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Public Policy and Administration


Anne J. Hacker


Mexico is not a country at peace. Despite the government's fight to restore stability, violence has erupted since 2006 in several areas of the territory. According to Vygotsky's social constructivism and to Galtung's integral perspective of peace, some elements of peacelessness are informed by values, perceptions, and conceptions about violence and peace. These topics have not been qualitatively investigated in Mexico. The purpose of this case study was to explore the process involving the social construction of values, perceptions, and conceptions in regard to organized criminal violence and peace possibilities in Mexico. Research questions focused on the role of mass media and oral conversations in the social construction of perceptions about the government, criminal organizations, and peace. This study employed semistructured interviews of 15 residents from a neighborhood in a large Mexican city. A purposeful sample stratified by gender, age, and profession, according to the neighborhood demographics, was used. Data from the interviews were coded for patterns using preexisting theory-based categories along with new emerging categories. Findings showed that among these residents, the process of social construction of perceptions was primarily formed through individual experiences and observations, and nurtured by conversations. Social constructors, such as traditional mass media, were much less important. Residents constructed their perception that the basic causes of criminal violence are rooted in the structures of the political and economic system, which, if correctly addressed, would foster peace. This study contributes to positive social informing regional policymakers about the need to design local policies directed towards mediating structural and systemic transformations that are respectful of experiences and needs of citizens.