Industrial Development in a Frontier Economy, 1890-1930
Stanford University Press
Industrial Development in a Frontier Economy, 1890-1930 (Stanford University Press, 2009), examines Argentina’s first phase of industrialization at the company-level. The book analyzes social networking, business strategies, and the use of foreign technologies by domestic manufacturers. I argue that industry in Argentina was largely an ad-hoc political creation. Economic elites and policymakers played a significant role in creating a domestic manufacturing sector that they envisioned would make the country self-sufficient and modern. The industry that they developed and protected, however, became a highly inefficient sector that could only partially satisfy domestic demand and was dependent on the importation of foreign technologies and fuel. I substantiate my thesis through the use of diverse sources including government and company data, census information, private letters, and congressional minutes culled from archives in Argentina and the United States. Historians have long questioned why Argentina failed to successfully industrialize given that by 1890 it had many of the prerequisites for successful industrialization. My research revealed that concentration and high profits were the product of many factors, but owed in particular to a cascading tariff structure that protected the largest manufacturing companies in the country. Congressmen and industrialists regarded the tariff structure as an expedient political solution to manufacturers’ longstanding economic, labor, and technological problems. The book thus makes a significant contribution to the field of Argentine economic, industrial, and technological history.