Technocracy a la Mexicana:Antecedent to Democracy?

Part of the Latin American Studies Series book series (LASS)


Any discussion of technocracy and technocrats in the Latin American context these days must face head-on the ambiguities and contradictions inherent in their conceptualization. Because social scientists and policymakers are those most interested in these decisionmakers, a strong tendency exists to suggest that these individuals emerged Phoenix-like from the region’s disastrous economic and political crises of the 1980s. Yet, depending on how one characterizes this political type, a long-standing historical antecedent of the técnico can be found in Mexico and, I suspect, throughout Latin America. Technocrats also have roots in other cultures, such as the mandarins in ancient China, and are subsumed under the larger issue of the rapid expansion of knowledge workers, particularly the intelligentsia, in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Europe (Bruce-Briggs, 1979).


Political Elite Executive Branch Political Skill Political Career Mexican Case 
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  1. 1.
    Analysts wrestling with these and other conceptual issues within a Mexican context, early on, include Grindle (1977), and more recently, Lindau (1992).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    A useful way of examining this is the allocation of resources over time (see Lorey, 1994).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    A revealing, contemporary view of its impact can be found in Sierra (1969).Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    For a detailed description of its philosophic tenets, and the education responses it spawned in Mexico, see Hale (1989).Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    For evidence of this group’s political influence and composition, see Rice (1979). For comparisons between the old and new versions, see Cochrane (1967).Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    To grasp the overriding influence of presidential authority and the presidency, see the important work of George Philip (1992).Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Echeverría began his political career under Rodolfo Sánchez Taboada, president of the PRI, as his private secretary in 1946, less than a year after graduating from law school. He served as president of a state PRI committee, as a platform adviser, and in three other positions, all before 1952.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    For the evolution of military professionalism and education, see Camp (1992: 133–75).Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    For the competition among various professions, and their level of representation from the 1930s through the 1980s, see Cleaves (1987).Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    This change is well developed in the memoirs of a prominent economist, Jesús Silva Herzog, mentor to many of Mexico’s leading public figures (Silva Herzog, 1972).Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    These individuals included the founders of the Fondo de Cultura Económica, and many of the officials in the Treasury secretariat, the Bank of Mexico, and the National Finance Bank. Such views are captured in their memoirs, including those of Daniel Cosio Villegas (1976), Eduardo Villaseñor (1974), and Antonio Carrillo Flores’ foreword to Eduardo Suárez (1977). The origins of the economist-technocrat are well described in Vernon (1963).Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    For the earlier views of the generation who are the forerunners of both the Miguel de la Madrid and the Carlos Salinas de Gortari and Ernesto Zedillo technocratic contemporaries, see Carrillo Flores (1941), former head of the National Finance Bank and secretary of the treasury.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    By far the most detailed and apt description of this technocratic generation, and their potential consequences for policymaking, can be found in Centeno (1994).Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    The evolution of these conflictive postures is partially presented in Erfani (1995).Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    I am indebted to Alvin Gouldner for exposing me to the concept of a “shared culture,” but I am solely responsible for applying it to technocrats: see Gouldner (1979).Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    This same tendency can be viewed among the system’s critics. The United States media and congress rely far too heavily on a handful of Mexican pundits.Google Scholar

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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1998

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