Branding is ubiquitous, yet its workings in politics are still untheorized. Drawing on the experiences of three cities on three continents, Eleonora Pasotti fills the gap by showing how cities suffering for decades from poor government, entrenched patronage, lack of development, and social conflict made a transition to a new form of governance: brand politics. Facilitated by the joint presence of direct elections, low party discipline, and high rates of municipal fiscal self-reliance, brand politics breaks a vicious cycle of skepticism and inertia and opens the window for a broad set of reforms. The theory of brand politics shows mayors emulating marketing mavericks: in commerce, consumers aspire to become different people by acquiring products; in politics, citizens support mayors’ brands because they seek to become carriers of the same values. Voting and buying have thus become increasingly synonymous in citizens’ primal search for a means of expressing their identities.Read more
- Provides a new theory for the demise of political machines and sets an agenda for comparative urban politics (transnational comparisons of city politics)
- Fills gaps in existing scholarship by explaining how branding - by now nearly ubiquitous - works in politics
- Shows institutional innovation in cities marred by corruption, presenting three critical cases of urban development: Naples, Bogota, and Chicago
Reviews & endorsements
“Through a fine-grained analysis of the campaign strategies of mayors in three major cities—Chicago, Naples, and Bogotá—in the latter decades of the 20th century, Pasotti elaborates a model by which brand politics are enacted. The study is also notable for its attention to the practices, rather than just the policies, that give rise to this political culture of personalism…An important legacy of brand politics, she argues, is the need for a broadened understanding of rational decision making, one that includes emotional processing and heuristics. This is just one of the many novel interventions Pasotti makes. The book is an important contribution to understandings of political communication and the emerging field of critical brand studies.”
– Melissa Aronczyk, Political CommunicationSee more reviews
“In Political Branding in Cities, Eleonora Pasotti gracefully lifts the veil of standard social scientific analysis, and exposes the profound shifts occurring in municipal politics across different regions of the world. From Bogotá to Chicago and Naples, fiscal retrenchment, direct elections, and low party discipline have led to the decline of patronage politics. With notable analytical aplomb, Pasotti also traces the increasing salience of political brands, and lays out the logic of branding. She masterfully demonstrates how branding redefines the relationship between urban political leaders and citizenries; and more broadly, how branding reconfigures the dynamics that connect the formation of civic identities, the mobilization of public opinion, voter behavior, and institutional change. Serious students of public affairs stand to profit greatly from this original and illuminating book.”
-Consuelo Cruz, Tufts University
“Drawing on a comparative case study of breath-taking geographic scope, and detailed local research in three languages, Eleonora Pasotti delivers one of the first side by side examinations of urban politics across the developed -developing country divide. Despite the starkly different national contexts of Bogotá, Chicago and Naples, the surprising findings show many of the same processes at work in all three local settings. The analysis demonstrates the potential of city-level comparisons to generate genuine insights into global shifts in the relations between governing and the governed.”
-Jeffrey Sellers, University of Southern California
“Eleonora Pasotti’s path-breaking book, Political Branding in Cities, analyzes how political entrepreneurs use branding as a means of rising above the politics of corruption even where corruption has been stable for decades. In a study of three cities across the globe – Naples, Bogotá, and Chicago – Pasotti identifies the conditions under which this type of branding can take place. Well-written, this book concludes with the larger implications of branding for politics.”
-Barry Weingast, Stanford University
“Pasotti has given us a highly original account of the transformations that occurred through the construction of a new ‘brand politics’ in Chicago, Bogotá, and Naples. Using this brilliant cross-regional comparison, she shows how the new strategies altered representation by infusing politics with emotional forms of identification that stifled dissent and displaced established patterns of civic engagement.”
-Margaret Weir, University of California, Berkeley
"A dialogue between facts and interpretations and the gradual development of insight into the book’s argument... are highly stimulating to continue reading and give it the potential of an academic page turner.... this book is truly enjoyed and strongly advertised for massive scholarly consumption."
-Kristof Steyvers, Ghent University, Local Government Studies
"Conducting detailed research in three different languages, Pasotti is an immensely skilled qualitative scholar with deep knowledge of cities. She conveys political complexity with clarity and insight (making politics in Naples and Bogota understandable, even for a student of American politics). The insights gleaned from her work are sure to affect the study of cities and clientalism in both the American and comparative context."
-Jessica Trounstine, University of California, Merced, Perspectives on Politics
"Certainly, after a close reading of this book, urban scholars will be better able to understand the current expansion of the symbolic dimension in urban politics and policy-making; they will look for the possibility of bringing some reform along, not only b yprogressive coalitions strengthening institutions in spite of clients, but also by initiating a change in the electorate’s individual values and symbolic frame."
-Davide Ponzini, Politecnico di Milano, Urban Research & Practice
"Eleonora Pasotti’s new book is a detailed and innovative account of the phenomenon of urban 'brand politics': a form of political exchange whereby influence matters more than affiliation, social values more than material benefits, and broad spectrum communication more than clientelistic particularism.... Pasotti’s is the only study I am aware of that specifically defines the terms and conditions of this phenomenon using a direct comparative approach. Through a fine-grained analysis of the campaign strategies of mayors in three major cities—Chicago, Naples, and Bogotá—in the latter decades of the 20th century, Pasotti elaborates a model by which brand politics are enacted."
-Melissa Aronczyk, Carleton University, Political Communication
"Pasotti’s book... constitutes an exquisite account of the transition from machine to branding politics in three major urbes. She provides fine-grained evidence of when and how branding mayors emerged and what they did. She studies their campaigns, scrutinizes the demographic features of the electorate who supported them, and analyzes the urban policies they implemented once in power. With admirable precision and beautiful prose, Pasotti immerses her readers into city budgets, transportation projects, new parks, and other mega endeavors. The book constitutes an amazing portrayal of the transformation of these three cities and the real-world politics that went on behind those processes."
-Tulia G. Falleti, University of Pennsylvania, Comparative Political Studies
"Fundamentally, this is a book of comparative urban politics in search of a broader, new paradigm to explain our experience of the new urban politics in global cities of the twenty-first century. As such, it deserves our careful consideration."
-Dick Simpson, University of Illinois at Chicago, Urban Affairs Review
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- Date Published: October 2009
- format: Hardback
- isbn: 9780521762052
- length: 304 pages
- dimensions: 234 x 157 x 25 mm
- weight: 0.55kg
- contains: 68 b/w illus. 3 tables
- availability: Available
Table of Contents
1. Brands as a solution to the mobilization dilemma
2. Catalysts of machine demise
3. Political campaigning in the wake of the machine
4. Changing public minds
5. Brands and megaprojects
6. Elusive representation
7. Brand politics in global context.
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