Civil society has emerged as a contested concept in development. Some observers claim that economic restructuring has eroded the political hegemony of authoritarian regimes and created a new space for autonomous associations. In Mexico, chronic economic crisis and economic adjustment policies generated widespread popular discontent in the 1980s. The authoritarian regime tried to channel popular dissatisfaction into the institutionalized political arena through a series of electoral reforms. Thus, economic liberalization in Mexico was paralleled by a slow and gradual process of liberalization of the Mexican political system. In the context of these economic and political changes, scholars have observed an awakened civil society in Mexico. They have chronicled the emergence of independent organizations of workers, peasants, and the urban poor. They have also documented new types of civic associations such as environmental groups, election‐watch groups, human rights organizations, debtors’ groups, and women’s movements. Numerous studies of social movements beginning in the 1980s appear to suggest the rise of civil society in the era of economic and political liberalization.

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