This book is about power in a place beyond dichotomies of democracy or dic-
tatorship, namely modern Mexico. The authors come from distinct disciplines
and diff erent historiographical traditions, have diverse research interests,
and were brought together without any single theoretical diktat. It was in part
the very breadth of interests and approaches that suggested their incorpora-
tion, in a deliberate search for academic biodiversity. We encouraged dis-
agreement. This approach to collaborative work has been dubbed a dog’s
breakfast.1 We hoped instead for a cat’s cradle: a skein of threads that, when
drawn tight, might reveal a pattern.
Initially the only evident common factor was a shared curiosity in the no
man’s land of historicizing power in the mid- century, those three de cades
between 1938 and 1968 when dominant party rule coalesced and peaked. A
preference for controlled eclecticism over theoretical monoculture did not,
however, mean the absence of a
framework.2 We sought contributors whose
work fell into one of three broad categories: high and low politics; work and
resource regulation; and culture and ideology. These thematic choices pre-
supposed an or ga niz ing concept: that the relations between rulers and ruled
were characterized by authoritarianism, competitive politics, and re sis tance,
making Mexico an early variant of a dictablanda, a hybrid regime that com-
bines demo cratic and authoritarian elements; and that such hybrid regimes
are profoundly complex, dynamic, and ambiguous, demanding heterodox ap-
proaches.3 They refl ected a debt to those scholars who have made empirical
cases for the ability of everyday subjects to resist the projects of the powerful,
shaping their lives in constant haggling with authority; for the state as a
masque; and for the causal signifi cance of pop u lar culture in determining dy-
namic po liti cal
outcomes.4 They also refl ected the proposition that this was
not the whole story.5
Paul Gillingham
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