Democratic Openings: Organized Business, Conservative Protest, and Political-Economic Transformation in Mexico, 1970-1986
Bentley, Derek Andrew
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In the latter decades of the twentieth-century, Mexican conservatism underwent an historic transformation. The immediate catalysts for this transformation were the populist rhetoric and policies of Mexican presidents Luis Echeverría Álvarez (1970-76) and José López Portillo (1976-82), which impelled business leaders and religious conservatives to devise new strategies for subverting the state’s long-standing role as the custodian of public life and contesting the ideologies of one-party rule and state-led economic development. Public officials’ anti-business oratory and secular reproductive and gender policies—including the legalization and promotion of artificial contraceptives and the courting of women’s liberation activists—accentuated conservative anxieties stemming from the rise of urban guerrilla groups, deteriorating economic conditions, and feminist challenges to traditional family and sexual relations. The dissertation examines the protests that responded to these anxieties, tracing Mexico’s neoliberal and democratic transitions to political alliances among entrepreneurs and Catholics dating from the 1970s and the cultural engineering projects that these coalitions championed. Right-wing protests in Mexico were intimately connected to the efforts of global business and religious leaders to decenter the state from social and economic life. Nevertheless, the movement that emerged was deeply rooted in Mexican politics and culture. Entrepreneurial and Catholic activists, the dissertation argues, linked political and economic opening through a critique of state power as corruptive not only of the economy but of the values and moral norms underpinning civic culture and family life. By subsuming historically unpopular economic doctrines within a democratic vision that garnered widespread support among key sectors of Mexican society, right-wing activists established the political conditions from which Mexico’s market democracy emerged.