Mexican Political Stability
Stability is an important concept in political science. One of the most fundamental questions in the discipline is why a political system persists or, conversely, why it is transformed, whether peacefully or violently. The literature that deals in one way or another with stability, usually through asking about instability, is so vast as to be almost coterminous with the literature of political science itself. However, stability is not very often studied directly. To the contrary, it is usually dealt with indirectly by studying its precedents, such as legitimacy, or its absence, as in revolution. 1 But whether examined directly or indirectly, stability is a crucial variable in political science. 2
Stability is also an important goal of political development. By the 1970s, political stability had clearly emerged as one of the major goals of most developing societies. 3 Yet political stability has been an elusive quality in the twentieth century. Britain and its former colonies are exceptions in a world generally characterized by regimes of short duration and irregular executive succession. As a region, Latin America has been particularly susceptible to unscheduled removal of governments. For example, every one of the twenty republics of Latin America except Mexico has experienced a violent overthrow of government since 1945.
In this context, the political stability of Mexico is all the more unusual. While Latin America suffered a wave of military takeovers in the 1960s and 1970s, Mexico retained its civilian-dominated, semiauthoritarian political system. When the rest of Latin America experienced a trend toward democratization in the 1980s, Mexico again stood apart in retaining the same political regime that has governed it since the 1920s. 4 In fact, Mexico is the only Latin American republic to avoid violent change of government from 1920 to the present. During these decades Mexico labored under severe political strains that