Working Papers

Cabal City: Regime Theory and Indian Urbanization

The Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University

June 24, 2016

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.

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