Annual Warwick Lecture in IPE


I am delighted to announce my acceptance of an invitation from Professor Matthew Watson and Dr. Chris Clarke, both at the Department of Politics and International Studies at the University of Warwick, to deliver the first Annual Warwick Lecture in IPE, which will be given on 29 November. The event will be chaired by Dr. Phoebe Moore (Middlesex University), who is Convenor of the International Political Economy Group (IPEG) of the British International Studies Association (BISA), and Dr. Ian Bruff (University of Manchester), who is Chair of the Panel of Judges for theIPEG Annual Book Prize. My presentation draws on my latest book Revolution and State in Modern Mexico, which is now out in an updated paperback edition, as a springboard to analysing a critical political economy of the production of space. In order to do so, my focus is on how space is produced and reconstructed in Mexico City through civic monuments, with specific attention cast towards the Monument to the Revolution, completed in 1938.


Generally speaking, the political economy of modernity can be related to the spatial ordering of urban landscapes within capital cities that conjoins the specifics of national identity with common imitative processes. The issue of mimesis is promoted by architectural codifications, alongside other practices, in the sense that foreign ideas come to play a prominent role in the representation of space and in legitimating state power across various scales. Antonio Gramsci captured such sentiments through his understanding of the condition of passive revolution. Attention is therefore cast to both ‘vernacular architecture’ as well as cosmopolitan forms, linking Mexican-based architects and practices to nationalist aspirations and modernist ideological styles, as significant in the built expression of the political economy of the modern state.

Rocha, 'Propuesta para el monumento', La Jornada, 7 November 2013

The Monument to the Revolution is instructive due to the spatial practices linked to its status as one of Mexico’s most important historical commemorative sites as well as a site for significant protest, as witnessed not least in the most recent case of teachers affiliated to sections of the Coordinadora Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación (CNTE: National Coordinating Committee of Education Workers) occupying Plaza de la República in which the Monument stands. My focus on the Monument to the Revolution, drawing from new and recently conducted archival research, will therefore reveal specific spatial practices in the state codification and political economy of architecture that have contributed to the reproduction of social relations and the construction of the modern state in Mexico. These can then be revealed as vital expressions, literally, in the architecture of passive revolution in the making of modern Mexico.

An audio recording of the talk will be made available after the lecture on the Warwick IPE group’s website here.

This is a re-post from Dr. Adam David Morton’s blog For the Desk Drawer. Dr. Adam David Morton is an Associate Professor and Co-Director and Fellow of the Centre for the Study of Social and Global Justice (CSSGJ) in the School of Politics and International Relations at the University of Nottingham.

Picturing Politics: the Zapatista struggle

In the fourth post in the Picturing Politics series Dr Adam Morton examines the struggle of the Zapatistas – a revolutionary community based in the south of Mexico – as represented by the artist Roger Peet in his arresting block print ‘Aqui Seguimos’. Dr Morton looks at the origins of the Zapatista communities and what Roger Peet’s image tells us about the enduring relevance of those communities.


Image used with the permission of Roger Peet.

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Can’t view the audio player above? Listen to the file here.

You can also download a written version.

Picturing Politics is a series of audio and video clips featuring academics commenting on the political significance of a diverse range of images. The series is intended to offer an invaluable insight into the many ways in which politics has been imagined – quite literally – throughout history, and also the ways in which images have been used to shape and influence our understanding of politics.

The transition to democracy in Mexico masks an expansion of capitalism

NACLAsmallIn his fantastic, gripping, and haunting book, ’68 (Seven Stories Press), the writer and historian Paco Ignacio Taibo II (aka PIT) surveys the tumultuous upheaval of the ‘68 Movement in Mexico. It makes compelling reading today. He recounts the student solidarity demonstrations that gave birth to brigadismo – the mobile action groups that would incite rallies across Mexico City. There is the retelling of the occupation of schools and the creation of libertarian common spaces based on assemblies. Reference is made to the fragile workers’ committees that emerged in the sectors of electricity, oil refining, and railroads that then faded away. Then there was the shadow of the tanks moving in. The city that the students had roamed was lost in the aftermath of the government massacre of hundreds of students at Tlatelolco on 2 October 1968. Ghosts remain. There are the ghosts of the student dead and suicidal as well as the ghosts of traitors that fed the subsequent “dirty war” (La guerra sucia) in Mexico. The outcome, PIT argues, was a decaffeinated democratic transition in Mexico. How can Mexico’s neoliberal transition to democracy be understood?

