Adaptability and the Crises of 1968-1978
We have seen that institutionalization and economic growth can promote the stability of a political regime. Yet those two qualities alone are not enough to ensure a regime's endurance. Many highly institutionalized regimes have collapsed partly as a result of their own rigidity, the Communist regimes being the prime examples in recent years. 1 Likewise, economic growth can certainly contribute to regime legitimacy and stability, but it can also create conditions for greater instability. Growth is not neutral; it almost always favors some groups over others, at least in the "short run" of a generation or so. For these reasons, a regime that wants to remain in power, if its rule is to be based on anything other than coercion, must be flexible enough to adjust to emerging social demands. It must address the sources of social frustration that can lead to efforts to replace the regime. Hence adaptability is another characteristic that can help a regime to survive.
Regime adaptability has been explored by numerous scholars. Chalmers Johnson has noted that adaptable political elites can avert revolution through "conservative change." The case studies in Gabriel Almond, Scott Flanagan, and Robert Mundt's book emphasized how explicit choices by elites for moderate change in response to the dominant pressures of their eras helped regimes maintain political stability even in difficult times. By contrast, the "breakdown of democratic regimes" has sometimes occurred in Latin America because of the rigidity of elites and their unwillingness to respond to growing pressures for change. 2 John Sloan's study of public policy in Latin America convinced him that "a nation must develop the capacity to shift gears in policy emphasis every five to ten years." 3
The Mexican regime has often been willing to respond to increasing pressures for change by selecting leaders and pursuing policies to defuse dissent.