Political Science Democratization in Mexico
Jonathan Hiskey
  • LAST REVIEWED: 02 May 2019
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 November 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756223-0077


For many, Mexico became a democracy on the night of 2 July 2000, when the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) conceded defeat in the presidential elections for the first time in its seventy-year existence. For students of Mexican politics, however, the country’s democratic transformation was years in the making. Mirroring this decades-long process of regime transition, research on Mexico’s democratization is equally varied, rich, and complex. Long before the watershed victory of the Partido Acción Nacional (PAN) candidate Vicente Fox in the 2000 presidential race, scholars with a wide range of research foci had begun to focus their analytical lenses on certain elements of the Mexican political system that ultimately played a role in the election of Fox in 2000. Beginning in the 1960s, for example, various scholars highlighted the emerging tensions between the PRI’s economic modernization project and its political model of one-party rule. During the 1980s another group of largely Mexican scholars began underlining the still sporadic but no less significant opposition party victories at the local level, which revealed growing cracks in the PRI’s one-party electoral foundation. Over the course of the 1990s, more and more works began appearing that called into question the viability of the PRI’s one-party model in the context of the extensive market-based economic reforms initiated by leaders of the PRI. Finally, in the early 21st century, researchers have revealed the continuing impact of the country’s authoritarian past, along with a new set of challenges, on Mexico’s fledgling democratic system. Taken together, this diverse and incredibly rich body of work offers the student of Mexico’s long democratic transition perhaps the most complete account of regime change among the many country-specific literatures devoted to this topic around the world. The following bibliographic tour represents an effort to give the interested student a means to navigate the many topics and types of research that inform our understanding of the still ongoing process of democratization in Mexico.

General Overviews

A starting point for anyone interested in research on the many facets of Mexico’s democratization process must be Camp 2012, as it provides an extensive and diverse collection of chapters on all aspects of the country’s political transformation. Chand 2001 and Preston and Dillon 2005 are both highly engaging accounts of the late 1980s and 1990s, the most volatile period of political change, whereas Domínguez 2004 supplies a comprehensive overview and assessment of the many contributions to our understanding of that tumultuous decade of democratization. Basáñez 1991 offers an equally compelling analysis of the many self-inflicted wounds of the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) between the late 1960s and 1980s, which laid the groundwork for the political change that took place in the 1990s. Taken together, these works represent a fine introduction to the many topics and time periods of Mexico’s extended period of political change.

  • Basáñez, Miguel. El pulso de los sexenios: 20 años de crisis en México. 2d ed. Sociología y política. Mexico City: Siglo Veintiuno, 1991.

    Stands as one of the most important studies of the long-term deterioration of the PRI’s one-party regime, focusing on the role of successive crises in the downfall of the party. Emphasis on the 1968 student massacre and the economic crises of 1976, 1982, and 1987.

  • Camp, Roderic Ai, ed. The Oxford Handbook of Mexican Politics. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.

    DOI: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780195377385.001.0001

    This edited volume provides a comprehensive collection of essays written by some of the leading scholars of Mexican politics, covering topics that range from a historical assessment of elections during the PRI’s one-party regime to civil–military relations and their role in Mexico’s democratization process. Arguably the most extensive treatment of Mexico’s long transition to democracy, and should serve as the starting point for those interested in more recent research on Mexico.

  • Chand, Vikram K. Mexico’s Political Awakening. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2001.

    Chand presents a sweeping assessment of Mexico’s changing regime during the 1980s and 1990s, stressing the role of the Catholic Church and an increasingly active civil society as critical elements in the opening of the country’s one-party political system.

  • Domínguez, Jorge I. “The Scholarly Study of Mexican Politics.” Mexican Studies/Estudios Mexicanos 20.2 (2004): 377–410.

    DOI: 10.1525/msem.2004.20.2.377

    A highly informative overview of research on Mexico’s democratization process, concentrating primarily on work carried out in the 1990s. Good coverage of studies on the PRI’s electoral demise, the changing role of organized labor in Mexican politics, and the rise of new urban and rural social movements. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

  • Preston, Julia, and Samuel Dillon. Opening Mexico: The Making of a Democracy. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005.

    An outstanding and highly accessible introduction to Mexico’s long transition to democracy from the perspective of two New York Times Mexico bureau chiefs. Replete with engaging, on-the-ground accounts of the various dimensions of the transition during the 1990s.

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