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Revolutionary Mexico: Popular Movements and State Formation Essay


The book, Popular Movements and State Formation in Revolutionary Mexico: The Agraristas and Cristerios of Michoacan, by Jennie Purnell presents interesting views of the author on circumstances before and after the Mexican Revolution, which could have catalyze the war between the prostate and anti-state groups within Mexico. Specifically, the revolution was a result of long struggle for freedom from economic marginalization, manipulation of the religion, and the need to establish a hybrid secular system. Therefore, this treatise attempts to explicitly discuss what Purnell argue is the important to understanding the Mexican Revolution and the post revolutionary period. Besides, the paper discusses the components of Purnell’s argument and the focus of the approach to understanding this time period. In addition, the paper reflects on how the approach shapes his argument and the sources he uses to support this line of thought.

Understanding the Mexican Revolution and Post Revolution Period

Purnell is categorical in his argument for the circumstances surrounding the Mexican Revolution and the post-revolutionary period by examining the peasant partisanship in this historic event. Despite popular argument that the Mexican Revolution was catalyzed by the general rebellion from the masses due to highhandedness tactics of the state elites (Shirk 12), Purnell examines the factors which motivated tens of thousands of peasants to play an active role in the revolution. Specifically, Purnell reviews the partnership between many peasants and the church to challenge the ills of the state at the time when economic disparity and elitism surpassed the public interest in controlling and utilizing the state resources (Purnell 15). Instead of opting to argue that the peasants who supported the position of the church (cristeros) during the revolution as victims of religious fanaticism or delusional consciousness, Purnell opines that local political conflicts which started more than ten years before the revolution was the primary motivator to engage in the war.

According to Purnell, the conflict has been developing over the years and only culminated into full blown war between the agraristas and the supporters of the oppressive state (Purnell 25). Apparently, the local political conflicts played a major role in catalyzing the revolution since the religious practice, rights to own property, and political authority was heavily vested in an oppressive regime, especially in the center-west states of Mexico. These conflicts could explain the interests and stakes that came to play in the subsequent confrontations after the Mexican Revolution such as the agrarian reforms and the Mexican anticlericalism movements. In the early 1900, many of the Mexican Roman Catholics suffered brutality, injustices, and discrimination by the leftists within the then government after series of chaos and violence following the famous Mexican revolution. As a matter of fact, despite having witnessed a revolution, there were no structures in place to restore order and abuse of human rights was a common phenomenon (Selee 43). As a result, many of the Mexican Roman Catholics saw the need to seek for a common system to represent their interest on peace and tranquility as a mean of addressing social decay through mobilizing themselves in a party that would sponsor its members into political seats to address their concerns since the main stream Roman Catholic Church in Mexico had partnered with the National Revolutionary Party to intimidate the right wingers through religious threats such as excommunication in the post revolutionary era.

Before the successful Mexican Revolution, Roman Catholicism was predominant in the Mexican state. Religion basically controlled all the spheres of the Mexican society and was more like a Supreme Court to the followers of Roman Catholic, that is, the church had the supreme powers to decide on ones fate. At the same time, the Mexican society was wasting away as a result of poverty, disrespect to human rights and exploitation that led to establishment increased peasants participation that initiated the Mexican Revolution (Purnell 29). Upon taking power, the National Revolution Party did exactly the opposite of what the predominately religious society expected of them. In fact, case of violence, abuse of human rights, and discrimination became predominant in the emerging nation in the post revolutionary era. The discontent with the way National Revolutionary Party was running the post revolution Mexico initiated a peaceful revolt through the agrarian and anticlericalism reforms to accommodate the right wing Catholics who had resentment for the way National Revolutionary Party was running the post revolution Mexico (Ard 31). Thus, the sudden agreement between the mainstream Roman Catholic Church leadership in Mexico and the National Revolutionary Party leadership to intimidate the right wingers and other conservatives led to establishment of agrarian and anticlericalism reforms that were aligned to the conservative and liberal epoch in the post revolutionary era.

