Ideas and revolution

By Emma Lucas

Blyth describes how ideas and ideology can influence the development of institutions. In this blogpost I will apply his theory to the Marxist revolution in Russia during the first world war. 

“Agents must argue over, diagnose, proselytize, and impose on others their notion of what a crisis actually is before collective action to resolve the uncertainty facing them can take any meaningful institutional form.” That means that ideology influences the notion of when a situation is a economic crisis, which than means that ideology influences the perception of an institutions that has ‘failed’ and that has to be changed. 

In 1917 Russia was effected by economic downfall, bad governance and was losing in the first world war. (1) This caused civil unrest. First, the revolution focussed on overthrowing the Czar, since he was believed to be the main problem. Ideas influences this decision,  since having a Czar was seen as the institution that caused all the problems. The new moderate government, however, was overthrown after a few months by Lenin in the Bolshevik revolution. Lenin did not believe that the moderate government did enough to lead the country towards the Marxist state. After the revolution, Lenin lead Russia as the first Marist state in the world. 

Marxism is a very specific ideology, since it does not only refers to how the world should be, but also through which process this should be implemented. In the Russian revolution, there even was an ‘intervention’ when some thought that the new government did not follow the ‘blueprint’ for institutions from Marist theory enough in the form of a new revolution. This was a revolution that was caused by ideas about how wealth should be divided and after the institutions were designed based upon that ideology.


Medellin on LDS?

By Emma Lucas

Kohli describes a developmental state, or a cohesive capitalist state, as “characterized by cohesive politics, that is, by centralized and purposive authority structures that often penetrate deep into the society.” In this blogpost I will try to apply the concept of a developmental state to Colombia. 

After thirty years of Washington consensus and drug related violence, Colombia and specifically Medellin tried to improve their situation. This happened under the leadership of their Mayor Luis Perez in the late nineties and between 2003-2007 under the leadership of Sergio Fajardo . Medellin started to look like a developmental state, however, this was not organized via the state, but via the city itself. One problem in South-America is that the state has very low-tax rates, which means the state is often “undercapacitated and inactive”, especially on the sub-national levels. However Medellin solved this by working closely together with Empresas Publicas de Medellín (EPM), which has to pay 30% of their profit into the city administration’s budget.(

This budget was spend on building a new civic culture, where rich and poor were motivated to care about the city and each other. Moreover, the city invested in publicly-funded business support centres to attract investment in the poorest neighborhoods and help set up new businesses.  Moreover, the city funded micro-loans with very low interest-rates. 

This is an interesting case, because it takes a different organizational level than the states that are the focus on Kohli’s argument. Since one could argue that when Medellin started to behave like a developmental state, Colombia itself would not have been able to do this on the state-level. This could be a small-scale example for other developing nations that do not have the “centralized and purposive authority structures” in their states. 

Belgian Colonization of Congo

By Emma Lucas

When Congo became independent from Belgium in June 1960, there were only sixteen university graduates out of a population of thirteen million. Many argue that this lack of education is part of the reason why Congo still faces so many problems in their development and stability. According to Acemoglu, Robinson and Johnson colonial powers adopted strategies for colonization based on the areas they colonized. Some former colonies were controlled via existing power structures while other colonies, e.g. United States, attracted settlers. According to the scholars, this resulted in different means of getting economic benefits from the colonies. However, I think that the way of keeping the colonies under control also changed. The settlers expected that the colonies were similar to the country they left, which meant that to create stability in the colonies the colonial power had to prevent the settlers from thinking that independence would improve their living conditions.

However, Congo did not have these settlers. Rather, the colonial powers dependent on existing power structures. They tried to extract as much wealth as possible, and often used oppressive means to get that wealth. That means that to keep power, the colonial powers had to oppress the people. Therefore, the colonial powers had an incentive to actively prevent the people from gaining power and creating a population that could be ready for independence. This explains that for example in Congo, but also in many other former colonies, education and promotion of vocational training of African peoples were discouraged.

So, besides strengthening harmful institutions, colonial powers would have set up the former colonies to fail by creating circumstances that made independence difficult. However, for settlers-colonies, to prevent independence colonial powers would have created circumstances very similar to their own, which could explain the difference between the current development offormer colonies.