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Working Papers

Coupling the Environmental State: Global Climate Politics in the Amazon Rainforest

Sociological studies stress how macro-level factors such as economic modernization or world society lead to domestic environmental institutions. Often overlooked are the processes through which institutions develop the capacity to provide environmental welfare as a routinary administrative function. Extending on political-historical and development theories, I argue that environmental problems have distinct globalizing and scientizing tendencies, which transform the logics of state capacity (bureaucracy, embeddedness, and autonomy) and elites’ resistance (parties, leaders, and coalitions). I develop this argument through a comparative-historical analysis of environmental institutions in Brazil from 1985 to 2022. Importantly, this includes a record instance of policy-induced reduction in CO2 emissions in the Amazon Rainforest, which allows me to theorize its corollaries. My findings allow me to conceptualize a processual pathway of environmental institutions: learning regimes, expansionary regimes, resilient regimes, and dismantling regimes. By extending inquiries of state-building to environmental problems, this article makes contributions to environmental, political-historical, transnational, and development sociologies.


Domesticating Development: How Transnational Financial Flows Shape Organizational Fields.

This article theorizes channels through which transnational financial flows shape organizational fields over time. Rather than given in nature, transnational development finance reflects explicit choices by multiple actors related to the legal entity that receives funds, who decides how funds will be spent, and how funds are connected to public policy. I conceptualize these choices as socio-legal strategies to domesticate development.  The dual meaning of domesticate captures two keyways in which development finance shapes organizational fields. First, domesticating encompasses the social-legal strategies transnational actors engage to legitimize development practices at the local level— domesticating as in making it national. In turn, and paradoxically, domesticating also encompasses the socio-legal strategies through which actors utilize transnational finance to insulate domestic policy from democratic politics—domesticating as in making it tamable.

Methodologically, I utilize a computational and comparative approach. First, I use a novel grant-level dataset compiling over 3600 payments from institutions such as the World Bank, EU, USAID, Ford Foundation, and the Brazilian Government to state and non-state actors working on climate change in Brazil from 1990 to 2020. This allows me to visually map financial flows’ quantities (USD amount of grants) and qualities (description of grants, the kind of donor and recipient). Second, I utilize descriptive network analysis to identify key nodes and changes in each decade’s organizational field. Third, I conducted  in-depth interviews with policy elites occupying prominent positions in these networks. Finally, I compiled documents related to the establishment of different policy funds identified in these networks.

Fear and Trust in Unequal Democracies: Elites and the Politics of Redistribution in the Global South [Graziella Moraes Silva, Matias Lopez, Chana Teeger, Livio Silva-Muller]


Elites in contemporary unequal democracies have heightened privilege and disproportionate power, but also inhabit increasingly hostile social and political environments. We address this tension by asking how elite actors in two of the most unequal countries in the world—Brazil and South Africa—make sense of inequality. Our study shifts the empirical focus from how elites benefit from inequality to how they shape the politics of redistribution. To do so, we draw on an original survey of politicians, businesspeople, and high-level civil servants in the two countries. We identify three factors central to explaining elites’ redistributive preferences:(i) fear of the negative consequences of inequality (ii) trust in markets, and (iii) trust in political institutions and actors. We show how country-level characteristics explain the distinct levels at which each of these operates.

In development

- How Race Matters for Elites' Views on Redistribution [Chana Teeger, Graziella Moraes Silva, & Livio Silva-Muller]

- Whose merit and which redistribution? Elite (dis)identification with the poor and varieties of redistributive preferences in Brazil and South Africa [with Graziella Moraes Silva]

- The Problem of Climate Change and Comparative Historical Sociology

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