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Urban Conflict and Social Movements in Poor Countries: Theory and Evidence of Collective Action


  • John Walton


This paper evaluates the perennial question of whether the urban poor in developing countries are autonomous political actors or co-opted tools of patronage. I develop a theoretical interpretation of urban politics, arguing that collective action is shaped by changing configurations of state, economy and civil society. Collective action is expressed in struggles over labor, public goods and political rights - issues of varying salience in different periods of development. The theoretical framework generates a set of propositions which I evaluate with reference to a wide range of secondary evidence. At bottom, the data indicate that collective action varies in form and intensity (militance) with specifiable conditions. Illustratively, clientism did predominate during the 'developmental decades' (1960-80) that followed earlier (1930-60) experiences of militant labor conflict and yielded in the current period of neoliberalism to struggles for political rights. Copyright Joint Editors and Blackwell Publishers Ltd 1998.

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  • John Walton, 1998. "Urban Conflict and Social Movements in Poor Countries: Theory and Evidence of Collective Action," International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 22(3), pages 460-481, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:ijurrs:v:22:y:1998:i:3:p:460-481

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    Cited by:

    1. V. Watson, 2011. "Communicative Planning: Experiences, Prospects and Predicaments," Chapters,in: International Handbook of Urban Policy, Volume 3, chapter 6 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    2. Levin-Waldman, Oren M., 2009. "Urban path dependency theory and the living wage: Were cities that passed ordinances destined to do so?," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 38(4), pages 672-683, August.

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