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Volume 59 / Social Sciences

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS: MEXICO


RODERIC A. CAMP, Professor of Government, Claremont-McKenna College


THERE IS MUCH TO BE PLEASED WITH in the social science literature on Mexico since the publication of HLAS 57. Naturally, Mexican political conditions continue to influence the scholarly focus of academics in Mexico and the US. The Zapatista uprising is the most important event in the mid-1990s. By the end of the decade, the issue faded among scholarly publication as Mexico prepared for the highly competitive presidential race in 2000, in which the long-ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) was defeated. Scholars interested in where Mexico is headed in the 21st century should read Michael J. Mazarr's provocative and likely controversial vision of the future in Mexico 2005: The Challenges of the New Millennium, an original assessment of Mexico within the context of broader global trends (item #bi 99002318#).

Initially, scholarship on the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) was mediocre, at best. However, some thorough analyses have emerged. Among those are Neil Harvey's The Chiapas Rebellion: The Struggle for Land and Democracy (item #bi 98014865#), which is the most comprehensive account of the movement and is essential reading for understanding the Zapatista's role in national politics; Carlos Tello Díaz's Chiapas: La rebelión de las cañadas (item #bi 98009928#), which although written shortly after the movement's emergence, nevertheless offers many insights; and anthropologist George A. Collier's "Structural Adjustment and New Regional Movements: The Zapatista Rebellion in Chiapas," which provides detailed background for understanding the origins of the uprising (item #bi 96005666#). Related to the Zapatistas, but focused on broader national security issues, are two interesting works exploring the armed forces in Mexico, a critical actor in Mexico that continues to be ignored by scholars. Martha P. López analyzes low intensity warfare in Mexico, using the Zapatistas as a case study (item #bi 98011424#); and David F. Ronfeldt et al. consider the imaginative and cutting edge issue of "netwars" and the role of the Zapatistas in this newly developing theory of conflict (item #bi 00000480#).

Nongovernmental organizations continue to attract significant scholarship. One of the best introductions to this topic is the edited collection, Organizaciones civiles y políticas públicas en México y Centroamérica (item #bi 98014165#). Of considerable importance in this category are Christian Base Communities, imaginatively analyzed by Elsa Guzmán and Christopher Martin, who argue that they influenced Carlos Salinas' Solidarity program (item #bi 97017786#).

Institutions have not yet achieved a prominent place in sophisticated Mexican political analysis, especially those that will exercise an important influence in any democratic transition. An excellent collection that highlights the novel concept of legislative-executive power sharing in Mexico appears in La cohabitación política en México (item #bi 98009913#). The most important work on the legislative branch specifically is Alonso Lujambio's Federalismo y congreso en el cambio político de Mexico (item #bi 98006131#). Jeffrey A. Weldon examines the executive branch, describing many of the important changes occurring in the decision-making process in "The Political Sources of Presidencialismo in Mexico" (item #bi 97012333#). Enrique Krauze explores the presidency in a different fashion, shedding light on politics through the personalities and behavior of individual presidents from 1940–present, suggesting many new insights into the presidency's declining influence in Mexico (item #bi 98011403#). Although domestic institutions have received some attention, international organizations have been largely neglected. An exception is Raúl Benítez Manaut's analysis of the UN's role as election observer in Mexico (item #bi 97015298#).

Some potentially influential political actors in Mexico continue to attract serious attention. The Catholic Church, and religion more broadly, have generated some research interest. One of the most important books ever to be published on the Catholic Church in Mexico or Latin America is Eduardo Sota García and Enrique Luengo González's, Entre la conciencia y la obediencia (item #bi 96003242#), which is a detailed, empirical survey of the views held by priests. Very little literature exists in Mexico on the relationship between religion and politics, a topic that Juan Carlos Ruiz Guadalajara addresses in his article analyzing a small community in Michoacán (item #bi 97008827#). Paul Bonicelli studies evangelicals, illustrating their changing participation patterns in politics in a recent article published in the Journal of Church and State (item #bi 97015253#).

Women are a significant, nontraditional actor that are receiving increased interest in the literature. In Mexico, Anna Fernández Poncela has led the way, editing an outstanding work, Participación política: las mujeres en México al final del milenio (item #bi 96003297#). Victoria Rodríguez offers similar insights on the political participation of women at all levels, and in comparison with other regions, in her excellent Women's Participation in Mexican Political Life (item #bi 98013967#).

As the political system increases its pluralism, the private sector is attracting more scholarship. Among the best work on the political role of businesspeople, Yemille Mizrahi continues to provide many insightful contributions, including an essay on "Democracia, eficiencia y participación" (item #bi 96006019#). Carlos Alba Vega's Los empresarios y el Estado durante el Salinismo (item #bi 97015277#) explores the broader pattern and changing relationship between the state and entrepreneurs during the Salinas administration.

Another actor that scholars have ignored are intellectuals. A series of interviews reported in Creación y poder offer many interesting insights among a generation of leading Mexican figures (item #bi 96003238#).

Although political culture has increased its importance dramatically in the general social science literature in the 1990s, contributions on Mexico do not reflect this change. Alan Knight, the distinguished historian, does offer an imaginative and provocative appraisal of the evolution of a civic culture (item #bi 96022736#). A peculiar feature in Mexican political culture are camarillas (political cliques). Joy Langston explores the impact of political networking on elite divisions and political transitions in recent decades (item #bi 96006017#); while Wil Pansters applies the theories of elite settlements to Mexico, examining the consequences of personal and institutional pacts stemming from the 1994 presidential elections (item #bi 98015593#). Another significant aspect of culture, especially relevant to democratic change, is the culture of law, which Gareth A. Jones explores in considerable detail, focusing on the structural problems Mexico faces in the implementation of the rule of law (item #bi 98013413#).

Not surprisingly, the hottest topics continue to be elections, electoral fraud, and opposition parties. The best new work on parties is by Kathleen Bruhn, who takes a close look at the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) in Taking on Goliath (item #bi 98009921#), which should serve as a starting point for any research on this party. Shifting slightly from opposition parties to opposition control, Victoria Rodríguez and Peter Ward have produced the first major work, with multiple insights, into opposition governance, in their edited volume, Opposition Government in Mexico (item #bi 96003282#). Complementary to this work is Rodríguez's own analysis of deconcentration and decentralization in Mexico, also integral to the pattern of democratic transition (item #bi 97015431#).

Numerous analyses of elections themselves, as distinct from parties, continue unabated. Among the most important and useful works are two books by Silvia Gómez Tagle, who has written a major study on electoral fraud from 1979–88 (item #bi 96003270#) and has compiled election data in La transición inconclusa (item #bi 98009926#), which includes complete election data extending back to the 1960s on diskettes. These books will be required reading for electoral research on Mexico. An equally valuable case study, stemming from the research of a group of scholars in Aguascalientes, can be found in Andrés Reyes Rodríguez's essay El inicio de la alternancia en Aguascalientes: elecciones, 1995 (item #bi 98012420#).


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