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Poverty of Democracy

Poverty of Democracy: The Institutional Roots of Political Participation in Mexico

CLAUDIO A. HOLZNER
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt6wrdtx
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    Poverty of Democracy
    Book Description:

    Political participation rates have declined steadily in Mexico since the 1990s. The decline has been most severe among the poor, producing a stratified pattern that more and more mirrors Mexico's severe socioeconomic inequalities. Poverty of Democracy examines the political marginalization of Mexico's poor despite their key role in the struggle for democracy.Claudio A. Holzner uses case study evidence drawn from eight years of fieldwork in Oaxaca, and from national surveys to show how the institutionalization of a free-market democracy created a political system that discourages the political participation of Mexico's poor by limiting their access to politicians at the local and national level. Though clean elections bolster political activity, Holzner shows that at the local level, and particularly in Mexico's poorest regions, deeply rooted enclaves of authoritarianism and clientelism still constrict people's political opportunities.

    To explain this phenomenon, Holzner develops an institutional theory in which party systems, state-society linkages, and public policies are the key determinants of citizen political activity. These institutions shape patterns of political participation by conferring and distributing resources, motivating or discouraging an interest in politics, and by affecting the incentives citizens from different income groups have for targeting the state with political activity.

    Holzner's study sheds light on a disturbing trend in Latin America (and globally), in which neoliberal systems exacerbate political and economic disparities and create institutions that translate economic inequalities into political ones.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-7380-5
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. CHAPTER 1 THE RETURN OF INSTITUTIONS: Political Opportunities and Political Participation
    (pp. 1-19)

    Mexico’s political system was once hailed as the “perfect dictatorship,” characterized by regular elections, widespread legitimacy, and uninterrupted rule by the same political party (the Partido Revolucionario Institucional, or PRI) for seventy years. One of the distinguishing characteristics of Mexico’s brand of authoritarianism was its relative openness to political activity from ordinary citizens and social groups. There was little that was free or fair about this political activism, however. During the PRI’s long reign, political participation was encouraged only when it provided support for the ruling party, tolerated when it was aimed at securing limited material benefits, and violently repressed...

  2. CHAPTER 2 TOWARD AN INSTITUTIONAL THEORY OF POLITICAL PARTICIPATION
    (pp. 20-50)

    Since the late 1980s, citizens of Mexico have lived through a period of extraordinary political, social, and economic transformations. Politically they have witnessed the fall from power of the world’s longest-ruling party, a transition to a multiparty democracy, and a newly vibrant political arena that offers them many innovative ways to express their opinions at the local, state, and national levels. Economically they have endured the implementation of severe austerity programs, deep economic crises, and neoliberal reforms that have sharply reduced the scope of state activity and altered the links between the state and society. A close look at how...

  3. CHAPTER 3 NEOLIBERAL REFORMS, THE STATE, AND OPPORTUNITIES FOR POLITICAL PARTICIPATION
    (pp. 51-99)

    One of the difficulties of developing and applying an institutional framework is identifying which institutions matter most for citizen political activism. This problem is particularly acute in the case of Mexico because so much changed between 1990 and 2000. Reforms that opened the political system will certainly impact people’s political activity, but it is much less clear whether and to what extent neoliberal reforms like the privatization of state-owned enterprises, cutbacks in state spending, free-trade agreements, and a shift to targeted poverty-alleviation programs matter for political participation. Existing research provides some guidance, but much of the terrain remains unmapped (see...

  4. CHAPTER 4 POLITICAL INSTITUTIONS, ENGAGEMENT, AND PARTICIPATION
    (pp. 100-127)

    Listening to people talk about their experiences with new economic policies implemented during the 1990s gives us insight into how institutional changes linked to neoliberal reforms influenced their ability and desire to participate in politics. New policies and different state-society relationships suppressed the political activity of the poor by decreasing their capacity to participate, by eliminating incentives for targeting the state and national governments with political action, and by reducing their preference for political activity. Although interviews provide compelling evidence of the mechanisms linking institutional changes to changes in political activism, it is of course possible that there is something...

  5. CHAPTER 5 UNEVEN AND INCOMPLETE DEMOCRATIZATION IN MEXICO
    (pp. 128-153)

    While neoliberal reforms had powerful effects on the political attitudes and activity of the poor, depressing their political involvement to levels much lower than that of other groups, the shift away from an ISI development model was only half of the massive institutional changes experienced by Mexican citizens during the decade. The transition from a one-party authoritarian regime to a multiparty competitive democracy also occurred between 1990 and 2000, rewriting the rules of the political game and potentially creating incentives and opportunities for participation that balanced out the negative effect of economic reforms.

    Although this democratic transformation has been long...

  6. CHAPTER 6 DEMOCRATIZATION, POLITICAL COMPETITION, AND POLITICAL PARTICIPATION
    (pp. 154-194)

    Most accounts of Mexico’s democratic transition emphasize its gradualism, suggesting perhaps that ordinary Mexicans had sufficient time to adapt their behavior to the emerging institutional context. However, the evolution of political competition in Mexico (in Oaxaca in particular) reveals that the transition to democracy was full of inconsistencies and paradoxes. For example, although the transition began in local and state elections and eventually spread to the national level, today democratic practices are much more solidly established at the federal level. Local elections in many states and municipalities are still marred by fraud, clientelism, and lack of choice among parties. Democratic...

  7. CHAPTER 7 POLITICAL EQUALITY AND DEMOCRACY IN MEXICO
    (pp. 195-216)

    Whether in Chile’s exclusionary military regime or Mexico’s one-party electoral dictatorship, growing citizen political activism was a crucial factor in weakening authoritarian governments and ushering in democratic transitions throughout the 1980s and 1990s across Latin America. Both the rich and poor, college graduates and the uneducated, joined in peaceful and violent protests, organized marches and strikes, voted in referenda, joined grassroots organizations, and participated in countless other ways while struggling for democracy. Sometimes, as in the case of Chile, it was the poor who, despite precarious living situations and real threats to their lives, were the catalysts for their country’s...

  8. Appendix A. Survey Questions and Variables
    (pp. 217-224)
  9. Appendix B. Regression Results
    (pp. 225-234)