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Volume 57 / Social Sciences


ANTONIO UGALDE, Professor of Sociology, University of Texas, Austin
PATRICIA L. RICHARDS, Department of Sociology, University of Texas, Austin

DUE TO SPACE LIMITATIONS, the materials included in this section represent only a small fraction of the works examined this biennium. Almost all of the several hundred articles received for potential inclusion in HLAS 57 have been omitted, as have approximately half of the books. The selection of books over articles has some implications because the number of monographs and edited volumes published about Mexico by non-Mexican authors is negligible. The result is that our summary of the literature represents primarily the work of Mexican sociologists and it has been shown that the findings of Mexicans and foreign scholars do not always coincide (see items reviewed in HLAS 55, for example). On the other hand, the high quantity of volumes published in Mexico, particularly during times of extreme economic crisis, is indicative of the solid foundation of sociology in the country.

The lag between research and writing, publication, distribution, and library cataloguing is long, as much as ten years in some cases. The delay varies according to the personal circumstances of researchers and the types of publications. For this reason, our biennial review covers many years. In the present volume we are abstracting publications from about 1990 to 1996 that include research carried out between the mid 1980s to about 1993. During these years Mexico experienced the most severe economic crisis in contemporary history and only timid programs to alleviate its devastating consequences for the poor and indigent; transcendental constitutional changes affecting land tenure and Church-State relations; reversals of long-standing economic policies, for example, the adherence of Mexico to GATT, the signing of North American Free Trade Treaty and its dramatic impact on Mexican business, and the privatization of hundreds of decentralized industries; and the significant erosion of the PRI’s political power. The literature reviewed analyzes many of the sociopolitical consequences of these changes. Research on more recent events such as the emergence of guerrilla groups, including the much publicized movement in Chiapas, the growth of high-level corruption related to drug traffic, and increasing street violence has not yet reached library shelves.

Most authors decry the negative impact of neoliberal economic policies enacted to resolve the economic crisis, and the evidence presented to confirm their argumentation is overwhelming. By and large, scholars give a low grade to the National Solidarity Plan (Planasol), the program created to assist the poor during the economic crisis. The few whose findings support the government’s contention that the program benefitted the poor found that the wealthy were, in fact, its primary beneficiaries. Students who examine the agrarian question and rural conditions condemned the termination of land distribution and the end of the ejido system. In studies of the PRI, political sociologists continue to document corruption, bossism, political patronage, heavy-handed tactics and use of violence, together with a more recent loss of support among the urban poor, and even among labor, a traditional PRI stalwart.

Very few researchers provide a view of Mexico’s future. Those who suggest that changes are inevitable do not indulge in political forecasting and suggest only that political modernization implies clean electoral processes and a genuine multi-party system. Social scientists who have examined electoral outcomes and other political events do not provide clear signs of the direction that the Mexican political system may take in the future. This ambivalence seems to suggest that anything is possible: genuine democratization through the modernization of the political system; severe political instability and chaos; political violence; or even revolution.

Sociologists interpret NAFTA as part of the trend towards a global economy under U.S. hegemony. Theoretical studies and fieldwork assessments agree that the new export-oriented Mexican economy has caused additional poverty and suffering among the lower income groups. The work of rural sociologists confirms that rural “modernization” has produced impoverishment and ecological degradation.

Gender studies is a rapidly expanding field among Mexican sociologists. A sizeable number of volumes reviewed for this section concern women, dealing with topics as varied as health, work, poverty, identity, sexuality, and politics. Massolo’s investigation of women and urban movements in Mexico during the 1970s is outstanding (item bi 95023022), and the Colegio de México’s Interdisciplinary Program on Women Studies has contributed a wide range of noteworthy collections. We also noted an increased number of contributions in the field of sociology of health and illness. Some studies lack methodological sophistication, but there are solid contributions, for example, Mercado’s study on diabetic patients (item bi 98003933 ).

Almost one third of the items reviewed dealt with social movements, an area that continues to be of great interest. As Mexico´s urban population increases, we witness a growing interest in popular urban movements. Ramírez Sáiz’s research on Guadalajara’s urban movements is a monumental work (item bi 96021719). Housing and political behavior also attract the interest of urban sociologists. Researchers from both ends of the political spectrum consistently point out that social movements are currently the only available political alternative for the majority of Mexicans. Among studies of migration, there has been a shift from demographic issues to social problems and human rights of migrants. The lengthy volume edited by Sandoval Palacios is an excellent example of this new research direction (item bi 96021683).

In October of 1995, the historic center of Mexico City hosted the XX Congress of the Latin American Association of Sociology. In spite of a change of venue with relatively short notice, it was a well-organized and memorable. Mexican attendance was high in each of the seventeen different areas or specialties into which the program had been divided. The Congress thus allowed many Latin American sociologists to interact with prominent Mexican scholars and meet the very promising new generation of Mexican sociologists.

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