Ugly modernity: Governance, violence, and the money economy in Mexico

Plan Author

  • Scott Weaver, 2012

Fields of Concentration

  • Latin American Studies

Sample Courses

Project Description

An interdisciplinary examination of the origins of violence in contemporary Mexican governance and public life.

Faculty Sponsors

  • Carol Hendrickson
  • Rosario De Swanson

Outside Evaluator

  • Michael Clancy, Professor of Politics and Government, University of Hartford


Over the past quarter century, Mexico has seen an explosion of violence and violent crime. While this rise is typically attributed to increased drug trafficking and cartel activity, its actual causes are significantly more complex. This Plan examines how failures in economic policy and rapid changes in the relationship between the Mexican government and its citizens have contributed to the state’s increase in violence.

Beginning with the Latin American debt crisis of the early 1980s, Mexico began to move away from authoritarian one-party rule. Strongmen from the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), who had ruled the country uncontested for the last 50 years, began to lose power as debt restructuring deals with the IMF and World Bank put pressure on the Mexican economy and political system. Liberal economic and political reforms, undertaken by Mexican presidents Carlos Salinas (88-94) and Ernesto Zedillo (94-00), turned Mexico into a free-market, multi-party democracy. While these reforms have had many benefits, the loss of centralized authoritarian leadership has also increased corruption and reduced services for Mexico’s poor. Without effective, trustworthy government and more opportunities for its most vulnerable citizens, Mexico will likely continue to be destabilized by violence.


“Mexico has made democratic progress and has moved past its days as a fully authoritarian state, but it lacks the legislative and judicial underpinnings necessary to perform efficiently and, more importantly, to handle critical domestic policy problems. The old system has been abolished, but it has not been replaced with a workable new one.”

“The factors that contributed to Mexico’s transformation into a violent quasi-narco-state during the sexenio of Felipe Calderón (2006-2012) are complex, but it is clear that globalization, privatization and a destabilized security environment are contributing causes.”

“To be corrupt in Mexico is to violate of a system of laws that is unenforceable and primarily rhetorical; at the level of the minor bureaucrat, to take a bribe is to disregard an abstraction for the purpose of economic survival.”