Civil Society and Political Transition in Mexico, 2002 | Alberto Olvera

The Mexican authoritarian regime is the world’s oldest and the only remaining prodyct of the social revolutions inaugerating this century. Its amazing tenacity amidst the waves of democratization that swept the world in the last fifteen years calls for an unconventional explanation. Indeed, the regime in Mexico, has weathered both the crisis of developmentalism (which deeply affected the South American dictatorships) and the consequences of neoliberalism (which caused several problems in the so-called new democracies) without any significant challenges to its stability and without yielding to demands for substantial political concessions. Today virtually all social and political actors agree on one point: the octagenarian regime totters in a terminal crisis, and in the current political stalemate, the alternative facing the country is either true democracy or a new, even stronger, form of authoritarianism. How civil society might intervene in this process beyond mere mobilization, the limited role most theories of transition allow it, should be considered. The existence of social movements claiming autonomy from the state and the market will not be enough to ensure their permanence and institutionalization. The unstable character of a civil society composed of social movements acting without operative civil, political, and social rights limits its transformative potential. The paths of growth, institutionalization, and permanence Mexican civil society now follows will define the scope and forms of the probable transition to democracy.

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