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Breaking the State-Society Bargain: Neoliberal Market Reforms and Resistance in Mexico

Author(s): Lewis, Thomas

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Abstract: The ability of Mexico's leaders to coopt those political and social actors who would otherwise collectively resist state policy initiatives has been well documented (see, e.g., Camp 1993; Centeno 1994; Cornelius and Craig 1988; Davis 1990; Lustig 1992a). Recent free market policy initiatives, however, have met significant collective resistance at elite and mass levels. What accounts for this anomaly? This paper argues that neoliberal policies have swept aside a nexus of patronage relationships that maintained allegiance to the state. This nexus of political, economic, and social relationships comprised a bargain between the state and society that facilitated social order and political control for almost 50 years. The paper hypothesizes that this bargain—rooted ideologically in the Revolution of 1910 and the Constitution of 1917—created a mutual obligation between state and society after it was institutionalized by President Cardenas in the late 1930s and represented a moral economy writ large. As Mexico's leaders have implemented free market policies, however, this moral economy has been dismantled. Still, the paper argues that the old bargain is not so easily swept aside, as social and political actors resist free market policy initiatives because of the "stickiness" of the old bargain.
Publication Date: 1996
Electronic Publication Date: 1996
Pages: 256 - 283
Type of Material: Journal Article
Series/Report no.: Volume 7;
Journal/Proceeding Title: Journal of Public and International Affairs
Version: Final published version. Article is made available in OAR by the publisher's permission or policy.

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