Business History in Latin America: The Experience of Seven Countries

By Carlos Dávila; Rory Miller et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER ONE
Business History in Latin America:
an introduction
Rory Miller

Enormous changes have taken place in the business environment in Latin America during the last quarter of the twentieth century, making the production of a volume of historiographical essays on the state of business history in seven major countries of the region a particularly timely event.1 The process of transformation began in the mid-1970s following the installation of the Pinochet regime in Chile and the introduction of economic policies there which were designed to reduce the role of the state and ameliorate the conditions both for Chilean private business and for foreign direct investment. Elsewhere in Latin America at the same time the pronounced economic role of the state began to come into question, in Argentina, for example, under both the Peronists and the military regime that succeeded them.

Since then a major shift in assumptions has occurred throughout Latin America, stimulated by a number of different factors: the macroeconomic success of Chile in controlling inflation and maintaining strong rates of growth after the 1982/83 crisis when other Latin American economies floundered; the failure of alternative state-led attempts to resolve Latin America's economic problems following the debt crisis of the early 1980s; and the ideological bias against the public sector which became apparent in Great Britain under the Thatcher administration and helped to reinforce the predilections of the United States government and international institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. The result has been what seems at times like a total reversal of the assumptions prevalent when ‘dependency’ theories were at their peak in Latin America during the early 1970s. Policies which stress the removal of barriers to private business and foreign investment are in the ascendant throughout Latin America, while the state is assumed by many to have been a poor manager both of the economy overall and of the thousands of public-sector enterprises which formerly existed but which are now severely diminished in number and significance.

____________________
1
My thanks are due to Carlos Dávila and Colin Lewis for their comments on an earlier draft of this introduction. They are not, of course, responsible for the shortcomings of the final product.

-1-

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