Congratulations to Politics assistant professor Alisha Holland, winner of the 2018 Herbert Jacob Book Prize from the Law & Society Association (LSA), for Forbearance as Redistribution. The Politics of Informal Welfare in Latin America.
From the LSA: "Alisha Holland’s Forbearance as Redistribution. The Politics of Informal Welfare in Latin America advances a truly innovative thesis and draws on an impressive array of original research. Holland argues that large numbers of people in developing nations who live and work outside the nation’s legal structure are doing so because politicians are adopting a conscious policing of forbearance to their extra-legal activities. That is, conventional wisdom largely assumes that non-enforcement by politicians is a function of state capacity, not political choice, particularly around property rights. Holland shows that this is not always the case. In fact, deliberate non-enforcement of some property laws – in this case squatting and street vending – can be a clear political decision, one that is calculated to keep the poor voting for local politicians who are in a position to ignore laws that would jeopardize the housing and economic opportunities for the poor.
The book focuses on two basic aspects of this extra-legal existence: housing and street vending, as it is manifested in the capital cities of three South American countries, Colombia, Peru and Chile. Holland argues that this policy of forbearance serves a redistributive function by providing positive benefits to the poor, namely cheap, tax-free housing and easily accessed employment. This decision is motivated by politicians who seek the votes of the poor, and its consequences are maintained by institutional momentum or path dependence. The author documents the various forms of the phenomenon itself (e.g., purchase of private, legally restricted land in Bogota, squatting on public land in Lima), describes the politics of the three cities, and analyzes a wide range of data that demonstrate the strength of her thesis.
Holland’s book illustrates how millions of people obtain housing and economic opportunity not through grand social welfare state policy, but through micro-level decisions of local politicians who face electoral accountability from the poor. The finding is powerful and counter-intuitive for many scholars who assume the poor have little political power and that property rights are the sine qua non of modern (western, democratizing/democratic) states. Moreover, the book has crucial implications for how legal scholars understand the uses (and non-uses) of law and is illustrative of a rich tradition of law and society scholarship that situates law in the micro decision-making of everyday politics."
Established in 1996 as the LSA Book Award, and re-named in memory of Herbert Jacob, past President of LSA, the competition is open to books from all fields of, and approaches to, law and society scholarship (excluding legal history).