Reforms: Mexico and Colombia
This essay explores the hypothesis of a distinctive path to democratization through “reform,” with its own logic and internal structure. In this volume, this pattern of democratization is differentiated from the “foundation” of new democratic regimes, and also from democratic “transitions.” In the latter two scenarios the replacement of the previous power holders is a “strictly necessary” condition for democratization, but not so in the reform route. In the scenario under discussion here, they may retain control of the reform agenda, and democratic institutions may be installed or extended piecemeal, in the course of extended processes punctuated by advances and relapses. In contrast to other types of democratization there can only be very approximate indications of when the reform route begins, and no clarity about when it ends. None of these three scenarios can be expected to occur in pure form; the search for empirical confirmation of the hypothesis of a “reform” scenario, in particular, is clouded by the complexity of each historical example and methodological difficulties in analysis.
Nevertheless, the hypothesis is important, and requires careful consideration, both because of the refinements it introduces into the theoretical debate about the nature of democratization, and because of its relevance to hotly debated processes of political transformation in such prominent countries as contemporary Mexico. The procedure adopted in this essay