The Difficult Transition from Clientelism to Citizenship: Lessons from Mexico

Jonathan Fox

in The New Politics of Inequality in Latin America

Published in print January 1997 | ISBN: 9780198781837
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191598968 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Studies in Democratization

 The Difficult Transition from Clientelism to Citizenship: Lessons from Mexico

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Democracy requires elections, but elections do not always guarantee the organizational autonomy that citizenship requires. Clientelism stands in opposition to autonomy, and its change from an authoritarian form, where compliance is gained by threats of coercion, goes through many stages before arriving at full autonomy for groups. This study examines a series of three Mexican rural development programmes from the mid 1970s through the 1980s, with an emphasis on the rural Solidarity funds. These show change, but many obstacles, yielding a new form of popular linkage to politics, here called semi‐clientelism, distinctive because compliance is gained by the threat of withholding benefits rather than coercion, while organizations still have no right to autonomy. As a result of bargaining among three key actors, social movements, authoritarian elites, and reformist state managers, voters are less coerced, but still limited.

Keywords: clientelism; coercion; Mexican rural politics; organizational autonomy; reformist state managers; semi‐clientelism; social movements

Chapter.  16049 words. 

Subjects: Politics

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