Spring 2007 Course Description

Advanced Topics in Public Policy

Section Title: The Mexican Political System in Transition
Instructor(s): Peter Ward
Course: P A 388K - Advanced Topics in Public Policy
(previously Seminar in Topics in Public Policy)
Unique Number: 63500
Day & Time: Wednesdays, 9:00 AM - 12:00 PM
Room: SRH 3.330A
Waitlist Information:For LBJ Students: UT Waitlist Information
Notes: Cross list with GOV 390L, SOC 395, LAS 381

This course fulfills requirements for the following specialization(s):

Description: During the last decade Mexico?s political system has transitioned from a hegemonic PRI-dominated structure of 70 years, to that of a plural and consolidating democracy. Since 1997, and especially since the PAN?s historic victory in 2000, the Mexican political system has struggled to recast and strengthen its political institutions across all three branches (Executive, Legislative and Judiciary). Despite early high expectations, the administration of President Fox has had only limited or success in consolidating these three policy and law-making arenas. Now, as a result of the unprecedented close presidential election results of July 2nd and the subsequent challenge mounted by L?pez Obrador and his followers, together with the serious social and spatial chasm that divides the country, democracy itself and those very institutions are under threat.

This course will analyze the extent to which the principal political institutions have proven unable to meet many of the major challenges they confronted, and will seek to identify the reforms required to put Mexico?s democratic consolidation back on track, monitoring the Calderon administration?s early steps along that road. Two prisms will be used to undertake these assessments: first, will be to focus upon implications of the conduct of the actual election and its gory aftermath through December 1st; the second will be to examine the construction of the Calderon cabinet and his First 100 Days. In analyzing these two broad arenas, our goal is: i) to weigh what the events of recent months imply for Mexico?s democratic consolidation process; ii) to assess the prospects and principal directions of institutional reform; and iii), to gauge the likely capacity of the policy making environment to live up to the dramatic newfound challenges and schisms that the country faces.

Following introductory discussions about democratic consolidation theory, the first third of the course will provide an examination of the economic and social underpinnings of underdevelopment and inequality in Mexico, and the intersections between neoliberalism, social change and poverty, and the emerging political culture of Mexico?s citizenries (sic). This will provide the platform for a better appreciation of the rationale underlying the construction of institutions, their operation and past (in)effectiveness; as well as a desiderata for their reform, reorganization and retooling in order to meet the present challenges. Specifically we will examine the robustness of each of the three branches of government at both the national and sub-national scales. We will also examine the emerging role of non-government institutions (e.g. the press and media, unions, the Church, political organizations, etc.) in participatory democracy.

A capstone one-day conference on ?Calderon?s First 100 days? will be held in early April to highlight the administration?s first steps. The final weeks of the semester will prioritize and debate the reforms and policy changes ? those underway, contemplated, or as yet unconsidered -- and their implications both for democratization and for the US-Mexico relationship through 2009.

A reading knowledge of Spanish is desirable, but not required for this course. Classes will comprise primarily seminar presentations and discussions led by graduate students, built around course readings and class notes circulated on Blackboard. In addition, and with financial support from the Mexican Center of LLILAS, several major academic and political figures from Mexico have agreed to visit campus during the semester and/or to join us through real time video-conference hook ups with the class.

Student assessment will be based upon two term papers (50%), participation in class discussions (25%) and a final two hour essay exam (25%).

Return to Spring 2007 Course Schedule