What factors shape political responses to criminal violence?

Who governs in developing world cities? Competition over power represents the essence of politics. And in world where over half the world's population now lives in cities, the urban political landscape provides an optimal setting in which to study the struggle over power.

In this book I use one of the key challenges that developing world cities face -- criminal violence -- to identify and unpack the political coalitions and conflicts that shape how cities mobilize to meet the basic responsibility assigned to political rulers: the provision of security. Using a subnational lens, I show that the institutional projects that cities launch in response to violence can vary significantly even within a single country. These projects range in their intent. Some are designed to impose order through the use of both state-sanctioned and extra-judicial violence. Others combine an emphasis on building the coercive capacity of local governments with efforts to undo entrenched patterns of inequality along socioeconomic and political lines. And still others reside in between these two ends of the spectrum. What explains this variation?

Contrary to assumptions that responding to violence is solely a matter of technocratic policymaking, I show that tackling criminal violence is an inherently political endeavor, and one with broad implications for the distribution of power in society. I argue that we can account for variation in institutional responses to violence by unpacking the interaction between the forms of authority exercised by local governments, the incentives of powerful local business interests, and the patterns of territorial control imposed by criminal actors.  Cities, Business, and the Politics of Urban Violence in Latin America demonstrates that the politics of urban violence is a powerful new lens on a much broader and older question: who governs?