Patrick Heller

Lyn Crost Professor of Social Sciences, Professor of International and Public Affairs and Sociology
111 Thayer Street, Room 263
Areas of Expertise Human Rights, Inequality & Poverty, Social Movements, Urban Policies & Politics, Urbanization, Welfare Policy
Areas of Interest Development, globalization, social theory, democratization, governance, urban transformation


Patrick Heller is the Lyn Crost Professor of Social Sciences and professor of Sociology and International Studies. He is the director of the development research program at the Watson Institute of International Studies and Public Affairs. His main area of research is the comparative study of social inequality and democratic deepening. He is the author of "The Labor of Development: Workers in the Transformation of Capitalism in Kerala," India (Cornell 1999) and co-author of "Social Democracy and the Global Periphery" (Cambridge 2006), "Bootstrapping Democracy: Transforming Local Governance and Civil Society in Brazil" (Stanford 2011) and most recently, "Deliberation and Development: Rethinking the Role of Voice and Collective Action in Unequal Societies." He has published articles on urbanization, comparative democracy, social movements, development policy, civil society and state transformation. His most recent project, Cities of Delhi, conducted in collaboration with the Centre for Policy Research, explores the dynamics of governance and social exclusion in India’s capital.


Urban governance and citizenship

Research in Brazil, South Africa, and India to explore the relationship between citizenship and the quality of urban governance, with a specific focus on the capacity of municipalities to promote inclusive development. Current research includes a 6,000 household survey in Bangalore (with Ashutosh Varshney) and fieldwork in 16 slums in New Delhi with a team of 5 graduate students.

Comparative democratic deepening

Under what conditions can democracy in the Global South be deepened? Based on extended research in India, Brazil, and South Africa, I am writing a book that explores the challenges and possibilities of deepening democracy in the three largest, but most unequal, democracies in the Global South.

Development and globalization

An edited volume with Vijayendra Rao (World Bank) on deliberation and development 2) an edited volume on comparative development with Richard Snyder that includes contributions from leading scholars and two former Presidents (Cardoso and Lagos) 3) a project on global governance and civil society with various Brown faculty



"The State and Development," (with Peter Evans), UNU-WIDER Working Paper 2018, no. 112/2018, Peer Reviewed, Published.

"The Democratic Deepening of Diverse and Unequal Societies: Brazil, India and South Africa Compared," Theory and Society, Peer Reviewed, In Revision. 

"The Developmental State, Race and Class in South Africa: A Spatial Approach," (with Marcelo Bohrt-Seeghers and Diana Graizbord), Sociology of Development, Peer Reviewed, In Revision.

"Engaging the State: Citizenship and Meditation in an Indian City," (wiith Siddarth Swaminathan and Ashutosh Varshney), American Journal of Sociology, Peer Reviewed, Under Review. 


"Civil Society and Social Movements in a Globalizing World," Background Paper for Human Development Report 2012: A Changing World and the Rise of the Global South, United National Development Program, April. Available as UNDP 2013 Human Development Report, Occasional Papers.


"Democracy, Participatory Politics and Development: Some Comparative Lessons from Brazil, India and South Africa," Polity, 44, 643-665.

"Human Development, State Transformation and the Politics of the Developmental State," (with Peter Evans) ed. Stephan Leibfried, Frank Nullmeier, Evelyne Huber, Matthew Lange, Jonah Levy & John Stephens, The Oxford Handbook of Transformations of the State, forthcoming.

"Movements, Politics and Democracy: Kerala in Comparative Perspective," in Routledge Handbook of Indian Politics edited by Atul Kohli and Prerna Singh. London, Routledge.


Bootstrapping Democracy: Transforming Local Governance and Civil Society in Brazil (co-authored with Gianpaolo Baiocchi and Marcelo Kunrath Silva). Stanford University Press.

"Making Citizens from Below and Above: The Prospects and Challenges of Decentralization in India," in Ruparelia, Sanjay and Sanjay Reddy, John Harriss and Stuart Corbridge (eds). Understanding India's New Political Economy, Oxfordshire: Routledge.


"The Spatial Dynamics of Middle Class Formation in Post-Apartheid South Africa: Enclavization and Fragmentation in Johannesburg," (with Amy Kraker-Selzer) Political Power and Social Theory, Volume 21.

"Legacies, Change and Transformation in the Post-Apartheid City: Towards an Urban Sociological Cartography," (with Daniel Schensul), International Journal of Urban and Regional Research.


Theory and Research in Development (DEVL 2000)

Contemporary Sociological Theory (SOC 2050)

Comparative Political Sociology (SOC 2970)

The Sociology of Power (2961D)

Globalization and Social Conflict (SOC 1620)

Recent News

Patrick Heller comments for Outlook India, "In Kerala, because CPI (M) has been in and out of power, it has always maintained closer ties to its rank and file and has had to appeal to a vibrant democratic society where issues of environment, gender and other rights-based issues always have to be addressed.”
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News from Watson

Top ‘News from Watson’ stories of 2023

2023 was an exciting year at the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs with the Institute welcoming its largest-ever cohort of military fellows, celebrating 10 years of the China Initiative and welcoming new leaders. This year’s top 10 stories from the Watson Institute appear below.
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In a new paper, a team of researchers led by members of the Watson Institute's Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Studies found that civil society organizations in the Global South played a critical role in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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