Blog about sports and politics and whatever else seems interesting from a guy (formerly) in Mexico.
I basically agree that it's a somewhat misplaced criticism and definitely agree that party weakness (or equally commonly, one dominant party) is worse. That said, I don't think the constant harping is odd at all, because it's a staple of discourse throughout Latin America. Partidocracia is kind of like "neoliberal" in having symbolic connotations that are more important than the literal meaning. Partidocracia is associated with ossified parties that are run in a bureaucratic fashion and have (allegedly) lost a connection to the populace outside of elections. In some places the connotation is that the partidocracia is essentially the institutional manifestation of the oligarquia. Populist and antisystem candidates frequently have run against the partidocracia, and in some cases - Ecuador in particular - it is still used as shorthand to signify the hated old order even after that order has been overturned. In the case of Mexico, it's pretty easy to see why folks would latch on to it - they're thinking about the parties as a manifestation of elite, unaccountable politics rather than in relation to the theoretical role of parties in a democracy. Note that the lack of reelection in Mexico actually makes this worse, since despite occasional primary-ish mechanisms for executive offices most diputados/senadores are selected by the party bosses. Between mediocre (at best) parties, often handpicked candidates, and no individualized electoral accountability I understand the frustration. So while I don't really disagree with anything in your piece, I think there's a pretty strong element of the literal translation not being the right frame to evaluate the concept.
"In some places the connotation is that the partidocracia is essentially the institutional manifestation of the oligarquia" Yeah I think that's really pretty much captures it. But the problem is that complaining about the parties confuses who the villains are, or what the real obstacle is. I would say something similar about neoliberalism too; I'd much rather debate specific policies than a philosophy that can mean whatever the person using the terms wants it to. The original ten planks of it were basically sensible; it was in the selective and selectively rigid application of them that everything was screwed up in Latin America, so I don't really think neoliberalism broadsides are particularly useful either. But back to the point of the column, I think the goal of most people writing against the partidocracia is a weaker PRD, PRI, and PAN, but I don't think that solves much. It feels a little like the liberals who want a third party in the US. I understand the sentiment, but that would be counterproductive. The best thing is to hold your nose, join the fray, and try to make the democratic party more liberal.
Oh yes - to paraphrase Goering, when I hear the word neoliberal I reach for my noise-canceling headphones.Unfortunately, sometimes it's just damn hard to claw terms back to any specific policy meanings. But keep fighting the good fight.
"Unfortunately, sometimes it's just damn hard to claw terms back to any specific policy meanings." Yeah totally, and there are circumstances when it's better to just let fly with the broadside labels.
While I generally agree with your sentiment of your piece, my sense of the frustration with the parties in Mexico (and probably many other Latin American countries) goes deeper than the way political scientists have characterized party strength. So, when Mexicans rail against the "partidocracia" it is likely they are thinking of something different than the way we think of strong parties in the U.S. or Europe. In the Mexican case, I think what is really an important component of the frustration has to do with partisan control over state and federal bureaucracies and the use of these positions to further partisan ends (e.g. PANista control over federal delegations of SEDESOL in all the states). And when presidentes municipales and governors leave office, many, if not all, functionaries are switched out based on party and factional loyalty. The parties penetrate everything, which influences a citizen's interaction with government, and the general competence of government bureaucracies. I know of very little research that looks at this issue, so these are really impressionistic musings, but I wish more people were talking about it.
Hey Yann, Hope you're doing well. Are you still in Mexico or are you back stateside?Yeah that's probably true about the reasons for the frustration with the parties. I do think that the critics though would do themselves a favor by being a bit more specific in identifying what exactly is the source of their frustration. In any event, as far as fixing it, I guess the key would be to weaken their stranglehold without them becoming less coherent in the traditional sense of the word, which doesn't seem like it's impossible.
Still in Mexico, but I'm hoping to come back to the states within the next year if all goes as planned.
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