Waking from the Dream: Mexico's Middle Classes after 1968

Waking from the Dream: Mexico's Middle Classes after 1968

Waking from the Dream: Mexico's Middle Classes after 1968

Waking from the Dream: Mexico's Middle Classes after 1968

Synopsis

When the postwar boom began to dissipate in the late 1960s, Mexico's middle classes awoke to a new, economically terrifying world. And following massacres of students at peaceful protests in 1968 and 1971, one-party control of Mexican politics dissipated as well. The ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party struggled to recover its legitimacy, but instead saw its support begin to erode. In the following decades, Mexico's middle classes ended up shaping the history of economic and political crisis, facilitating the emergence of neo-liberalism and the transition to democracy.

Waking from the Dream tells the story of this profound change from state-led development to neo-liberalism, and from a one-party state to electoral democracy. It describes the fraught history of these tectonic shifts, as politicians and citizens experimented with different strategies to end a series of crises. In the first study to dig deeply into the drama of the middle classes in this period, Walker shows how the most consequential struggles over Mexico's economy and political system occurred between the middle classes and the ruling party.

Excerpt

This is the story of how the Mexican middle classes made history during several decades of economic and political upheaval. A midcentury boom, so impressive that it was dubbed the Mexican Miracle, came to an end in the late 1960s. Illusions of prosperity and stability, which had seemed possible during the Miracle, dissipated. At the same time, the political hegemony of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario Institucional, or PRI), the heir to a political dynasty that had governed Mexico since 1929, dissipated as well. We can see, with hindsight, major changes in the economy and the political system in the late twentieth century, from the 1960s through the 1990s, as state-led development was replaced by neoliberalism and the de facto one-party state gave way to procedural democracy. But these were messy processes, and the period is best understood as several decades of economic and political turmoil.

At the center of these changes were Mexico’s misunderstood middle classes, whose reactions to crisis shaped recent history. During the Mexican Miracle, PRI politicians and bureaucrats had prided themselves on the country’s rigorous growth and political stability. They saw the economic well-being and political quiescence of the middle classes as an outgrowth of their stewardship. But if the middle classes were symbols of the PRI’s success, they were also harbingers of its decline. As the segment of the population that had most benefited from the boom, they were also the most buffeted by the difficult process of economic change, from the everyday experience of unpredictable inflation and unexpected peso devaluations to major changes in philosophy and policy. The middle classes—doctors and lawyers, laboratory technicians and engineers, shopkeepers and civil servants—acted out the stresses of this economic history: they protested in the streets and in the corridors of power; they suffered alienation, hope . . .

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