Salo Vinocur Coslovsky
Associate Professor of Urban Planning and Public Service
295 Lafayette Street
New York, NY 10012
Salo Coslovsky's research analyzes how governments in developing countries build legal authority and use it to influence routine business practices. He is particularly interested in the enforcement of labor, environmental, food safety, and similar regulations that protect vulnerable groups from exploitation and abuse. This is a topic of much contemporary concern as it addresses the twin challenge of how markets can be more vibrant and more humane. This topic is also forward looking, as it examines how governments can promote economic development even when they are restricted by international treaties, relatively free trade, and the need to attract transnational capital flows.
Professor Coslovsky conducts most of his research in Brazil, and has studied numerous industries, including the production of pig-iron, sugar and ethanol, brazil-nuts, farmed shrimps, cattle ranching, and more. In addition to his academic work, Coslovsky has advised Brazilian and multilateral organizations, including the Ministry of Environment, the Environmental Protection Agency, the International Labor Organization, and the Inter-American Development Bank on matters of policy design and implementation.
He received an M.A. in Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University; Ph.D. in Urban Studies and Planning, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
His personal website can be found at http://salocoslovsky.wordpress.com/ It contains the working paper version of all his papers.
In this course, students examine the challenges and opportunities of national development. Following Lant Pritchett, we define national development as the lockstep improvement in (i) economic productivity, (ii) political representation, (iii) public sector’s administrative capacity, and (iv) respect for minority rights. In contrast to targeted or piece-meal policy interventions that strive to improve conditions in one sector or alleviate the poverty of a chosen group, the pursuit of national development promises sustained gains to the entire nation. And yet, national development is difficult to achieve, and advances in one dimension are often accompanied by setbacks in others.
The course is comprised of three modules. During the first module, we discuss the main differences between national development and poverty alleviation. We also conduct a series of data-driven, inductive exercises to help students understand how national development has been pursued over time and around the globe. Through this effort, we identify some of the most important models of development that have existed, and how their different parts fit together.
During the second module, we discuss six recent books (or soon-to-be published manuscripts) that present leading-edge analysis on some of the main themes covered during the first module, at a rate of one book per week. Each of these books examines one critical topic –public health, primary education, rule of law, public sector capacity, human capital, and business competitiveness and labor standards – and is rooted in the experience of one key country or region –China, India, Brazil, Egypt, US, Germany and France. After reading each book, we discuss and critique its main premises, data & methods, conclusion, and policy implications. We also discuss how the insights it generates might change our own views on the challenges and opportunities of national development.
During the third module, students present and discuss their own papers or research proposals on themes that intersect with the topics discussed in the course.
How do innovative green technologies emerge and diffuse throughout an economy, and how can public policy affect this process? This paper draws from two case studies to reverse engineer how certain firms adopted green technologies in Brazil: (i) eco-packaging to reduce net waste in the consumer goods industry and (ii) the monitoring and tracking of cattle to reduce deforestation in the Amazon. These green products were, as is often the case, more expensive to produce, and consumers were often reluctant to pay more for them just because they were greener; indeed, consumers could even find them to be less attractive than conventional alternatives. Why did the innovations nevertheless emerge? Adoption hinged on the existence of an “innovation space,” a combination of factors that allowed firms to ignore market pressures. In some cases, these firms saw an advantage in investing in green products to build brand equity. In other cases, government policies in the form of price controls, subsidies, public investment, and product regulations reduced competitive pressures.
Private-sector firms play a central role in political struggles over labor law, yet few studies have explored manager’s heterogeneous perceptions of labor regulation. Which managers find labor regulation an obstacle? We argue that two opposing sets of variables account for variation in employers’ views of labor regulation. On one side, competitive pressures, especially from firms that do not have to comply with strict standards, make employers more likely to resist regulations. On the other side, employers’ reliance on more advanced management practices, such as employing more skilled and permanent workers, makes them less likely to perceive regulations as an obstacle. From this argument, we derive a series of hypotheses regarding the relationship between employer opinions and trade, FDI, “high road” human resource practices, and competition from the informal sector. We test these hypotheses using micro-data collected by the World Bank from over 16,000 manufacturing establishments in 67 low- and middle-income countries. By showing how distinct employers react to the different regulatory burdens that they face, this paper opens new avenues of inquiry for scholars interested in the politics of regulation.
What happens to a country’s system of labor laws when its government embraces market-oriented reforms? In a twist on the prediction that labor regulations will be repealed, researchers find that laws remain in place but are not faithfully enforced, a phenomenon known as de facto flexibility. This article examines the case of Brazil to understand its near-opposite; namely, resilience and renewal in the enforcement of labor regulations. It finds that labor unions have combined the corporatist authority they gained under state control with the autonomy they acquired under democratization to devise new modes of action and to safeguard existing regulations. Meanwhile, labor inspectors and prosecutors rely on existing laws to combat precarious work conditions and promote formal employment relations, which strengthen the unions. This mutually supportive arrangement is neither perfect nor free of tension, but it shows how workers can be protected even when employers are subjected to global competition.
How do prosecutors acquire professional prerogatives, organizational autonomy, and legal authority? In contrast to previous research, which identifies top-down, bottom-up and outside-in models of reform, we show that government officials can engage in transformation from within their own ranks. Specifically, we examine how Brazilian prosecutors evolved from a low profile assemblage of transient and politically dependent prosecutors into one of the most autonomous and authoritative public agencies in the country. We find that they created cohesion among their ranks, lobbied incessantly, and crafted alliances that nonetheless keep their options open. Thanks to this responsive and pragmatic strategy, they took full advantage of ongoing turbulence in Brazilian politics: whenever the opportunity context expanded, they advanced their cause; whenever the context contracted, they strengthened their mobilizing structures and protected their gains. While previous research looks at one transition at a time, this longitudinal study shows the heterogeneous strategies of long-term reform.
Cities need law to thrive but it is not clear how abstract texts become tangible policy outcomes. Existing research on the role of law in urban affairs conceives law as either an algorithm that shapes urban life, or a reflection of political disputes. The former assumes that the meaning of law is obvious; the latter claims it is irrelevant. In contrast to these views, this paper argues that laws are multipurpose instruments that acquire a specific function when enforced by those government agents who operate at the frontlines of public service. To understand what these agents do and why, this paper conducts a qualitative study of the Ministério Público and the Defensoria Pública in São Paulo, Brazil. It finds that these government agencies are not cohesive bureaucracies but heterarchies composed of distinct internal factions with different evaluative principles. Moreover, officials within them are not isolated from other entities in society but tightly entangled with them, and these connections influences what officials do. Finally, enforcement agents are not always resigned to solving conflicts as they arrive. Rather, they strive to find acceptable solutions in the interstices of existing conditions or even change the circumstances that created the conflict in the first place.
In recent years, global corporations and national governments have been enacting a growing number of codes of conduct and public regulations to combat dangerous and degrading work conditions in global supply chains. At the receiving end of this activity, local producers must contend with multiple regulatory regimes, but it is unclear how these regimes interact and what results, if any, they produce. This paper examines this dynamic in the sugar sector in Brazil. It finds that although private and public agents rarely communicate, let alone coordinate with one another they nevertheless reinforce each other’s actions. Public regulators use their legal powers to outlaw extreme forms of outsourcing. Private auditors use the trust they command as company insiders to instigate a process of workplace transformation that facilitates compliance. Together, their parallel actions block the low road and guide targeted firms to a higher road in which improved labor standards are not only possible but even desirable.
In recent years, developing countries have deregulated, privatized and liberalized their economies. Surprisingly, they have also retained or even strengthened their labor regulations. These contrasting policy orientations create a novel challenge without obvious solutions. To understand how developing country states can ensure reasonable levels of labor standards without compromising the ability of domestic firms to compete, this paper examines how labor inspectors and prosecutors intervened in four troublesome industries in Brazil. It finds that regulatory enforcement agents use their discretion and legal powers to realign incentives, reshape interests, and redistribute the risks, costs and benefits of compliance across a tailor-made assemblage of public, private and non-profit agents adjacent to the violations. By fulfilling this role, these agents become the foot-soldiers of a post-neoliberal or neo-developmental state.
Globalization of production has been complemented by increasingly stricter product quality and safety regulations. This trend is particularly acute in the food and beverage sectors, which puts enormous strain on producers from developing nations. This paper examines the trajectory of a cooperative of sugarcane, sugar and ethanol producers from Brazil that, once confronted with this challenge, failed to meet the standards but ultimately came around. It credits the coop’s turnaround to three variables: (a) a new cost accounting methodology that monetized some of the differences in product quality and attenuated tensions among the membership; (b) a low-cost but high-powered system of regulatory incentives that subverted rigid hierarchies and empowered middle-managers vis-à-vis top-executives; and (c) the action of external auditors who acted not as police-officers or consultants, but as conduits who reestablished information flows and helped create a business atmosphere conducive to productive change.
Brazilian firms used to dominate the brazil nut (BN) market to such an extent that the product still carries the country’s name. Presently, 77% of all BNs are processed and exported by Bolivia, a country with far fewer resources than its neighbor. This paper analyzes the impact of EU regulations on the global BN market. It finds that Bolivian producers prevailed because they joined forces to revamp their manufacturing practices and meet EU sanitary standards despite continued mutual mistrust. In contrast, Brazilian producers have been unable to work cooperatively and lost access to the European market entirely.
This chapter describes regulatory enforcement as an intrinsically political endeavor. We argue that regulatory enforcement, as enacted daily by front-line
enforcers around the world, consists of the production of local agreements and arrangements that realign interests, reshape conflicts, and redistribute the risks, costs, and benefits of doing business and complying with the law. We argue that, through their transactions, both the regulators and the regulated reshape both their interests and the environment in which they operate, reconstructing their perceptions of and preferences for compliance. We call this phenomenon the “sub-politics of regulatory enforcement,” and claim that it provides a springboard for a pragmatic approach to better regulation
Brazil's 8,000 prosecutors sit at the crux of the country's legal system, deciding who gets indicted and sued for common crimes and a wide array of civil violations. In many cases, particularly those concerning the most recalcitrant labor and environmental violations, prosecutors realize that compliance is not only a matter of avarice or ignorance. To the opposite, in these cases compliance requires costly and risky changes in business practices that the managers of the implicated firms are unwilling or unable to carry out on their own. Rather than prosecute, which they anticipate will eliminate jobs and undermine business profitability, or clarify the law, which they fear will be futile, prosecutors reach out and assemble a network of institutions willing to cover some of the costs and insure some of the risks associated with these changes. Ultimately, they lead an effort of inter-institutional root-cause analysis and joint-problem solving, and through this endeavor they make compliance the easiest and most obvious choice for all involved. This paper briefly describes this kind of creative problem-solving and then it analyzes how this government agency encourages and sustains this kind of deviant practice within its ranks.
In this paper we describe three examples of what we call “the sociological citizen,” environmental health and safety workers, law enforcement officers, and firm managers who see their work and themselves as links in a complex web of interactions and processes rather than as offices of delimited responsibilities and interests. Instead of focusing closely and only sporadically taking account of the larger connections and reverberations of their actions, these actors view their organizations or states as the outcome of human decisions, indecisions, trial and error, rather than rationally organized action. In this dynamic entity, they reconceive their own role as insignificant by itself yet essential to the whole. We locate this observation first within Durkheim’s notion of social facts and later hypothesize that twentieth century social science may have contributed to reified conceptions of social relations unnecessarily obscuring this ground level everyday work of social construction. We offer this conception of the sociological citizen as a hypothesis with which to explore more systematically variations in organizational performances and outcomes. We suggest, first, that actors’ perception of the structure of social action and relational interdependence will vary in perhaps predictable ways. Second, apprehension of relational interdependence will, in turn, affect role performances.