Latin America in the World Economy: Mercantile Colonialism to Global Capitalism

By Frederick Stirton Weaver | Go to book overview

4
Modern Times,
Bretton Woods, and
Transnational Corporations,
1920-1970s

The first decades of the twentieth century marked the beginning of a new phase of capitalist industrial development, one characterized by mass production and mass consumption. The United States was the leader in this new type of economic dynamism at the very time that it became the principal foreign economic influence in Latin America.


The Turbulent Beginnings
of Modern Times in the United States

In the first half of the nineteenth century, wage goods -- inexpensive products for working-class families -- were the predominant articles produced in U.S. factories. With some exceptions like the integrated textile complex in Lowell, Massachusetts, these goods were typically produced by firms that were small and technically uncomplicated by the standards of fifty or sixty years later, and they were bought and sold in competitive markets.

During the forty years after the Civil War, the growth of consumer goods production lagged far behind that of producer goods -- intermediate and capital goods -- that led technological and organizational innovation. Compared to consumer goods, intermediate and capital goods were produced in large, highly capitalized plants where work tasks were specialized and assisted by machinery. These structural changes in U.S. manufacturing

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