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The Mexican competition state and the paradoxes of managed neo-liberal development

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This article explores the extent to which the 'competition state' model has taken hold in Mexico. Applying four main characteristics of Cerny's competition state, I consider the policy directives of the Mexican state over the past several decades, from the rise of market-led reforms in the wake of the 1982 balance of payments crisis to the end of Vicente Fox's presidential term in 2006. Two observations can be drawn from this survey. First, aside from a few nuances, the Mexican case broadly corresponds to the competition state model. Second, Mexico's competition state has generated highly uneven outcomes, resulting in increased social strife and, paradoxically, greater government intervention in managing the economy. A central contradiction emerging from Mexico's uptake of the competition state model is the disconnect between the theoretical promises of market-led reform, i.e. general prosperity and economic growth premised on the inherent rationality and 'justice' of the market, and the practical realities of neo-liberalism in Mexico, including growing levels of poverty, unsustainable levels of public debt, de-industrialisation and persistent trade imbalances - a trend that seems poised to continue in the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis. Through the lens of the competition state model, the nature of neo-liberalisation processes and contestation over the past several decades is made evident, revealing the ways in which neo-liberal values infuse the policy agendas of all major political parties in Mexico.
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Keywords: Mexico; competition state; domination; neo-liberalism; resistance

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Departments of Global Development Studies and Political Studies, Queen's University, Kingston, ON, Canada

Publication date: January 1, 2010

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