The Bradlow Report — 24 July 2019
24 July 2019
Volume 1, Issue 3
It’s been a little bit since the last issue of this newsletter, so I’ll get up to speed by going from the global to the local.
While reports of democracy’s demise across the globe appear with increasing — and genuinely alarming — frequency, the fact remains that the world is much more democratic than it was once was. In fact, the question for most countries is not whether they meet the basic procedural definition of democracy, but how much democracy they practice.
In a new paper forthcoming in Social Forces, which is one of the leading generalist journals in sociology, my co-authors (Ali Kadivar and Adaner Usmani) and I have produced what we believe is the first cross-national study of “deep democracy”. We draw on an original data-set of qualitative characteristics of democratic transitions across the globe, a new “gold-standard” data-set that measures formal and substantive dimensions of democracies, and an in-depth case study of the Brazilian experience. We find that one of the most important factors for democratic deepening after transitions from authoritarian rule is the length of contentious mobilization for democracy during the authoritarian period.
“The Long March: Deep Democracy in Cross-National Perspective”
In the United States and abroad, the Green New Deal idea continues to gain traction. The new leadership of the European Union is engaging in an attempt to water down the transformative potential of the GND and a group of Democrats in the US House of Representatives is pursuing a similar strategy. But even weak imitation is a sincere form of flattery. The range of proposals emerging in the GND framework is a reflection of the enthusiasm for an approach that ties climate change policy to a broader economic transformation.
In The Atlantic magazine's CityLab, I propose a reorganization of federal institutions in the US to realize a GND, with a specific focus on housing policy. My proposal for a new federal Department of Cities & Regions is in large part inspired by my research on the Brazilian urban reform movement and the country’s Ministry of Cities, which was disbanded this year by the Bolsonaro administration. I argue that the proposed changes can reinvigorate the stakes of local politics and, in doing so, breathe new life into democracy in the US.
“One Way to Make the Green New Deal Actually Happen: A Super-Ministry”
And speaking of local democracy, some of you know that I have been part of an effort to realize a Community Benefits Agreement with a private developer managing the redevelopment of my neighborhood of Union Square in Somerville, MA. Our negotiating team recently reached a tentative agreement, which will now undergo a ratification process by our membership. The Boston Globe and the Somerville Journal each reported on this, and I was also interviewed on the Somerville Labor Show about the history and future of this fight. This is part of larger national movement that seeks to bring together residents and labor unions to more effectively steer equitable development. We definitely did not get everything that we wanted in this year-long negotiation, but this agreement is a clear step forward for the broader movement.
“Neighborhood group, developers close to agreement on 15-acre Union Square project”
“Somerville Union Square neighbors reach preliminary agreement on terms of long awaited community benefits with US2”
“Somerville Labor Show with Ben Bradlow”