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  • Development and Democracy in Mexico
  • Jon Shefner (bio)
The Sources of Democratic Responsiveness in Mexico. By Matthew R. Cleary. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2010. Pp. xi + 253. $28.00 paper. ISBN: 9780268023010.
Mexico’s Economic Dilemma: The Developmental Failure of Neoliberalism—A Contemporary Case Study of the Globalization Process. By James M. Cypher and Raúl Delgado Wise. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, 2010. Pp. xv + 207. $70.00 cloth. ISBN: 97807425565607.
Mexico’s Democratic Challenges: Politics, Government, and Society. Edited by Andrew Selee and Jacqueline Peschard. Washington, D.C.: Woodrow Wilson Center Press; Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2010. Pp. xvi + 326. $75.00 cloth. $27.95 paper. ISBN: 9780804771627.
Mexico’s Unrule of Law: Implementing Human Rights in Police and Judicial Reform under Democratization. By Niels Uildriks, with Nelia Tello Peón. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, 2010. Pp. xviii + 313. $70.00 cloth. ISBN: 9780739128930.
La regla ausente: Democracia y conflicto constitucional en México. By Francisco Valdés Ugalde. Barcelona: Gedisa; Mexico City: Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales and Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Instituto de Investigaciones Sociales, 2010. Pp. xi + 249. $27.00 cloth. ISBN: 9788497845397.

Does democratization matter? If it does, how does it affect the lives of citizens? Are different social groups affected differently by democratization? These questions may seem naive, given the vast amount of literature produced on democratization in Latin America in the past decades, not to mention the seemingly unanimous endorsements of the benefits of democracy.1 But they may be no more naive than early reactions to the victory of Vicente Fox in Mexico’s presidential election of 2000, which was greeted as a watershed event. Mexico has now seen subnational electoral changes, which have increased partisan competition and thus control, as well as two presidential elections lost by the formerly hegemonic [End Page 196] Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI).2 It is reasonable to suggest that Mexico has advanced significantly in attaining many of the hallmarks of democratization, including free and uncoerced elections. But how might we assess Mexico’s democratic transition beyond electoral competition?

One important and largely unanswered question is the relationship of democratization to economic well-being. Indeed, the question is often not even posed, for many scholars accept that prosperity sustains democracy, and few nations at low levels of socioeconomic development can achieve democratization. Still, fewer scholars are willing to claim a precise and positive, causal relationship between wealth and democratization. Juan Linz and Alfred Stepan state that they “accept the well-documented correlation that there are few democracies at very low levels of socioeconomic development and that most polities at a high level of socioeconomic development are democracies,” yet they suggest that “it is often difficult or impossible to make systematic statements about the effect of economics on democratization processes.”3 This lack of attention to the material outcomes of democratization is especially curious, given that the turn away from authoritarianism requires the increased delivery not only of democratic rights but also of other public goods. Among citizen advocates in Mexico, for example, there clearly was a shared and articulated expectation that democratization would result in greater prosperity.4 Recent changes in Mexico offer us the opportunity to rethink some of these questions and assumptions, as have the authors of the books reviewed here.

All these books share an implicit concern for theories of legitimacy. Studies of legitimacy have ranged widely from examinations of legality, institutions, and bureaucracy to Marxist-influenced explanations of the state’s stability despite the uneven distribution of economic benefits. With democratization, the study of legitimacy has brought comparisons to authoritarian predecessors, as well as examinations of what new states can actually deliver to constituents. The link between democracy and development attains great relevance in thinking not just about human rights and the rule of law but also about accountability and the delivery of public services. Mexico exemplifies a nation whose institutional changes are expected to create greater access to power and greater accountability from the government. Legislative, structural, and constitutional reforms have been some of the tools used to make this transition. But can a state truly be legitimate if its...


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