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Volume 55 / Social Sciences

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS: MEXICO


RODERIC A. CAMP, Professor of Political Sciences, Tulane University


THERE IS MUCH TO BE PLEASED ABOUT in recent scholarship on Mexican politics and government. As political liberalization increasingly dominates Mexican policy, the issue of elections, electoral reform, and voting behavior exerts strong influence in the scholarly literature. Nevertheless, some traditionally neglected topics have received more attention, including the Catholic Church, the media, opposition parties, and non-governmental organizations.

Mexican and American scholars alike have been taken with the notion of where Mexico is going politically, and how the process of political liberalization, i.e., democratization, occurs. One of the most interesting, broad overviews of this topic is Steven Morris' "Political Reformism in Mexico: Salinas at the Brink" (item bi 93001613), which argues that crisis management has become PRI's mode of operation at present and will continue into the future. One of Mexico's most thoughtful political analysts, a historian by training, is Lorenzo Meyer, whose earlier classic article on authoritarianism is brought up-to-date in his latest exploration of the interrelationships between civil society, the political arena, and the State, and their consequences for democratic transformation (item bi 93021837).

Perhaps the most theoretical issue raised in the literature of the early 1990s is the interrelationship between economic and political liberalization. The most comprehensive work on this issue, one which combines Mexican and American research and which thoroughly explores possible linkages between economic and political development, is Riordan Roett's edited book, Political and economic liberalization in Mexico: at a critical juncture? (item bi 93006508). To date, few works on this topic are written from an explicitly comparative perspective. A notable exception is the very useful case study of Poland and Mexico by Judith Gentleman and Voytek Zubek who provide valuable insights about the East European and Mexican experiences (item bi 93001614). Jaime Sánchez Susarrey, who frequently writes about democratization, presents an optimistic picture of political liberalization within the context of economic and political interactions (item bi 92020219). One of the few essays to explore the actual consequences of economic liberalization on policy is Stephen Mumme's analysis of the contradictions in Salinas' policies towards environmental concerns (item bi 93005269).

Political liberalization has also encouraged the expansion of social movements and non-governmental organizations. A broad overview of such movements, and changes taking place in the Mexican corporate structure, is offered by Susan Street (item bi 93016512). Moving to a more basic grassroots level, Jonathan Fox and Luis Hernández provide numerous insights into the role of NGOs in Mexico (item bi 94004160), and how their behavior differs from that of NGOs elsewhere in Latin America.

Another by-product of political liberalization is a change in the media, and in media-State relations. The role of the media in Mexican politics has largely been ignored in the 1980s, therefore the collection Así se calló el sistema: comunicación y elecciones en 1988, edited by Pablo Arredondo Ramírez, is a pathbreaking contribution, including excellent case studies of several urban centers (item bi 93021146). Ilya Adler also contributes an important essay on media in the 1988 presidential elections (item bi 94002002).

Although the volume of literature on elections and election data is overwhelming, several items stand out for the quality of the data and analysis. This is particularly true of the work by Guadalupe Pacheco, who explores the relationship between urbanization, voting, and political culture in the Federal District (items bi 92010875, bi 93021121, and bi 93016318). Other authors, who have long contributed to this topic, provide several outstanding collections. The first of these, which focuses on highly disputed state elections, was compiled by Jorge Alonso and Silvia Gómez Tagle in Insurgencia democrática: las elecciones locales (item bi 93021132), a much needed work on local patterns. Also, Alberto Aziz Nassif and Jacqueline Peschard's work on the PRI's comeback in the 1991 elections provides extensive statistical data and analysis (item bi 93021100). The broadest overview of the topic, including in-depth data on party representation in the Chamber of Deputies by district, is Juan Molinar's El tiempo de la legitimidad which covers the 1940s through 1988 (item bi 93021094).

The attention given to elections has also increased interest in other political parties, particularly the National Action Party (PAN). Among the most useful, fresh analyses of PAN is one exploring its institutional role, by Leticia Barraza and Ilán Bizberg (item bi 93002790), and a 1991 electoral analysis assessing the consequences of the PRI-PAN electoral reform alliance, by Mario Alejandro Carrillo (item bi 92011483). Although the PRD has not received as much serious attention, interviews contained in Eduardo de Castillo's 20 años de búsqueda (item bi 93021116) provide an excellent historical memory of the left's development. Finally, although opposition parties have long controlled local governments, and more recently state administrations, Victoria Rodríguez and Peter Ward are among the first scholars to explore the consequences of opposition control (item bi 92011032).

Among interest groups or institutions typically ignored in the literature examined for past volumes of the HLAS, the Catholic Church finally has begun to attract the attention it deserves. Roberto Blancarte contributes an excellent analysis of the Church's role during the Salinas years (item bi 93021156). A useful summary of background information is also available in a clear overview by Allan Metz (item bi 93000871). Charles L. Davis (item bi 92019570), who has been interested in religion and partisanship for several decades, provides an excellent empirical study of working-class voters in 1979-80 and their relationship to political parties. The private sector, another major interest group, has largely been ignored in the last several years, with the exception of Blanca Heredia's insightful analysis of business-State relations in the 1980s (item bi 92010140).

Government leadership and structures have received some attention, and Miguel Angel Centeno and Sylvia Maxfield's excellent work explores both policy implications and elite composition (item bi 92019581). Rogelio Hernández Rodríguez, who is best known for his analysis of the Mexican leadership (item bi 93021693), offers one of the few works of political biography, the most balanced account of PRI reformer Carlos A. Madrazo yet published (item bi 93021163). One of the few studies incorporating actual budget expenditures and their policy implications is that of Judith Teichman, who explores the status of State-owned enterprises in the 1980s (item bi 94001908). The most neglected of governmental institutions, the Chamber of Deputies, is the subject of one interesting essay, Juan Reyes del Campillo's analysis of labor representation (item bi 94001921).

More attention needs to be focused on State-military and State-labor relations, and especially on the changes in the corporatist structures. Although the recent work on elections is commendable, much of it is repetitive, and more attention could be paid to the three leading parties. What is needed is careful analyses of changes in the party structures, ideology, and leadership, and their relation to the State and society. Again, the most difficult topics remain largely untouched, including work on decision-making, political biography, and civil-military relations, the latter especially in light of what occurred in Chiapas in Jan. 1994. For more on the Chiapas events, but from an anthroplogical perspective, see p. 91. (Sullivan's intro.)


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