Political Stability and Democracy in Mexico: The "Perfect Dictatorship"?

By Dan A. Cothran | Go to book overview

monopoly on the use of coercion, and it was willing to use that coercion to maintain itself in power; potential challengers had to take that fact into account. The highly institutionalized nature of the regime meant that certain things would predictably happen, such as the inauguration of a new president after the next election. Therefore, people took that likelihood into account when deciding on their course of action. For most of the past half century, the Mexican economy grew at a healthy rate and, although that growth disappeared in the 1980s, Mexicans should not be considered irrational if they believed that better times would return once again. The flexibility of the regime in the past also made it reasonable for Mexicans to assume that the government would continue to adapt to emerging demands. For all these reasons, therefore, elites and nonelites could be considered rational if they acted as if their self-interest would best be served by continuing to accept the existence of the regime. 25

Thus institutionalization, perceived effectiveness, adaptability, elite cohesion, location, and coercion all reinforced each other in their contributions to regime stability. They did so mainly through influencing the incentives of political actors to support the regime. The more that those factors leaned in one direction (institutionalized procedures, effective policies, flexible strategies, cohesive elites, moderate use of coercion, and continued support from the United States) rather than the other, the more likely that each political actor would see his interest in supporting, or at least not opposing, the regime.

This chapter has laid out the framework for an analysis of Mexico's political stability. Chapter 2 will analyze the construction of the modern Mexican state during the administration of Lázaro Cárdenas in the 1930s.


NOTES
1
For example, the index to Robert Dahl, Modern Political Analysis, 4th ed. ( Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1984), an overview of the field of political science, contains four references to revolution but none to order or stability. Likewise, the index for Ronald Chilcote, Theories of Comparative Politics: The Search for a Paradigm ( Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1981), an overview of the field of comparative politics, lists revolution twenty-one times but stability none. This does not mean that they do not deal with stability, only that it did not loom large enough in their thinking to list it as a separate concept in the index. To some extent, this is a function of the theoretical paradigm of the author. For example, Samuel Huntington, Political Order in Changing Societies (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1968), has numerous references in the index to political order and stability, as well as to instability and revolution. Similarly, Myron Weiner and Samuel Huntington, eds., Understanding Political Development ( Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1987), lists revolution in the index eight times and stability six times.
2
A classic treatment of stability and instability that summarizes much of the literature up to that point is Huntington, Political Order. A good survey of the literature on violent instability is Thomas Greene, Comparative Revolutionary Movements, 3d ed. ( Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1990).

-13-

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Political Stability and Democracy in Mexico: The "Perfect Dictatorship"?
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Figures and Tables ix
  • Preface xi
  • 1 - Mexican Political Stability 1
  • Notes 13
  • 2 - The Institutionalization of the Mexican State 17
  • Notes 49
  • 3 - Economic Growth and Political Support 57
  • Notes 85
  • 4 - Adaptability and the Crises of 1968-1978 89
  • Notes 126
  • 5 - Elite Unity and Political Stability 131
  • Notes 173
  • 6 - Carlos Salinas and the Revolutionary Regime 177
  • Notes 205
  • 7 - Prospects for Stability and Democracy in Mexico 209
  • Notes 233
  • Selected Bibliography 237
  • Index 245
  • About the Author *
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