Components of the Author’s Argument

The components of Purnell’s argument is the need to resolve historical injustices, reorganization of economic and social spheres of the society, and direct government accountability through balanced political, social and economic development across Mexico. Through a revolutionary mindset, the author notes that the need to address the concern of over dominance by the left wingers who had done little to solve the problems of the mass such as affordable health care, education, sanitation, and food security could have propelled the peasants to take an active role in the war (Purnell 35). Besides, the post revolution government was very unaccountable and used dubious means to frustrate groups that were pushing for political accountability. In fact, the government of National Revolutionary Party became a partisan in religious spheres by using the rogue Catholic Church leadership to intimidate the vocal members who opposed the government through threat of excommunication and other serious disciplinary options (Haverluk 19). In addition, the Roman Catholic teaching were twisted by the left wing church leaders to ideologically brainwash the mass on the ideals of the then post revolutionary Mexican government.

Following the successful revolution in Mexico, the mass were interested in complete emancipation and protection from the government. The mass was charged to witness a people’s government with ideology that conforms to their religiously skewed belief in equal representation and respect to humanity despite the diversity in the Mexican state. The people were basically geared towards independence and self conscious reflection in the backdrop of previous years of exploitation and slavery. Thus, the attitude of demanding accountability, and belief on inclusiveness as an epoch greatly spurred the immediate need for an organization or a movement that would agitate for equal distribution of resources, proactive development and respect to freedom of religion and association (Haverluk 46). As a result, the agrarian and anticlericalism reforms offered the much needed platform for authenticating social freedom as opposed to the hybrid freedom that could be easily controlled by the government on the notion of insincere security threat. Thus, these reforms were designed to accommodate the right wingers and other conservatives that valued traditional norms in running the government and addressing the challenges facing humanity which were predominant during its period of formation.

Focus of Purnell’s Approach in Understanding the Revolution Era

The focus of Purnell in understanding the revolutionary era is review the role of the state and opposing parties in promoting general progress of the Mexican society. The government agencies infiltrated it and managed to win the trust of the church leadership to condemn those who questioned ways in which the government was being run. With limited space for peaceful demonstration and scope of constructive critic of the government, the right wingers thought it wise to establish a political party that would acquire power through a democratic process and have its agents to address their concerns and ideologies (Purnell 57). Among others, the government interference with religion, sheer negligence and corruption were political reasons for the establishment of the organization since the members were looking for a peaceful platform for engaging the people towards sustainable and inclusive government of the people and by the people of Mexico (Camp 17). These events shaped Purnell’s argument on the probable causes of the Mexican Revolution and the post revolutionary conflicts since the need to change the ills in the society were not fully addressed at the end of the revolt.

Sources that Purnell Use

Purnell has used several sources in placing arguments around the subject of Mexican Revolution. Among the sources that supported his research were past regime reports, catholic writings on the revolution, and previous works by other authors on the topic of Mexican Revolution and the era after the revolt.

Works Cited

Ard, Michael. An Eternal Struggle: How the National Action Party Transformed Mexican Politics, Mexico: ABC-CLIO, 2003. Print.

Camp, Roderic. Mexico: What Everyone Needs to Know, London: Oxford University Press, 2011. Print.

Haverluk, Thomas. Geopolitics from the Ground up; Geography and Global Politics, New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2007. Print.

Purnell, Jennie. Popular Movements and State Formation in Revolutionary Mexico: the Agraristas and Cristeros of Michoacán, Durham: North Carolina, Duke University Press, 1999. Print.

Selee, Andrew. Decentralization, Democratization, and Informal Power in Mexico, Pennsylvania: Penn State Press, 2011. Print.

Shirk, David. Mexico’s New Politics: The PAN and Democratic Change, New York: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2005. Print.

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IvyPanda. (2020, May 14). Revolutionary Mexico: Popular Movements and State Formation. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/revolutionary-mexico-popular-movements-and-state-formation/

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1. IvyPanda. "Revolutionary Mexico: Popular Movements and State Formation." May 14, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/revolutionary-mexico-popular-movements-and-state-formation/.


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IvyPanda. "Revolutionary Mexico: Popular Movements and State Formation." May 14, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/revolutionary-mexico-popular-movements-and-state-formation/.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "Revolutionary Mexico: Popular Movements and State Formation." May 14, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/revolutionary-mexico-popular-movements-and-state-formation/.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'Revolutionary Mexico: Popular Movements and State Formation'. 14 May.

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