Searching for Mexico's Lost Labor Subject: Historical and Biographical Milestones in the Constitution of the Sociology of Work in Mexico

  • Enrique de la Garza Toledo Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana
Keywords: labor movement, Latin America, Mexico, New Labour Studies, Sociology of Work,


This essay aims to weave together salient moments in the development of the Mexican labor movement, the reorganization of the economy and production starting in the 1980s, the development of Sociology of Work in Mexico, and snapshots from my own autobiography. The biographical perspective helps to illustrate a few parallel lives that formed part of a collective intellectual and political movement in the period under analysis. Our perspective is that the macro shifts are not reducible to the individual events of which they are composed; they may affect individuals’ actions, but they do not determine them. Peoples' actions are located within structures, but they require subjectivity to acquire meaning and orient said actions. At least that is how we have believed ourselves to be living all these years.

The period of our study begins in the 1970s with the end of the import-substitution period in the Third World, the emergence of a powerful workers' movement in Mexico that questioned corporatist unions and political structures and lasted until the early 1980s when the reorganization of the economy and model of production in large companies happened. This moment also marked the beginnings of today’s Sociology of Work in Mexico, which broke with previous conceptions focused on the study of workers’ movements and with Dependency theories predominant in Latin American social theory. We found ourselves immersed in these processes, suffering the changes while at the same time, as a new generation of scholars emerged, attempting to exercise influence on union conceptions of labor. This history is the subject of the current essay.