Neo-Patrimonialism and Subnational Authoritarianism in Mexico. The Case of Oaxaca

Julián Durazo Herrmann


How do subnational authoritarian enclaves emerge (or survive) in
a democratic transition at the federal level? How can they endure large-scale
social protests, like the one that shook Oaxaca in 2006? While federal tolerance
for subnational authoritarian practices is a necessary condition, it is
insufficient in itself to explain why subnational political systems sustain and
eventually reproduce authoritarian practices in the first place. In this article,
therefore, I focus on the internal dimension of subnational authoritarianism.
I argue that, because of its reliance on two distinct sources of legitimacy,
Oaxaca’s neo-patrimonial domination system was able to respond to the
formal democratizing pressures emanating from the federal transition without
losing its authoritarian nature. This process of hybridization transformed
Oaxacan institutions, but left social structures and the political dynamics that
emerge from them – the sources of subnational authoritarianism – almost
intact. By exploring the evolution of neo-patrimonialism and hybridization
in Oaxaca from a theoretical perspective, I address the issues of change and
continuity in the emergence of subnational authoritarian enclaves, in Mexico
and elsewhere.

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