Thickening civil society: Nonprofits and problems of water and sanitation along Mexico's northern border
A flood of scholarship has demonstrated the importance of civil society to democratic transitions, democratic consolidation, and making democracy work. However, if civil society is important for democracy, what are the implications for countries where the state has historically controlled societal forms of organization? This dissertation attempts to understand how civil society organizations grow and develop in Mexico, a country with a traditionally weak third sector. The study examines civil society organizations that operate in the broad policy arena of water and sanitation in four Mexican border cities. I find that civil society organizations rarely emerge spontaneously, but are highly dependent on their network ties and often require the incubating support of social infrastructure, such as the U.S. nonprofit community. Such incubating support is necessary given limited legal, governmental, and private sector support for the sector. Recognizing the importance of civil society organizations' network ties for both their emergence and impact, I compare the construction of network ties to the U.S. nonprofit community and the Mexican private, for-profit sector. I find that the physical U.S.-Mexico border is actually easier to cross then the more amorphous division between the nonprofit and for-profit sectors, and I use the Institutional Analysis and Development Framework to examine variation in the extent of cooperation across these two divisions. Given that state control has been the historical obstacle to an autonomous civil society, the research examines the extent to which political opportunities exist for autonomous civil society organizations and seeks to explain variation in such opportunities. I find that neither local level electoral competition nor opposition party government by themselves guarantees a strong third sector; however, the continuation of one-party rule in the absence of electoral competition creates a sizable overlap between political and civil society and limits the development of the latter.
0768: Environmental science
0700: Social structure