Panel Paper: The Mexican Guanxi? an Empirical Study of “La Palanca” and Its Link with Corruption Among Mexican Citizens and Public Officials

Thursday, July 19, 2018
Building 3, Room 213 (ITAM)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

David Arellano, Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas

Corruption can be seen as a set of different acts of reciprocity among several actors. These different corruption types (bribery, embezzlement, conflict of interests, fraud, among several other possibilities) require a certain degree of interrelation and exchange, not necessarily all of them illegal or illegitimate, among different social agents. Sociologist and anthropologist have studied the relationship between corruption acts and informal but powerful social practices that are useful to resolve and give sense to several exchanges between citizens and authorities. In societies where authorities are usually seen as far away and opaque, these practices and relationships become quite important and generalized. Guanxi in China, Blat in Russia, Pistolao-Jeitinho in Brazil are some examples. In Mexico, this mechanism is known as palanca (lever). All these social mechanisms of relationship are similar, but they also have important national specificities. Through several focus groups with citizens and public officials, this paper presents a systematic perspective of persons in Mexico regarding the usefulness of palancas, their informal rules and shared codes. It is also explored the possible linkage of palancas with corruption and the possibility that they are one powerful reason of the wide generalization of corruption in the country. This research shows evidences that corruption and palancas are different social categories, nevertheless related: this is because palancas, being seen sometimes as an equalizer mechanism by citizens, it is also a contradictory social practice that reproduces the conditions of inequality and partiality that characterizes the relationship between authorities and citizens in Mexico.