Accepted paper:

Boundaries of democracy in Mexico: the 'dull maximums and infernal minimums' of political futurity.


Kathy Powell (NUI Galway)

Paper short abstract:

This paper considers how democratization in Mexico has been harnessed to the exclusion of the left and the continued effectiveness of coercive forms of rule; representative democracy nonetheless provides an ideological framework which shapes political positionality and sites of political struggle.

Paper long abstract:

The relationship between the suppression of the left during Mexico's 'dirty war' and subsequent democratization processes has meant that more robust electoral competition has favoured the rise of the right and the consolidation of a political environment which works against diurnal struggles to secure well being, equality and political rights - an environment latterly characterized by unprecedented levels of violence associated with organized crime and militarization. While these developments have generated a strengthening of radical and reformist opposition, the 2012 Presidential election confirmed fears that democratization has so far entailed a shift from a one party state to a politics of 'alternation' between political parties wedded to an authoritarian neoliberalism deeply implicated in the marginalization which benefits capital and the narco economy. This paper argues that this poses serious challenges for a radically different politics: firstly, democratic processes have been harnessed to the demarcation of shared normative boundaries which exclude and discredit the left. Secondly, alternation has 'democratized' rather than superseded 'older' patriarchal and coercive forms of governance/ political practice; more consolidated electoral democracy has become the condition for their continued instrumentality in reproducing configurations of power. Nonetheless, representative democracy cannot be considered as a 'formal fa├žade' masking 'actually existing' political relations and practices but as an ideological framework in which the politics of belief - not necessarily progressive - are built and contested, and in which 'undemocratic' political practice is experienced and understood; beyond institution and procedure, struggles for democracy shape and constrain struggles over the meaning of political life.

panel PE29
Dialectical Anthropology Panel A: producing political positions and political futures