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The Paradox of the Mexican State: Rereading Sovereignty from Independence toNAFTA

Julie A. Erfani
ISBN: 978-1-55587-418-6
1995/238 pages/LC: 94-31535
"Erfani does an excellent job in weaving together the primary fragments from Mexican political history from the inception of Mexican independence in the 1820s up to the current era.... For students of Mexican politics and those interested in political integration and economic linkages, this book is a very valuable read."—Southeastern Political Review


Exploring the contradictory nature of Mexican statehood, Erfani explains how a weak national state became a symbol of great domestic strength and, although failing in its domestic economic endeavors, supported a long and stable political regime.

Erfani focuses on the concept of sovereignty as not only a legal status, but also a political myth. She traces the struggles of Mexico's federal governments from 1940 through the 1970s to sustain a myth equating legal sovereignty with state strength vis—vis the world economy. She then addresses the demise of that myth and the ensuing shift in the 1980s toward the symbolism and rhetoric of a strong private economy.

In the 1990s, proponents of NAFTA—seeking to dismantle Mexico's legal basis for state intervention in the domestic economy—claim to be replacing the failed legal-political sovereignty of the state with the economic sovereignty of the private sector. This rhetoric of economic strength, concludes Erfani, holds as much potential for fragmenting, as it does for unifying, the national political-economic order.


Julie Erfani is assistant professor of political science at Arizona State University West.


  • (Dis)Integrating Mexico: Independence as an Invitation to Legal and Political Limbo.
  • Beyond Legal Sovereignty: The Revolutionary Myth of a Strong Nation-State.
  • Sustaining the Myth of Sovereignty as State Strength.
  • The State Sovereignty Myth Shattered.
  • Struggling With State Weakness: State Sovereignty Defined as Technocratic Efficiency.
  • (Dis)Integrating Mexico: A Return to Legal and Political Limbo.