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Volume 53 / Social Sciences


ANTONIO UGALDE, Professor of Sociology, University of Texas, Austin

THE 158 ENTRIES EVALUATED IN THIS SECTION cover articles and books published mostly between 1986-91. Consequently, the following comments do not reflect the characteristics of the 1991-92 biennium literature but a more extensive period of time.

A noticeable trend in the materials reviewed is that there are numerous volumes containing extensive collections of articles. For example, the Memorias of the Reunión Nacional sobre la Investigación Demográfica en México (3rd, México, 1986, item bi 92019155) has more than 40 articles, the two volumes edited by Hernández Palacios (items bi 91002336 and bi 92001444) contain 46 in total, and Martínez Assad's collection (item bi 92017742) contains 23 articles. Frequently, the edited books include papers presented at symposia organized by centers of higher education or at meetings of professional associations. A few years ago, to compensate for low academic salaries, the Mexican government established a system of financial rewards based on the number of publications, a publish-or-famish approach equivalent to the US publish-or-perish system. It is easy to understand the pressures that editors feel to be all-inclusive. At the same time, publications are symbols of prestige, and academic institutions and research centers are eager to support them. Thus, we can understand the abundance of edited volumes and the uneven quality of some of them.

Mexican sociologists and social anthropologists continue to be greatly interested in rural and political sociology, and in migration. Important new works on migration are concerned with movements from Central America, especially Guatemala. The analytical approach is more political than demographic, and several authors criticize government treatment of migrants. In the field of political sociology, two outstanding pieces (items bi 92019165 and bi 92017711) represent a growing interest in research on elites. Several authors provide insightful analysis of the political system at the local and regional level with excellent case studies that carefully document electoral corruption and the PRI's abusive tactics (items bi 92001458 and bi 92017703). The public sector's incompetence, inefficiency and corruption have been the object of analysis by other political sociologists.

As is well known, the Mexican economy declined dramatically in the early 1980s. Sociologists have delayed little in examining the impact of the severe recession on the organization of industry and small workshops, the political system, and the quality of life of the poor and working class. By almost unanimous consensus, the authors blame the crisis on the globalization of the economy and capitalism. Public corruption and inefficiency are seldom mentioned as contributing causes, even though, as indicated, this is a topic of frequent analysis among rural and political sociologists. Studies of the economic crisis were carried out before the collapse of socialist states in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. Now, development specialists are left without a socialist or a capitalist development paradigm, and will have to search for new models and theories. An early effort in this direction is the New Social Movement perspective, an excellent description of which can be read in Gledhill's seminal work (item bi 91006385). Mexican social scientists have traditionally engaged in the study of social movements. The large number of studies on this topic published during the last few years confirms a sustained interest, and holds a promise of future theoretical developments. The works by Amezcua (item bi 92017735) and Ramírez (item bi 92015931) are solid examples of social movement research.

Sociologists, many of them women, are making major contributions to women's studies. The most frequent topics are the changing position of women in society and the exploitation of women in the labor force.

Sociologists of religion have contributed a number of studies on the growth of Protestant fundamentalist groups, different dimensions of conflict among religious organizations, cleavages within the Catholic Church, and Church-State relations. Surprisingly, sociologists have shown little interest in the study of religious behavior and attitudes, or individual religiosity in general; rather the focus of religious research is institutional.

Though ecology has not attracted the full attention of sociologists, a number of studies, particularly rural ethnographies and studies of fishing villages, contained references to the destruction of the environment and its impact on health and the economy. Several authors have noted the ecological devastation caused by PEMEX and its disregard for compensating the affected peasants.

Readers interested in the development of the social sciences should refer to the volume edited by Paoli (item bi 92017712). This collection presents excellent summaries of the history and accomplishments of each social science discipline in Mexico (sociology, anthropology, political science, etc.) and allows comparison of the evolution of social sciences in Mexico with that of other countries.

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