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By Laurence Whitehead

This paper outlines an interpretation of the Mexican political system. It argues that the Mexican state is organised to bring about long-term changes in the society, without paying too much regard to the immediate distribution of preferences among the existing population. The governing elite therefore feels a sense of remoteness from the society it seeks to transform, and suffers bouts of concern about the underlying "governability" of the country. The paper assesses the validity of such preoccupations, with particular reference to the dangers possibly posed by i) a disaffected intelligentsia, ii) extremes of social inequality, and iii) the impact of "modernisation," especiallY. if accelerated by the oil bonanza. It also reviews developments in the realms of organised labour and the private sector, suggesting that these may add to the problems of "governability." The conclusion, however, argues that although such problems are very real they are not necessarily insurmountable, especially if they serve to stimulate elite cohesion and adaptability. A postscript touches on United States influence in Mexico, as perceived from afar.


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