One of the most enduring puzzles concerning India’s development is why the poor, who constitute a sizeable share of the electorate, continue to receive low quality public services. And yet the ability of poor citizens to access development varies wildly, even within the same urban ward or rural panchayat. Why are some vulnerable communities able to secure development from the state while others fail? And how, when, and why do the poor engage public officials in the pursuit of social welfare?

Political scientists Adam Auerbach and Gabrielle Kruks-Wisner shed light on these questions in their new books, which are of relevance both to India and the developing world at large. Auerbach’s book, Demanding Development: The Politics of Public Goods Provision in India’s Urban Slums, draws on more than two years of fieldwork in northern India to uncover why some urban slums succeed while others fail to secure public goods and services. Kruks-Wisner’s book, Claiming the State: Active Citizenship and Social Welfare in Rural India, delves into the lives of ordinary rural Indians and documents when and how citizen activism can succeed in making claims on the state. Please join us as Carnegie’s Milan Vaishnav moderates a discussion between the two authors on their books and ongoing joint research.

Adam Auerbach

Adam Auerbach is assistant professor in the School of International Service at American University. His research and teaching focuses on local governance, urban politics, and the political economy of development, with a regional focus on South Asia and India in particular.

Gabrielle Kruks-Wisner

Gabrielle Kruks-Wisner is assistant professor of politics and global studies at the University of Virginia. Her research focuses on citizen-state relations and social welfare in developing countries, with a regional focus on India.

Milan Vaishnav

Milan Vaishnav is senior fellow and director of the South Asia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, D.C.