The Making of Law: The Supreme Court and Labor Legislation in Mexico, 1875-1931

The Making of Law: The Supreme Court and Labor Legislation in Mexico, 1875-1931

The Making of Law: The Supreme Court and Labor Legislation in Mexico, 1875-1931

The Making of Law: The Supreme Court and Labor Legislation in Mexico, 1875-1931

Synopsis

Despite Porfirio Déaz's authoritarian rule (1877-1911) and the fifteen years of violent conflict typifying much of Mexican politics after 1917, law and judicial decision-making were important for the country's political and economic organization. Influenced by French theories of jurisprudence in addition to domestic events, progressive Mexican legal thinkers concluded that the liberal view of law-as existing primarily to guarantee the rights of individuals and of private property-was inadequate for solving the "social question"; the aim of the legal regime should instead be one of harmoniously regulating relations between interdependent groups of social actors. This book argues that the federal judiciary's adjudication of labor disputes and its elaboration of new legal principles played a significant part in the evolution of Mexican labor law and the nation's political and social compact. Indeed, this conclusion might seem paradoxical in a country with a civil law tradition, weak judiciary, authoritarian government, and endemic corruption. Suarez-Potts shows how and why judge-made law mattered, and why contemporaries paid close attention to the rulings of Supreme Court justices in labor cases as the nation's system of industrial relations was established.

Excerpt

This book is a history of the development of labor law in Mexico from 1875 to 1931. Contemporaries from the late nineteenth century through the 1930s considered labor law progressive, reformist, or a threat to private property and capitalism. Arguably, labor law sometimes manifested these characteristics. It did, from almost any viewpoint, matter in the constitution of the state after 1917, as well as for workers and businesses negotiating conditions of employment and production both before and after the 1910 revolution. That labor law was important politically, socially, and economically in Mexico, however, may seem peculiar for two reasons. Since the country was predominantly agricultural throughout the period in which labor law largely evolved—1875 to 1931—it is counterintuitive that a field of law normally associated with industrial relations should have been so significant for the nation’s polity and economy. Moreover, in view of the reality that “the rule of law,” or estado de derecho, did not typify the nation’s social and political systems in this period, it appears contradictory that legal institutions and discourses became central elements of industrial relations. Yet as peasants’ lands were divided and then concentrated in large landholdings in the second half of the nineteenth century, more agricultural production was or ga nized with wage labor. By the turn of the century, Mexico had a substantial agricultural proletariat; and a large fraction of the peasantry performed wage labor at least part of the year. And the country began to industrialize in the 1880s and 1890s, which led to the constitution of a working class. Although this working class remained a minority of the total population productively engaged, it was situated in the more dynamic sectors of the economy and, accordingly, could affect the nation’s development. Furthermore, liberal ideologies dominant after 1867 among political elites and other social actors were grounded in constitutional and legal vocabularies. political and social leaders, even revolutionaries in some instances . . .

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