The latest issue of NACLA Report on the Americas is entitled ‘Elections 2012: what now?’ and covers the elections last year across the Americas in Venezuela, El Salvador, the Dominican Republic, the United States of America, Mexico and more. Contributors include inter alia Fred Rosen, Dan La Botz, and Gregory Wilpert while the special issue also contains my essay on the neoliberal (or decaffeinated) transition in Mexico.

The argument in my essay is that we need to abandon reliance on mainstream comparative political science frameworks to explain “democratic transition” in Latin America. The focus here relies on a sharp separation of politics from economics within the gradual extension of formal associational life through democratisation measures under elite control. A major problem is therefore the very division imposed between state (politics) and market (economics). As one mainstream canonical text edited by Larry Diamond, Juan J. Linz, and Seymour Martin Lipset summarises, entitled Democracy in Developing Countries:

“We use the term democracy…to signify a political system, separate and apart from the economic and social system…. Indeed, a distinctive aspect of our approach is to insist that issues of so-called economic and social democracy be separated from the question of governmental structure”.

This institutionalist definition presents a hollow notion of democratic (or decaffeinated) transition in which social struggles for popular democracy and emancipatory demands are removed leaving political contestation among elite class factions competing over formally “free” elections. A more critical approach understands this restricted notion of democracy as the attempt to secure institutional arrangements limited to state power through dominant class struggles. William Robinson refers to this as Promoting Polyarchy where liberal democracy and capitalism are seen as natural laws rather than the result of historical conditions of conflict and the pursuit of class interests.

One response, though, to the prevalence of the forms of co-optation and social control through the practices of decaffeinated democracy (or the promotion of polyarchy) has been the resurgence of popular forces renewing struggles over/against state power in Mexico. Specifically, the enduring relevance of the Zapatistas’ struggle for autonomy has come to the fore recently, as detailed by Chris Hesketh.

Earlier in 2012 the student movement #YoSoy132 gathered momentum to protest Peña Nieto and wider issues of media manipulation surrounding the presidential election. These included affirming the movement as anti-PRI and anti–Peña Nieto, as anti-neoliberal, as nonviolent, as a “horizontal” organisation without centralised leadership, as a unified movement stretching across public and private universities, and as a mobilisation that aimed to encompass wider social participation beyond student involvement.

The ghosts of the past haunting the present that have been called forth by #YoSoy132 include the massacre of hundreds of students by the Mexican state on 2 October 1968 at Tlatelolco as well as the Corpus Christi Massacre on 10 June 1971 at the hands of a state-financed paramilitary group known as Los Halcones and the struggles during the “dirty war” (La guerra sucia), as detailed by Fernando Herrera Calderón and Adela Cedillo. As PIT wrote earlier in his book ’68:

“Every time someone declares it forgotten, transcended, resolved, or dead and buried, it comes back. The ’68 Movement is just plain ornery that way”.

As I argue in my NACLA contribution, the process of formal democratic (decaffeinated) “transition” in Mexico can therefore be exposed as one element in a class strategy aimed at shaping the ongoing reorganisation and expansion of capitalism. As a restorative strategy, democratic “transition” is an aspect through which the class relations of capitalism are reorganised on a new basis within the conditions of uneven development shaping state space. Whether popular forces can enact a shift in basic class relations and command spaces of resistance is the major challenge now facing democracy in Mexico.

Or as PIT put it on the ’68 Movement: ‘When is revolution not revolution but reform?’

