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Volume 55 / Social Sciences

SOCIOLOGY: MEXICO


ANTONIO UGALDE, Professor of Sociology, University of Texas


THE INCREASE IN THE NUMBER of articles and books on Mexican sociology maintains the momentum reported in HLAS 53 (p. 659-660) and consequently, publications annotated below represent only a fraction of published materials. It should be added that every biennium the percentage of publications on Mexican sociology authored by foreigners decreases. A second characteristic of Mexican publications noted in this chapter is that a large number of them have not been published by commercial presses but by government agencies (federal and state), universities, and research centers. The severe economic crisis has had a devastating impact on commercial book sales, forcing a large number of book stores (some observers claim as many as half) to go out of business. It is not clear how many of the books published by non-commercial houses follow a rigorous review process rather than simply responding to pressures by researchers to see their works published.

As in the past, the vast majority of sociologists continue to examine various aspects of political sociology; for this volume, more than half of the entries are in this speciality. Within political sociology, writers are concerned with party organization, voting, electoral returns, political participation, and cooptation. Other aspects include labor unions and organization, social movements, and the development processes. Theoretically, the traditional Marxist-Leninist paradigm and the neo-Marxist approaches - which were until recently very predominant among Mexican social scientists - have disappeared, and the influence of French scholars such as Bourdie and Touraine is on the increase.

Because of the time lag between research and publication, and the HLAS review process, we are now beginning to examine studies about two events that occurred a few years ago: the economic and political crisis of the 1980s and the electoral and municipal reforms approved in the late 1970s and early 1980s (see, for example, items bi 94006197, bi 94001919, and bi 94001250). As could be expected, the causes and consequences of the economic crisis caught the interest of Mexican sociologists, both in terms of the political system and of the impact in the daily life of the poor. In addition, a number of writers have interpreted the elections of 1988 and the appearance of the new PRD party as a break-away from the PRI to be the consequences of the two above-mentioned events.

With few exceptions, political sociologists raise questions about the stability of the present Mexican political system. Most authors are in agreement that unless profound changes and reforms are implemented, the future of the PRI will be troublesome. Some of the most insightful analyses of the PRI's predicament are by Núñez González (item bi 94000614), Rubio (item bi 94005796), Alonso et al. (item bi 94000542), Zermeño and Cuevas Díaz (item bi 94000752), and, at the state level, Gutiérrez (item bi 94000611). In a way, it could be said that studies such as these predicted the political crisis of 1995. The PRI's use of violence at the national, state, and local levels continues to be well documented by the authors reviewed in this volume (see, for example, items bi 91020877 and bi 94000746). Studies such as these make it easier to understand the saga of political murders which unfolded in 1994-95, and even lend credibility to the alleged involvement of PRI leaders in the crimes. On another political topic, for a thorough sociocultural examination of the Chiapas rebellion, see the Handbook's ethnology chapter written by anthropologist Paul Sullivan (p.xxx-xxx).

A second area of major concern is international migration which, by and large, examines migration from Mexico to the US but has begun to include a few significant studies of Guatemalan migrants to Mexico as well (items bi 94000591, bi 91006800, and bi 94000750). It is not surprising that the concerns and at times the interpretation of migration issues held by Mexican scholars do not coincide with the ones held by their US colleagues on the other side of the border. For instance, Mexicans tend to emphasize the asymmetry of power from a framework of dependency theory. Among works by US scholars, the most thorough and comprehensive study is by Wayne Cornelius (item bi 92016605); from the Mexican side, the work carried out by scholars at the Colegio de la Frontera Norte in Tijuana is notable. A number of studies examine the magnitude of the remittances which are an important source of foreign currency in Mexico and, according to some, explain the lack of interest of the Mexican government to control the exodus towards the North (item bi 91007935). If this line of argument is correct, it can be suggested that the profound economic crisis of 1995 will reduce even more the government's efforts to curb international migration. Nonetheless, according to many Mexican scholars the primary beneficiary of the cheap labor offered by migrants is the US. In addition, Mexican researchers also present compelling data showing that migration to the US has very negative consequences for Mexico such as consumerism, social stratification, and cultural dysfunctionality (item bi 94000590), while US scholars tend to emphasize the positive consequences (items bi 91001092 and bi 94002077). A number of US writers have focused on the impact of the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act on reducing migration; there is consensus that the Reform had no major impact in this regard (item bi 94002009). The shifting characteristics of the migration - such as the increasing number of women crossing the border and the growth of migrants' employment in the industrial and service sectors - are the topic of analysis of several articles.

The North American Free Trade Agreement is one of the most important events which has taken place in this biennium. Social scientists are beginning to analyze the potential consequences of NAFTA (see, for example, the volume compiled by Bensusán Areous, item bi 94000523), but we will have to wait until the next HLAS volume for a more thorough analysis.

The maquila industry at the US-Mexican border has traditionally been negatively viewed by sociologists. Researchers alleged that the border's industrial plants exploit the workers, that labor conditions are detrimental to their health, and that employers impose unfavorable contracts in order to undercut unionized companies on the other side of the border. The research reviewed in this volume shows the beginning of a shift in the appraisal of maquiladoras; Carrillo Huerta is one of the first to present a contrasting view (item bi 94002066).

To conclude, we should note a new journal, Acta Sociologica, which appeared for the first time in 1990 and is published three times a year by the Facultad de Ciencias Políticas y Sociales of the Univ. Nacional Autónoma de México.


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