The Pennsylvania State University
Cover for the book Democracy Within Reason

Democracy Within Reason

Technocratic Revolution in Mexico Miguel Angel Centeno
  • Copyright: 1994
  • Dimensions: 6 x 9
  • Page Count: 308 pages
  • Illustrations: 10 illustrations
  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-271-01021-2
  • First Edition

Honorable Mention for the Mattei Dogan Award for best book published in the field of comparative research Society for Comparative Research

“Centeno turns this fascinating story to good analytical account, and there is recurrent and well-balanced reference to both Russian and Eastern Europe and East Asia; the book is relevant not only to Latin and North Americanists but to all students of comparative politics, especially those interested in the recent wave of democratic transitions and market reforms.”
“This book is a significant contribution to our understanding of Mexican politics, and to the comparative exploration of the changes wrought throughout the region in the 1980s and the 1990s. It provides essential insights that are fundamental to explaining Mexico’s political process in the last decade and will assist students in understanding where this political model is headed throughout the end of the century.”
“In this book Miguel Centeno describes and analyzes, as no one else has, Mexico’s post-1970 state transformation. . . . Centeno’s book provides a basis for understanding both Mexico’s current political crisis and possibly its resolution.”
“An important study . . . that seeks to explain the people, organization, and ideology that lay behind . . . the Salinas period. Exceptionally strong in its explanation of the political identity of the Salinistas . . .”
“An outstanding case study of the vital problem of political and economic restructuring many societies are facing today, the work is significant for the understanding it provides of the Mexican case and in revealing lessons applicable to other regimes. Meticulously researched, systematically organized and well-written, the book contains a wealth of data. Outstanding Academic Book 1994”

During the 1980s the Mexican regime faced a series of economic, social, and political disasters that led many to question its survival. Yet by 1992 the economy was again growing, with inflation under control and the confidence of international investors restored. Mexico was now touted as an example for regimes in Eastern Europe to emulate. How did Carlos Salinas and his team of technocrats manage to gain political power sufficient to impose their economic model? How did they sustain their revolution from above despite the hardships these changes brought for many Mexicans? How did they stage their remarkable political comeback and create their “democracy within reason”? Why did Salinas succeed in keeping control of his revolution while Mikhail Gorbachev failed to do so in his similar effort at radical reform? Miguel Centeno addresses these questions by analyzing three critical developments in the Mexican state: the centralization of power within the bureaucracy; the rise of a new generation of technocrats and their use of a complex system of political networks; and the dominance of a neoliberal ideology and technocratic vision that guided policy decisions and limited democratic participation. In his conclusion the author proposes some alternative scenarios for Mexico’s future, including the role of NAFTA, and suggests lessons for the study of regimes undertaking similar transitions. Of obvious interest to students of contemporary Mexico and Latin America, the book will also be very useful for those analyzing the transition to the market in other countries, the role of knowledge in public policy, and the nature of the modern state in general.

Miguel Angel Centeno is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Princeton University.

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Market-Led Reform and the Transformation of Public Goods

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