Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

The Emergence of the PRI: Land, Civil Society, and Party Formation in Post-Revolutionary Mexico

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

4:00 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.

McKinney Conference Room

Mexico's Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) was central to one of the longest-lived regimes of the twentieth century. Yet, the PRI’s emergence remains severely understudied in a body of work devoted mostly to explaining how the party maintained power once it was consolidated. I examine why the PRI formed as a mass party in some regions but not others despite attempts to do so and similarity in conditions. In doing so I test prevailing approaches to the understanding of party formation that conceive mass parties as reflections of pre-constituted social sectors or as an after-effect of modernizing states. The talk will develop a two-pronged argument: the emergence of mass parties requires the existence of a strong civil society upon which to act; in turn, the presence of this civil societal realm is facilitated by the collapse of ‘pre’-capitalist land tenure arrangements. In contrast to prevailing approaches, I show the power of the party to shape and construct political constituencies and engage in state-formation itself; at the same time, by showing the role of property arrangements, I identify structural determinants to the capacity for political organizations to produce constituents.

Edwin F. Ackerman is an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology at the Maxwell School in Syracuse University.


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