Urbanization and Robust Brokerage in Twentieth Century Latin America

Simeon J. Newman, Max-Weber-Institut für Soziologie, Universität Heidelberg

From the 1940s to the 1980s, Latin America experienced the fastest and most extensive urbanization in world history. Rural-to-urban migration and natural population growth led to vast squatter settlements around the region’s large cities. In them, a system of clientelism emerged in which urban brokers mediated between squatters and the state and sometimes became extra-state political authorities unto themselves. The main two theories put forth to explain such phenomena are what I call "residual ruralism theory"—which posits that migrants import rural customs into the city which then contribute to brokers' power—and "resource patronage theory"—which maintains that those who channel state resources are able to thereby derive non-state political authority. Focusing on three cases—Mexico City, Lima, Peru, and Caracas, Venezuela—and drawing from extensive original archival data, the press, and ethnographic and secondary research, I show that these theories do poorly at explaining urban brokers’ power: residual ruralism theory leads us to expect that brokers would be especially powerful in Lima while resource patronage theory leads us to expect that they would be especially strong in Caracas, but they actually had the most power in Mexico City. Their power, I argue, stems from *conflicts* between older and newer *generations* of squatters, which drove the latter into urban brokers’ arms in search of protection, allowing brokers to mobilize them to extend control over settlement turf and extract rent. This mechanism empowered Mexico City’s brokers more than those elsewhere because its squatter settlements were vaster and, therefore, had more between-generation conflicts. Since urban growth is central to this finding, the theoretical implications are potentially far-reaching. At a minimum, the finding forces us to rethink the relationship between societal *modernization*—central to which is urbanization—and *clientelism* and brokerage—typically considered a "traditional" form of authority relations.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 122. Approaches to Southern Urbanization