Decentralization is accepted as one of the defining features of the third wave of democratic transitions in Latin America and commonly understood as an index and an agent of democratization. This rather optimistic perspective is inherent in the literature which is dominated by two theories. The liberal-individualist approach, especially as advocated by the World Bank, promotes decentralization policies on the premise of their efficiency, equity, and responsiveness to local demands. Similarly, the statist approach claims that decentralization can be the route to greater accountability, transparency and participation in governance; they add that this path should be guided by political elites and institutions. These dominant views nevertheless understate the extent to which certain decentralization policies have been implemented in lockstep with neoliberalization. This book examines the relationship between global economic processes and decentralization. It argues that through decentralization policies, the imperatives of neoliberal rules of competitiveness have been diffused into local governments and economies, generating different local development models. Whether decentralization produces democratic opening at the local level is contingent on how the local economy is integrated into global economic processes, and which social and economic groups are empowered, and disempowered, in that transition.
'This is a work of exceptional quality in which Aylin Topal delivers unique insights on the territorial fragmentation of space and political authority in Mexico, which has taken the form of decentralisation policies introduced in lockstep with neoliberalism. For anyone wanting to understand the coupling of uneven development and authoritarian neoliberal policies this book is a must-read.' Adam David Morton, University of Nottingham, UK ’Topal brilliantly explains the deepening of north-south regional differences within Mexico as the main outcome of decentralization policies. For her, democratization is not an intrinsic by-product of decentralization, it only carries potential changes in the State-Economy relation, thus explaining Mexican developmental variations. Her local findings have universal validity for understanding neoliberal experiences in emerging economies.’ Alejandro Alvarez Béjar, UNAM, México