|dc.description.abstract||- Why did Latin American countries opt for a deliberate industrialisation policy in the years following the second world war creating three decades of unprecedented eco-nomic growth?
- Why did neoliberalism become so dominant in the eighties seeing industrial pol-icy as the cause of the region s economic problems rather than as their solution?
- Was there in the nineties a growing feeling that macroeconomic stability and free markets were not the panacea they were meant to be, and that once again industrial policies mattered?
These three questions will be kept in mind when I try to explain ECLAC s glorious first dec-ades, its marginal position in the eighties and its efforts to regain lost ground during the nineties.
ECLAC (originally ECLA), the Economic Commission for Latin America (and the Caribbean) was created as a UN body as early as 1948. Students with an introductory course in the sociology of development have most probably heard about the ECLA-school, and will often associate it with the Pre-bisch/Singer thesis about the deteriorating terms of trade for raw material producers, economic structuralism and its offspring dependency theory, and import-substituting industrialisation (ISI). Raúl Prebisch (ECLAC s Executive Secretary from 1949 to 1963) was perhaps the best known econo-mist from the South during the last century, structuralism was seen as the first genuine voice from the South offering a coherent alternative to the modernisation theory from the North, and ISI was the dominant development strategy of Latin America during more than three dec-ades. This should have given ECLAC its guaranteed place in the history books, but is it all history or is ECLAC still vibrantly alive?
Three parallel lines are running through this thesis. One is the evolution of ECLAC s ideas over its fifty years of existence. The second is the evolution of the Latin American economies over the same period. The third is the evolution of ideas that ECLAC is opposing: the liberal/neoliberal tradition in economic theory and policy. There is no stable causal relationship between these three variables. Ideas are both shaped by and shaping economic events, as well as influencing each other, but I will argue that both ECLAC s ideas and neoliberalism have each at different times greatly influenced eco-nomic development in Latin America.
However, whether as independent or dependent variables, ideas about economic development are at the core of this thesis. Where do they come from? Whose interests do they favour? How do they relate to changes in the real economy? To sharpen the focus even more I am especially interested in those economic ideas that relate to technological change.
The thesis has a chronological structure. In chapter 2 I start by placing ISI in its historical context and look for some possible intellectual forebears for the ECLA-school. The ideas behind their initial call for industrialisation is presented, and also their contri-bution to the establishment of a Latin American infrastructure for planning. I argue that ECLAC played an important role in giving theoretical and political legitimacy to ISI ini-tially, but that their proposals for remedying the problems that were caused by the way the industrialisation process unfolded, were less influential, albeit intellectually stimu-lat-ing.
In chapter 3 I discuss briefly the logic behind the huge accumulation of debts in the seventies and the political and economic changes outside Latin America that led to the debt crisis of the eighties. More attention is given to the genesis of the neoliberal agenda that became the answer to the crisis. I discuss the intellectual roots of neoliberal-ism, and the experiments with neoliberalism prior to the debt crisis in Chile. ECLAC s intellectual responses are discussed, and the weakening of their influence in this period is explained.
The theme for chapter 4 is ECLAC s proposal for the nineties: Changing pro-duction patterns with social equity , also called neostructuralism. I try to describe how it builds on, and where it breaks with the old structuralist tradition. I also look at how it responds to some of the criticisms raised against ISI by neoliberalism, and how it attacks some of the theoretical flaws in the neoliberal arguments. A better understanding of technology marks it off from both neoliberalism and the old structural tradition. This un-derstanding owes much to the influence of Fernando Fajnzylber, a considerable intellec-tual and organisational force, and the main architect behind the new ECLAC proposal.
In chapter 5, before concluding, I look at how real developments in the nineties have corresponded with the visions put forward in the new ECLAC strategy. Consider-able technological upgrading has taken place in some industrial sectors, but Latin Amer-ica is still a consumer and not a producer of technology, and demand for know-ledge and the most profitable components in the production chain is increasingly directed towards centres in the North. ECLAC has sharpened its analysis and regained some prestige, but has far from regained its initial influence on the course of economic events in Latin America.||nor