Monday, November 21, 2011

Jorge Castañeda's Mañana Forever

Jorge Castañeda's Mañana Forever? Mexico and the Mexicans (2011) is an effort to explain underdevelopment and democracy deficiency in Mexico. It is mostly about how Mexicans are too individualistic. I found it unsatisfying, in large part because of a contradiction that he lays out in two separate sentences in the very first page of the preface:

This is not a book about the Mexican national character, but about some of the country's most distinguishing origins or features, and their consequences.

Then three sentences later:

It seeks to explain why the very national character that helped forge Mexico as a nation now dramatically hinders its search for a future and modernity.

The book is therefore simultaneously about and not about national character. This causes analytical problems all along the way. He notes something the colonial government did, says it is silly to claim Mexicans still follow the same patterns, then argues that they do. He really does not want to over-simplify a la Samuel Huntington or Lawrence Harrison, but consistently does so anyway. For example, Mexicans are bad at soccer and that helps explain why the Chiapas uprising went nowhere (seriously, that is not much of an exaggeration).

There's more, such as the idea that Mexicans avoid confrontation and controversy, and so democracy has been very slow to take hold. There just seem to be so many counter-examples--AMLO in 2006 being a very prominent one. That was my reaction to much of the book.

I also kept thinking about how the U.S. is considered highly individualistic yet has a different political and economic trajectory than Mexico. Thus, the independent variable is not convincing. It also complicates his conclusion, namely that emigration to the United States may help change Mexican culturally for the better: "it should be enough to detonate basic modifications in Mexican individualism" (p. 258). But how does one type of individualism detonate the other?


  © Blogger templates The Professional Template by 2008

Back to TOP