Industrialization and Private Enterprises in Mexico: Preface

Article excerpt

During the 1980s and 1990s, Mexico's economy underwent a major transformation. In 1982, 1987, and again in 1994, the country was hit by economic crises, and in the process of coping with these, the government redirected its development strategy away from the country's long-standing policy of import substitution industrialization and reformulated it in neo-liberal terms which adhered to the free function of market forces. The economic reforms that have taken place under this new development strategy have now progressed to the stage where there can be no return to the old policies.

A noteworthy aspect of Mexico's economic transformation has been the remarkable progress in recent years of large-scale indigenous enterprises. With the intensification of competition brought on by economic recession provoked by the external debt problem and by the implementation of successive market liberalization measures, the economic environment for Mexican enterprises has become harsh. Despite the adversity, however, large-scale indigenous enterprises have been able to achieve substantial development by moving resolutely to negotiate the repayment of their external debts, pressing ahead with far-reaching restructuring of their business operations in order to raise their international competitiveness, and taking the opportunity presented by government privatization policies to acquire major public enterprises. At the same time some of these large-scale indigenous enterprises have expanded their operations abroad, mainly into the United States and other Latin American countries, and have grown into multinational corporations. Their success in adapting to Mexico's new economic conditions contrasts with the difficulties that medium-, small-, and micro-scale indigenous enterprises are experiencing in adapting to the government's new development strategy.

Why have large-scale indigenous enterprises been able to develop so remarkably despite the increasingly competitive environment? The aim of this study is to elucidate the underlying logic for their vigorous growth-and likely the limits of this growth as well. However, this study will focus primarily on the periods of Mexico's industrialization prior to the 1980s. The reason for concentrating on these earlier periods is because the conditions within enterprises that made it possible for large-scale indigenous enterprises to emerge were already brewing in the economic growth process well before Mexico's economic reforms were carried out. These brewing internal conditions became the springboard that made possible the later rapid growth achieved by the large-scale indigenous enterprises.

Because the focus is on the earlier periods of Mexico's industrialization, the contents of this study are mainly a history of the establishment and development of the country's large-scale indigenous enterprises. Narratives of enterprise history for the most part begin with the facts of a company's founding, and in the same way I would like to relate here how this study got its start.

The start of my research on Mexico's large-scale indigenous enterprises goes back to late 1984 when the Institute of Developing Economies sent me to the Centro de Estudios Sociológicos (CES) of El Colegio de México in Mexico City. At that time there still was little public disclosure of information about Mexico's enterprises, and only a limited amount of data and information was available. …