Inequality and Power in the Ground of the Mexican Republic

Academic Paper, 2017

27 Pages, Grade: 1,7



1 Introduction

2 Approaches Explicating Power And Inequality
2.1 The Social Psychology of Power
2.2 Emergence of Power Structures
2.2.1 Egalitarian Behavior
2.3 The Stability of Democracy
2.4 Transformation of the Western State
2.5 Globalization and Inequality
2.6 Inequality And Institutions
2.7 The Great Leveler
2.8 Welfare State

3 The Case of Mexico
3.1 Peculiarities of Mexican History
3.2 Violence in Mexico
3.3 Complexity of Mexico’s Anthropology
3.4 Power Structure of Modern Mexico
3.5 Mexico as a Semi-periphery Country

4 Do the Previous Approaches Relate to the Case of Mexico?
4.1 Pursuit of Power
4.2 Egalitarian Indigenous Coimnunities As the Lower Stratum
4.3 Democracy in Mexico
4.4 Incoherent Autocracy
4.5 Higher or Lower Inequality?
4.6 Mexican Institutions
4.7 Is There Any Hope?
4.8 What Can Be Done?

5 Summary

1 Introduction

Many Mexicans accept that life is not fair. A family guy, who lives from hand to mouth, does not care about changing the power structure. He rather thinks: “what do I win by fighting? what would give me the sacrifice? I earn money so that my daughter can go to school, and to buy one kilogram of tortillas.” He cannot take a chance. My original question was how Mexicans can tolerate an oligarchy. The answer is we do not want to have conflicts. We rather evade conflicts in exchange of accepting that life is not fair, that we live in a society with enormous moral and political problems such as discrimination and corruption. The brave Mexicans who try to rebel, get killed.

In this paper, I deal with recent research about inequality and power. By inequality, I understand that individuals do not have the same opportunities. People are treated badly for all kinds of unfair things: skin color, intellect, finance, ideals, gender, and everything else that makes who they are. To define power is very difficult. Power is a necessary means for the fulfilment of any goal. The more goals you set, the more power you need. Plato’s conception is different. In his dialogue, Gorgias, Socrates believes that the tyrants have little power. According to Socrates, someone possesses power if and only if he or she does the good because we do things for the sake of the good. Accordingly, if someone does not do the good, then he or she is powerless.1

The aim of my work is to extend current knowledge of the power structure of Mexico. If we want to transform our society, we need to understand how it works. In­equality and power are the important issues that need to be studied in order to improve the standard of living of the population.

This paper is divided into three parts. The first part gives a brief overview of different approaches explicating inequality and power. Second part describes the case of Mexico. Third part analyzes the relation between the different approaches and the case of Mexico. The first part has eight sections that match with the eight sections of Part III. So Section 2.1 matches with Section 4.1, 2.2 with 4.2, 2.3 with 4.3, and so on, respectively.

2 Approaches Explicating Power And Inequality

A fundamental problem that societies face is the distribution of power. The most com­mon measure for comparing the wealth distribution in a nation is the Gini coefficient, which ranges from 1 (maximal inequality) to 0 (perfect equality). The Gini coefficient tries to measure the distribution of income; the truth is that it measures relative, not absolute, wealth because it does not capture the changes at the top and the bottom with exactitude. There is a calculation of the Gini coefficient based on market income, that is, the income before taxes and transfers. Another calculation of the Gini coefficient is based on the income after taxes and transfers, that is, the disposable income. As two calculations exist, we have to be careful comparing the Gini coefficients of different countries because different surveys give different estimates in the same country. These data problems depend on how the surveys treat for example the infonnal sector.2 3

Hence, the Gini coefficient can be misleading measuring inequality; nonethe­less, it still provides a sufficient reference for the development of this seminar paper.

In the following sections, I will explain different approaches about inequality and power through the introduction of some hypothesis and theories of the following sciences: social psychology, sociology, anthropology, economy, political science, and history are the different sciences explicating inequality and power. I will introduce some hypothesis and theories from the perspectives of these sciences.

