Decentralization, Democratization, and Informal Power in Mexico

By (author) Andrew Selee

Paperback - £27.95

Publication date:

15 June 2011

Length of book:

208 pages


Penn State University Press

ISBN-13: 9780271048444

In the last two decades of the twentieth century, many countries in Latin America freed themselves from the burden of their authoritarian pasts and developed democratic political systems. At the same time, they began a process of shifting many governmental responsibilities from the national to the state and local levels. Much has been written about how decentralization has fostered democratization, but informal power relationships inherited from the past have complicated the ways in which citizens voice their concerns and have undermined the accountability of elected officials. In this book, Andrew Selee seeks to illuminate the complex linkages between informal and formal power by comparing how they worked in three Mexican cities. The process of decentralization is shown to have been intermediated by existing spheres of political influence, which in turn helped determine how much the institution of multiparty democracy in the country could succeed in bringing democracy “closer to home.”

Decentralization, Democratization, and Informal Power in Mexico is a fascinating, beautifully crafted, and revealing account of just how much Mexican democratization has taken place at the local level. Andrew Selee has used extensive field research and years spent living in Mexico to examine the extent to which electoral democracy has taken hold as the primary means of communicating citizen demands in three distinct municipalities. He discovers that many of the informal processes that characterized decision-making at the local level before the democratic transition continue to the present, clearly demonstrating the limits of institutional change on citizen participation. Equally important, Selee demonstrates how informal power is significantly shaping democratic outcomes.”

—Roderic Ai Camp, Claremont McKenna College