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2003-2007

A flood of scholarship has demonstrated the importance of associational life to democratic transitions, ‘making democracy work,’ and solving policy problems. However, if these organizations are important for governance, my research asks: what are the implications for many countries in the developing world where the state has historically controlled societal forms of organization? Focusing on the Mexican case, I use data from over 260 interviews, surveys, observation, and secondary sources to understand the emergence and development of associational life. I find that political change is a necessary pre-condition to the establishment of an independent nonprofit sector. With the emergence of divided and competitive government, citizenship and autonomous organization become viable options available to concerned citizens. Nonetheless, persistent informal rules of clientelism and cynicism continue to hinder their use. As a result, organizations depend greatly on their networks. Successful initiatives tend to have ties to ‘social infrastructure,’ such as the Church, U.S. nonprofits, or universities, which have provided an inflow of human and financial capital as well as norms supportive of autonomous associational life.

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