2.1 The Social Psychology of Power

In agreement with Guiñóte and Vescio, power is distinguished by asyimnetrical inter­dependent relationships. Having power is related with social influence and control. A powerful person for Guiñóte and Vescio has the ability to control the behavior, think­ing, and feeling of other persons using rewards and punishments. ’ They ask why is power important and answer that a power role stabilizes the organization and structure of society so that we can ensure resources.4

A central theme in power research is corruption. Guiñóte and Vescio assert that power corrupts5 and powerful people tend to distribute resources unequally, ex­ploitation, sexual harassment, aggressive behavior, and objectification of others are the other things. Power is linked with corruption in individualistic societies that endorse cultural stereotypes, not in collectivistic societies that reject stereotypes.6 I mention corruption because of its relation to the mexican politics.

2.2 Emergence of Power Structures

Boehm and Flack present a theory in the field of anthropology of niche construction occurring at multiple levels, going from interactions of two individuals into an aggre­gate level. There is a generated contest because of the competition over resources. In nature, we see the winner and loser effects, for example, we see this primitive mecha­nism in fish. Winner fish becomes more aggressive and loser fish is more likely to give up the control when challenged.7

The concept of power includes, on the one hand, the ability to realize the own interests from the perspective of individual constituents, on the other hand, it includes a collective organization that it is legitimized.8

There are three levels of signaling asymmetries. First, there is submission signaling by pairwise interactions that aims to reduce conflict between the sender and receiver, because the sender perceives the receiver is stronger. The second level is subordination at the level of social groups, which is a coercion-based power structure that is maintained; in order to maintain power, a continuous use of aggression is needed. Authoritarian and fascistic states appear to be coercion-based. Finally, at the aggregate level, we find contractual signals that are called legitimation-based power structures. At the aggregate level, rulers do not need to use aggression anymore because of the agreement to contractual power relationships.9

2.2.1 Egalitarian Behavior

Is egalitarian behavior possible? 40,000 year ago, humans had not yet domesticated plants and animals and lived in small groups practicing egalitarian behavior. Au­tonomous small-scale coimnunities still exist today with almost any stratification. These coimnunities are nomadic hunter-gatherers, horticulturalists, or pastoralists. How can this be that these societies are egalitarian? Boehm argues that they are less politically centralized because the followers dominate their leaders. These societies disapprove hierarchical behavior and make use of moralistic sanctioning when someone tries to dominate the others.10 Public opinion, criticism, ridicule, disobedience, deposition, desertion, exile, and execution are some of the sanctions that these small indigenous coimnunities use as leveling mechanisms.11

2.3 The Stability of Democracy

Less centralization is not only possible but essential for the stability of Democracy as we will see. As reported by Jung and Sunde from an economy’s point of view, equality matters for the stability of democracies. A democracy will last in equal soci­eties. In contrast, unequal societies give rise to oligarchies or dictatorships. Jung and Sunde hold that economic development does not automatically mean the emergence of a democracy. They suggest that the level of economic development does not really matter for democratization to be possible. What really matters is that inequality does not become too large. In contrast with the theory of Lipset, whose thesis is the highest economic development reference, the more chances there are that a democracy will sustain; as stated in “Some Social Requisites of Democracy: Economic Development and Political Legitimacy.” Conforming to Jung and Sunde on the contrary, the eco­nomic development is less important than the distribution because a democracy will not last if it is unequal, that is, an oligarchy or a dictatorship will emerge if inequality is increasing.12

Lipset writes about Latin American states in his above-mentioned article. He says that a value system allowing a peaceful way of managing power is missing in many Latin American states. Under those circumstances there is no recognition of rights.13 In agreement with Lipset, Latin America inherited a political structure from the Iberian Peninsula that never developed legitimacy.14 It does not mean that Latin America is never going to develop legitimacy as the European models did. Let’s see the transformation of the western state.

