Academic journal article The American Journal of Economics and Sociology

A Pluralist Alternative: Mexican Women, Migration, and Regional Development

Academic journal article The American Journal of Economics and Sociology

A Pluralist Alternative: Mexican Women, Migration, and Regional Development

Article excerpt

This article explores Mexican migration and its relation to the female head of household phenomenon of rural migrant communities from a post-colonialist, feminist, and institutional post-Keynesian approach to economic development. This article has three main objectives: 1) to present the alternative theories to approach the study of economic development, 2) to contextualize the present migratory phenomenon and its impact on women's social role, and 3) to highlight the importance of women in the development of rural migrant communities. The study emphasizes the role that women play in the development of Mexican rural communities, a region where the impact of free market policies has exacerbated the historical conditions of poverty and marginalization, and consequently, the increase of migration to the United States.

Theoretical Framework

Conventional Wisdom: The Need for Alternatives

The dominant paradigm in development theory emphasizes the notion that free markets produce prosperity and growth in the so-called "Third World." According to this theory, growth and prosperity are accomplished through the establishment of "structural adjustment" policies. In order to enhance economic growth, such prescriptions emphasize the reduction of fiscal imbalance through the contraction of public spending, inflation targeting, and tight monetary policies. This perspective also suggests the implementation of laissez faire capitalism that includes privatization of state-owned enterprises, deregulation of financial markets, as well as a reduction of trade barriers.

The current notion of development, and what it represents, is relatively new. Several scholars find its roots in the political rearrangements after the end of World War II, when the victorious allied nations redefined themselves as the global power structures (Ardnt 1981; Binder 1986; Mintz 1976; Pletsch 1981; Wallerstein 1984; Worsley 1984). In theory, economic development is achieved by fiscal discipline, deregulation, and free markets. Moreover, it requires the establishment of a democratic form of government that aims at the "creation of a society equipped with the material and organizational factors required to pave the way for rapid access to the forms of life created by industrial civilization" (Escobar 1998: 429).

By "civilization," most of the authors in the development literature have in mind the type of civilization that is in Western Europe and the United States; the two areas that are considered to embody the most advanced stage of economic and social development. Therefore, this model is designed to attain a modern society characterized by a Eurocentric ideology and structure; a discourse that expects the underdeveloped and developing nations to attain the "Westernized" life style.

This concept of civilization is problematic because it contains a unique vision of the world, a noninclusive paradigm that disregards any other forms of modernity or visions of development. Modernity, from the Eurocentric perspective, is explained as the "solution" to, or the overcoming of, the immaturity of non-Western civilizations. Furthermore, "[it] supposes, nevertheless, the concealment and denial of the irrational and violent processes of the 'conquest.' It creates the figure of a 'just conquistador,' who ensures the progress of his victims as the only way in which they can grow up into an adulthood different from the one they possess" (Dussel 2006: 496).

This approach disregards the aggressiveness of the "conquest" process and generates the "Eurocentric" paradigm, which ignores the fact that the plundered resources of the "non-Western civilizations" have created the European magnificence of the last two centuries. In his seminal work, Open Veins of Latin America, Eduardo Galeano (1976) presents a comprehensive historical analysis on the contributions of the former Latin American colonies to the wealth of Western Europe. …

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