Adam David Morton

Dr Adam Morton is announced winner of the 2012 IPEG Book Prize

Renewal by Cemal Burak Tansel

Last week, I was absolutely delighted to learn that my book Revolution and State in Modern Mexico: The Political Economy of Uneven Development (Rowman & Littlefield) was the winner of the 2012 International Political Economy Group (IPEG) Book Prize of the British International Studies Association (BISA). In recent years this has become a prestigious prize within and beyond debates in International Political Economy (IPE).

I would therefore like to extend my sincere thanks to the IPEG members that originally nominated the book and subsequently voted for it from the longlist through to the shortlist. That shortlist also included Colin Crouch, The Strange Non-Death of Neoliberalism (Polity); Laura Horn, Regulating Corporate Governance in the European Union: Towards a Marketization of Corporate Control (Palgrave); and Greta Krippner, Capitalizing on Crisis: The Political Origins of the Rise of Finance (Harvard University Press).

Also, I want to express my gratitude to the international panel of judges that finally deliberated in awarding the prize to me, including Ian Bruff (Loughborough University, UK), Tore Fougner (Bilkent University, Turkey), Penny Griffin (University of New South Wales, Australia), Juliet Johnson (McGill University, Canada), Phoebe Moore-Carter (University of Salford, UK), and Andreas Nölke (Goethe University Frankfurt, Germany).

So what does my book offer to readers in and beyond IPE?

Revolution and State in Modern Mexico

Significantly my argument proposes a new approach to understanding the formation of the post-revolutionary state in Mexico through the concept and condition of passive revolution as developed by the Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci. A passive revolution can refer to various concrete historical instances in which aspects of capitalist development are either instituted and/or expanded, resulting in a contradictory combination of both ‘revolutionary’ rupture and a ‘restoration’ of social relations (see ‘What is this thing called passive revolution?’).

In a shift away from dominant interpretations, I consider the process of passive revolution and the modern Mexican state through a fresh analysis of the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920), the era of import substitution industrialisation, and neoliberalism. Throughout, I make interdisciplinary links among geography, political economy, postcolonialism, and Latin American studies in order to provide a new framework for analysing the development of state power in Mexico.

I also explore key processes in the contestation of the modern state, specifically through studies of the role of intellectuals, democratisation and democratic transition, and spaces of resistance. All these themes, I argue, can only be fully understood through the lens of passive revolution, referring to the ongoing class strategies and struggles that have shaped relations between state and civil society, as well as the background conditions of uneven development in Mexico and Latin America. In so doing, I contend that both the structuring condition of uneven development and the class strategies and struggles of passive revolution in Mexico and Latin America can become radical tools for political economy analysis in and beyond the region.

In announcing the winner of the IPEG Book Prize, the judges’ report on the book states that:

Revolution and State in Modern Mexico constitutes perhaps the contribution on transitions to and experiences of capitalism in Mexico, and it will be of lasting significance beyond the empirical confines of the book – not least because of the growing interest in Latin American countries among IPE scholars. Moreover, through his utilisation of non-traditional literatures Morton is an excellent ambassador for IPE’s claim to be an open, innovative and forward-looking discipline. Finally, he makes broader contributions to widespread debates on uneven development plus also on Gramsci.

Previous awardees of the IPEG Book Prize include Graham Harrison (2006) for The World Bank and Africa: The Construction of Governance States; Donald MacKenzie (2007) for An Engine, Not a Camera: How Financial Models Shape Markets; Matthew Paterson (2008) for Automobile Politics: Ecology and Cultural Political Economy; William I. Robinson  (2009) for Latin America and Global Capitalism: A Critical Globalization Perspective; Penny Griffin (2010) for Gendering the World Bank: Neoliberalism and the Gendered Foundations of Global Governance; and Jamie Peck (2011) for Constructions of Neoliberal Reason.

I am now looking forward to advancing beyond the arguments in Revolution and State in Modern Mexico in my new research, not least by focusing on how specific spatial practices, for example in the form of state expressions of architecture such as the Monument to the Revolution in Mexico, also clearly contribute to the construction and reproduction of the modern state in conditions of passive revolution.

Adam Morton