2.4 Transformation of the Western State

Gurr, Jaggers, and Moore work in the field of political science. They mention three pro­cesses that transformed the Western State during the last two centuries. First of all, the revolutions, starting with the French Revolution. The process of fighting absolutism. Not to mention the Industrial Revolution that made everything go faster and more ef­ficient regarding productivity. In the second place, we find the process of legitimation and political participation. The third process is westernization, whereby societies have adopted European models; for example, in Latin America, where European political systems were imitated. The northern hemisphere was successful in the transformation and the postcolonial worlds were rather unstable.15

The authors use a dataset on authority traits called POLITY II to assess 155 countries from 1800 to 1986. They use the terminus “coherent” to refer to democracies and autocracies that are consistent; this means that got the highest scores on the as­sessment. Incoherent democracies are those mixed democracies, that is, with a mixture of democratic and autocratic traits. Their hypothesis is that incoherent polities have weaker economic development than coherent democracies and autocracies because the coherent ones are able to more efficiently pursue objectives.16

The state’s capacity to direct social and economic life increased in Europe and Latin America, and the military power has also fluctuated in both regions. Al­though democracy increased in Europe - in spite of the twenty years of Fascism from the 1920s to the 1940s - autocratic traits have been more prevalent in Latin America. Europe tends to have coherent polities; and outside Europe, the tendency is to be in­coherent. This means that Europe had polities that were more durable, and outside Europe, there were drastic changes transitioning from autocracies to democracies, and vice versa.

Restricted participation, caesaristic transfers of power, and executive con­straints are some of the authority traits in Latin American societies. The coherent states that once were established in Latin America were too weak to outlast the elite. Latin American states are not coherent.17 It could be that in the times of globalization the incoherence will change.

2.5 Globalization and Inequality

Conforming to the economist Freeman, globalization has had an effect on inequal­ity. Income inequality has been reduced worldwide, nevertheless inequality augmented within countries. The reason for this is that the demand for workers with different skills has changed, given the technological change, and the supply of educated persons has also changed.18 There are three developments that increased international interac­tions. After China’s shift to capitalism, India’s entry into the global trading system, and the collapse of the Soviet communism, the number of workers in the world dou­bled. This first development gives finns the option to choose low-wage workers. The second development is digitalization coupled with worldwide access to the Internet.

As a result, employment in the First World is vulnerable to offshoring, also because of the rise in high-level skills in developing countries.19 And the third development was the speed of knowledge and technology from the countries of the First World to the developing countries, for example, multinationals investing in developing countries. As reported by Freeman, these three developments allowed developing countries to grow; for this reason, inequality among countries has become less. Although inequal­ity among countries fell, inequality within countries rose in the most cases. A reason for rising inequality within countries is that the demand for skilled workers raised in the developing countries, as new technologies have been adopted in developing countries, and this was a driver of income inequality.20

2.6 Inequality And Institutions

Rogowski and MacRae argue that exogenous changes in technology, investment, trade, or demography change inequality and institutions. In agreement with them, social change leads to change in inequality, which occasionally changes in institutions, which again causes a change in inequality.21 The perspective of this theory is a combination of political science and history.

According to Rogowski and MacRae, societies with clientelistic politics are characterized by extreme economic inequality.22 An example of inequality causing a change in institutions in the context of Latin America is given by Engennan and Sokoloff. They claim that since colonialism to the present day, the countries of the New World experienced narrow participation and political inequality because the land was given to the elites. This is an example of how the elite has maintained privilege.23

Rogowski and MacRae make a reference to Democracy and Development: Political Institutions and Well-Being in the World by Prezeworski et ak, that the more equality there is, the more likely the democracy will survive. To be more precise, democracies with Gini indices above the median are at least four times as likely to fail as those with Gini indices below the median. They also found out that if equality increases, then it is likelier that a dictatorship becomes a democracy. According to Prezeworski et ak, if in a dictatorship inequality decreases, it is twice as likely that it becomes a democracy as in a dictatorship with increased inequality.24 The question that arises is how to decrease inequality. There is an answer in the next section.


