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Constructing Projects of National Development in Latin America?


  • James M. Cypher


This article analyzes technology-related development in Latin America from a heterodox perspective based in Institutionalist and Structuralist Economics. Since the 1970s, the lack of systematic national projects designed to institutionalize endogenous innovation capabilities in the region has constituted a critical structural impediment to development. Eschewing the creation of public goods, most nations in Latin America abandoned important incipient efforts to develop technological autonomy as undertaken during the state-led industrialization period. This article highlights poorly understood but relatively successful aspects of the import substitution industrialization (ISI) strategy on technological advancement in the state-led era. Recently, neoliberalism's monolithic grip has been loosened. Brazil has undergone somewhat of a paradigmatic shift while advancing toward the creation of a national innovation system (NIS), thereby offering important lessons for other Latin American nations. Mexico, in contrast, shows no indication of attaining autonomous technological capabilities. The attainment of such capabilities in highly industrialized countries, and fast developing Asian nations, partially resulted from the construction of a NIS. The creation of a NIS embodies an interactive and interdependent process: it entails the joint and combined participation of scientists and others involved in research and development (R&D) activities in (1) the public and private sectors and (2) universities. These elements combine with agents of the state empowered to finance and coordinate the construction and maintenance of the NIS. The construction of a NIS has induced "increasing returns" in production processes. As Furtado emphasized, supply-enhancing technological capacity must be met by inclusive demand-enhancing policies that embed the vast underlying population in the growth process.

Suggested Citation

  • James M. Cypher, 2013. "Constructing Projects of National Development in Latin America?," Forum for Social Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 42(2-3), pages 207-230, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:fosoec:v:42:y:2013:i:2-3:p:207-230
    DOI: 10.1080/07360932.2012.682315

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Veblen, Thorstein, 1904. "Theory of Business Enterprise," History of Economic Thought Books, McMaster University Archive for the History of Economic Thought, number veblen1904.
    2. Bengt-Åke Lundvall & K. J. Joseph & Cristina Chaminade & Jan Vang (ed.), 2009. "Handbook of Innovation Systems and Developing Countries," Books, Edward Elgar Publishing, number 12943.
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