Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
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Maria Victoria Murillo — Understanding Weak Institutions: Lessons from Latin America

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

5:30 p.m. – 7 p.m.

McKinney Conference Room, 111 Thayer Street

Analysts and policymakers often decry the failure of institutions to accomplish their purpose.  Bringing together leading scholars of Latin American politics, this volume helps us understand why.  The volume offers a conceptual and theoretical framework for studying weak institutions.  It introduces different dimensions of institutional weakness and explores the origins and consequences of that weakness.  Drawing on recent research on constitutional and electoral reform, executive-legislative relations, property rights, environmental and labor regulation, indigenous rights, squatters and street venders, and anti-domestic violence laws in Latin America, we provide a new typology of institutional weakness and associate different political dynamics to its distinct categories. Hence, we seek to improve our understanding of why politicians often design institutions that they cannot or do not want to enforce or comply with.  Challenging existing theories of institutional design, the volume helps us understand the logic that drives the creation of weak institutions, as well as the conditions under which they may be transformed into institutions that matter.

Development Seminar

Maria Victoria Murillo holds a joint appointment with the Department of Political Science and the School of International and Public Affairs and is currently the Director of the Institute for Latin American Studies(ILAS) at Columbia University.

Murillo's research on distributive politics in Latin America has covered labor politics and labor regulations, public utility reform, education reform, agricultural policies, and economic policy more generally. Her more recent work focuses on electoral behavior, contentious dynamics, and the analysis of institutional weakness. Her empirical work is based on a variety of methods ranging from quantitative analysis of datasets built for all Latin American countries to qualitative field work in Argentina, Chile, Mexico, and Venezuela and survey and experiments in Argentina and Chile.