1 Cf. Platon, Gorgias (Stuttgart: Reclam, 1989), 466 d-e.

2 Cf. Richard B. Freeman, Globalization and Inequality, ed. B. Nolan พ. Salverda and T. M. Smeeding (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), 591.

3 Cf. Ana Guiñóte and Theresa K. Vescio, eds., The Social Psychology of Power (New York: Guilford Press, 2010), 2.

4 Cf. ibid., 3.

5 Not all power corrupts (there is only a correlation of corruption with power). Plato's conception con­trasts the idea that "power corrupts" because it cannot get corrupted to maintain the real essence of power.

6 Cf. Guiñóte and Vescio, The Social Psychology of Power, 4.

7 Cf. Christopher Boehm and Jessica c. Flack, The Emergence of Simple and Complex Power Structures through Social Niche Construction., ed. Guiñóte and T. K. Vescio (New York: Guilford Press, 2010), 3.

8 Cf. ibid., 2.

9 Cf. ibid.! 4-5.

10 Cf. Christopher Boehm, "Egalitarian Behavior and Reverse Dominance Hierarchy," Current Anthro­pology 3, no. 34 (1993): 228.

11 Cf. ibid., 232.

12 Cf. Florian Jung and Uwe Sunde, "Income, Inequality, and the Stability of Democracy — Another Look at the Lipset Hypothesis," European Journal of Political Economy, no. 35 (2014): 69.

13 Cf. Seymour Martin Lipset, "Some Social Requisites of Democracy: Econome Development and Po­litical Legitimacy," The American Political Science Review 53, no. 1 (1959): 71.

14 Cf. ibid., 91.

15 Cf. Keith Jaggers Ted Robert Gurr and Will H. Moore, Tlie Transformation of the Western State: The Growth of Democracy, Autocracy, and State Power since 1800, ed. A. Inkeleles (New Brunswick N.J.: Transaction Publishers, 1991), 68-69.

16 Cf. ibid., 82-84.

17 Cf. ibid.! 90.

18 Cf. Freeman, Globalization and Inequality, 576.

19 Cf. Freeman, Globalization and Inequality, 577-580.

20 Cf. ibid., 592.

21 Cf. Ronald Rogowski and Duncan c. MacRae, Inequality and Institutions: What Tlieoiy, Histoiy, ami (some) Data Tell Us, ed. R Beramendi and c. Anderson (New York: Russel Sage Foundation, 2008), 4.

22 Cf. ibid.

23 As cited in ibid., 3.

24 As cited in ibid., 4.

Excerpt out of 27 pages


Inequality and Power in the Ground of the Mexican Republic
Humboldt-University of Berlin
Ungleichheit und Macht
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
Kommentar des Dozenten: "Die Arbeit gibt einen sehr guten und umfassenden Überblick sowohl über eine Vielzahl wichtiger Aspekte zum Thema Macht und Ungleichheit, wie auch zur politischen Geschichte Mexikos. Schließlich bemühen Sie sich auch darum, eine Beziehung herzustellen zwischen den gängigen Theorien zum Thema Macht und Ungleichheit und der Situation in Mexiko. Die Arbeit zeugt von einer wirklich umfassenden und intensiven Auseinandersetzung mit dem Thema Macht und Ungleichheit; auch die Darstellung der mexikanischen Geschichte ist sehr gut gelungen."
Mexiko, Mexico, Macht, Power, Ungleichheit, Inequality, Democracy, Demokratie, Sozialpsychologie, Social psychology, Corruption, Latin American, Transformation of the Western State, Globalization, Korruption, Lateinamerika, Transformation des westlichen Staates
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Valery Berthoud (Author), 2017, Inequality and Power in the Ground of the Mexican Republic, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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