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Why a Few Are Rich and the People Poor

Ramon Ruiz

Publication Year: 2010

Explicitly focusing on the malaise of underdevelopment that has shaped the country since the Spanish conquest, Ramón Eduardo Ruiz offers a panoramic interpretation of Mexican history and culture from the pre-Hispanic and colonial eras through the twentieth century. Drawing on economics, psychology, literature, film, and history, he reveals how development processes have fostered glaring inequalities, uncovers the fundamental role of race and class in perpetuating poverty, and sheds new light on the contemporary Mexican reality. Throughout, Ruiz traces a legacy of dependency on outsiders, and considers the weighty role the United States has played, starting with an unjust war that cost Mexico half its territory. Based on Ruiz’s decades of research and travel in Mexico, this penetrating work helps us better understand where the country has come, why it is where it is today, and where it might go in the future.

Published by: University of California Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication, Quote

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pp. 2-9


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pp. ix-11

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pp. xi-xiii

This offbeat disquisition on Mexico’s warped march from century to century opens with the sterling views of my father, a doting Mexican patriot who, when I was young, never tired of telling me stories from his country’s past. As his own father had done, he had served in his...

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1. Ramblings on Mexican Underdevelopment

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pp. 1-16

Let me spell out why I believe Mexico is underdeveloped. But first, permit me to digress just a bit. Some pundits, fixated on the banal details of human idiosyncrasies, tend to think that we are the authors of our own fate, but life is surely more complicated. To that truism I...

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2. El Mexicano

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pp. 17-32

To comprehend from first to last how Mexican underdevelopment came to be, we must turn back the pages of time. By doing so, to cite F. Scott Fitzgerald, the American novelist, we will be borne back into the past. Only then can we begin to make out the raison d’être for the Mexican...

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3. The Legacy

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pp. 33-52

Adam Smith, the classical economist, called the discovery of America one of the “most important events in the history of mankind.” America’s signifi cance, he went on to say, lay not in its mines of silver and gold but in the new and inexhaustible market for European goods.1 That...

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4. Free Traders and Capitalists

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pp. 53-82

The nineteenth century, celebrated as the glorious age of independence and the Reforma, and the bellwether of the Liberal Party, handed over the National Palace to exuberant disciples of José María Luis Mora, a dyed-in-the-wool free trader, and the English ideologues Adam Smith...

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5. Colonialism’s Thumb

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pp. 83-103

The golden age of capitalism, when the tree of the Industrial Revolution bore ripe fruit, was no time for the peripheral world to free itself from colonialism’s thumb. Known as the Gilded Age in the United States, Mexico’s new trading partner, it saw the triumph of the world...

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6. Lost Opportunity

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pp. 104-126

Modern Mexico, according to sundry scholars of that country, both nationals and foreigners, starts with the Porfiriato, a regime that went on for ever and ever, or so it seemed to a multitude of Mexicans. Many of these same scholars, turned contortionists, then go on to swear allegiance...

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7. Internal Market

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pp. 127-146

An international crisis may, if the powerful bleed from their own wounds, provide a chance, especially for peripheral countries, to reshape policies. Such a chance befell Mexico in the 1930s, when, thanks to the Great Depression—a malady of the capitalist West and a sledgehammer...

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8. False Miracle

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pp. 147-178

Miracles, as everyone knows, are hard to come by. Only zealots, skepticism cast aside, can believe that even the parched desert will bloom with flowers. Yet, according to a plethora of pundits and scholars, Mexico enjoyed a miracle starting in the 1940s. The miracle, growth of the gross...

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9. Death of a Dream

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pp. 180-199

By 1982, Mexico’s empresarios and politicos, with the enthusiastic help of outsiders, had made a mess of the Mexican economy. They then proceeded to throw the baby out with the bathwater, tossing away a domestically oriented blueprint in order to resurrect Adam Smith’s old...

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pp. 200-231

Grand economic theories rarely last more than a few decades. Some, because they march in step with technological or political events, may make it to half a century. But only soldiers and guns can keep others alive.1 Neoliberalism, replete with market idolatry and technocratic and...

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pp. 232-239

So, what can we conclude? Why is Mexico underdeveloped? Surely, the question is thorny and labyrinthine: there is no simple answer. But no matter how we frame the inquiry, time is all-important: the historical background looms elephantine. As Marx, in one of his most eloquent...


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pp. 241-263


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pp. 265-273


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pp. 275-287

Production Notes

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pp. 288-303

E-ISBN-13: 9780520947528
Print-ISBN-13: 9780520262362

Page Count: 304
Publication Year: 2010

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Mexico -- Economic conditions.
  • Mexico -- Economic policy.
  • Economic development -- Mexico.
  • Poverty -- Mexico.
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