2017
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This thesis provides a political economy analysis of governance, growth and development using the case study of Colombia's second city Medellín. Most conventional explanations consider 'good governance' reforms to be the institutional underpinnings for Medellín's recent developments, arguing that a standard set of institutions and governance capabilities were necessary to achieve an "urban miracle". In contrast, this thesis uses a historical political economy framework to argue that, for a detailed understanding of institutional changes and their respective implications, we need to analyse the interdependency between power and institutions. When interactions of powerful actors and institutions achieve a sustainable level of growth and stability a 'political settlement' emerges. This political settlements approach argues that there are no 'good' or 'bad' institutions per se, but only favourable and less favourable interdependent combinations of power and institutions that affect the capabilities of governance agencies to reduce growth-constraining transaction costs and to maintain political stability. The theoretical originality of this thesis is the analysis of how decentralized governance and globalized economic networks have changed the dynamics of traditional power structures and challenged standard strategies of institutional rent management. In particular, it explores ways in which these processes may expand the political settlements approach. Challenging conventional analyses of the role of institutions for growth, this thesis applies a mixed methods case study approach using qualitative and quantitative data to illuminate three original contributions to the understanding of Medellín's development. First, it provides an alternative analysis of Medellín's industrialization process, arguing that favourable combinations of power and institutions enhanced growth in light manufacturing industries. Secondly, the thesis explores political economy explanations of how the distribution of power in Medellín's political settlement became largely incompatible with institutional mechanisms needed for the promotion of advanced industrial development. Insufficient governance capacities to create and distribute growth-enhancing rents in the 1970s led to economic slowdown, political instability, and violence. Thirdly, the thesis argues that recent developments in Medellín can be understood in the context of Colombia's radical shift to neoliberalism, which included decentralization reforms and a transnationalization of capitalist elite's interests. These changes have enduring implications. The new combination of power structures and institutions creates limited governance capabilities to incentivize productivity growth. The powerful position of the transnational capitalist elite in the ruling coalition furthermore hinders the enforcement of disciplining mechanisms. While these structures might stabilize the political settlement by gathering different elite factions around the axis of transnational accumulation patterns, they also facilitate Medellín's return to static comparative advantages in labour-intensive industries and low technological services, perpetuating the city's confinement in the low productivity end of global value chains.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral