Owning the City

Property Rights in Authoritarian Regimes

Marsha McGraw Olive

£60.00  |  $90.00
ISBN 9781788214681
£60.00  |  $90.00
ISBN 9781788214698
240 pages   |  234 x 156mm   |  30 June 2022


Privately-held property (land and buildings) in authoritarian states presents an anomaly. Ownership of private property conveys political power for individuals in liberal democracies, but this is not the case in many illiberal regimes. Quite the opposite: as the propertied middle class has grown, so has the power of authoritarian leaders. What accounts for this phenomenon and why does it matter? Marsha McGraw Olive's detailed research unravels the puzzle that is the growth of private property in tandem with political support for authoritarian regimes.

The book shows that policy-makers continue to overlook city land as a force in political and economic development and this force will accelerate globally as urbanization increases and puts a premium on scarce urban land in major cities. For illiberal leaders, urban land is fundamental to regime stability, bringing wealth to average citizens and also to favoured elites. From the Gezi Park protest in Istanbul to Alexei Navalny’s exposure of corrupt property deals by Kremlin insiders, public contestation over real property rights is increasing in countries such as Turkey and Russia. Real property is a source of political backing but also a chink in the authoritarian armour.


1. Globally successful cities
2. Urban political economy in historical perspective
3. Urban land governance: liberal and illiberal patterns
4. Cautionary tale: Moscow
5. Cautionary tale: Istanbul
6. Conclusions

Author Information

Marsha McGraw Olive is Adjunct Professor of European and Eurasian Studies at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, DC.

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