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Volume 59 / Social Sciences

ECONOMICS: GENERAL


JAMES W. FOLEY, Associate Dean, School of Business Administration, University of Miami, Coral Gables


NOT SURPRISINGLY, scholars have again shifted their focus of inquiry since the last biennium. While moving away from examining such issues as agrarian reform and the causes and villains of the debt crisis, most current research and publication is devoted to exploring market liberalization programs. Indeed, the preponderance of economic literature on Latin America in recent years analyzes the impact of market liberalization programs on various facets of the region's economic life. Three volumes offer a general, comprehensive study of market liberalization programs: After Neoliberalism: What Next for Latin America? (item #bi 00000625#), The Capitalist Revolution in Latin America (item #bi 98012052#), and Economic Reform in Latin America (item #bi2002002781#). Specialized studies that analyze the impact of market liberalization programs on the region can be grouped into four categories: 1) income distribution and poverty, 2) labor markets, 3) manufacturing sector, and 4) agricultural sector.

Noteworthy works on income distribution and poverty include Beyond Tradeoffs: Market Reforms and Equitable Growth in Latin America, edited by Birdsall, Graham, and Sabot (item #bi 00000621#) and Poverty and Inequality in Latin America: Issues and New Challenges by Tokman and O'Donnell (item #bi 00000626#); as well as the article by De Janvry and Sadoulet (item #bi2002002778#). Another useful source is an entire issue of El Trimestre Económico (Vol. 66, No. 263, julio/sept. 1999), which is devoted entirely to topics related to poverty (item #bi2002004183#). Finally, Historia del pensamiento sobre la distribución del ingreso by Urdaneta is an intriguing account describing the history of economic thought on income distribution, its determinants, and its impact on development (item #bi 00000627#).

Specialists on the impact of economic reforms on labor markets should consult review essays by Tuman (item #bi2002004184#) and Epstein (#bi2002002783#), and a World Bank publication by González Anaya, Labor Market Flexibility in 13 Latin American Countries and the United States (item #bi 99009249#).

The response of the manufacturing sector to market liberalization is particularly well documented. Macario (item #bi2002003082#) and Garrido and Peres (item #bi2002002787#) provide excellent analyses of manufacturing in general. Specific industries analyzed include telecommunications (item #bi2002003998#), fishing (item #bi2002004167#), public utilities (item #bi2002002784#), and computers (item #bi2002002779#).

Regarding the agricultural sector's response to economic reforms, the article by David, Dirven, and Vogelgesang (item #bi2002002777#) draws some conclusions on the impact of the new economic model; while the article by Deere and León analyzes the impact of neoliberal agricultural policies on women's and indigenous movements (item #bi2002002780#).

In addition to market reform, scholars continue to focus their attention on some standard topics. Among various works on the informal sector, two edited volumes are particularly impressive: Rakowski's Contrapunto: The Informal Sector Debate in Latin America (item #bi 98012024#); and Tokman's El sector informal en América Latina: dos décadas de análisis (item #bi 98012063#). On the issue of sustainable development and environmental degradation, the article by Barbier (item #bi 00001549#) and the edited volume on strategies for sustainability (item #bi 98012001#) are useful. Meso-Lago continues to provide solid studies of the region's social security systems, now focusing his attention on the implementation and impact of pension reforms (items #bi 99006838#, #bi 99008018#, and #bi 99009300#).

On the topic of regional trade organizations, Regionalism and the Global Economy presents four papers on the relationship between regional integration and economic development (item #bi 98012032#); while the article by Motta Veiga examines the relationship between Mercosur and the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) (item #bi 98009930#).

Two comprehensive volumes provide analysis of recent foreign direct investment and its impact on the region: a volume edited by Agosin (item #bi 98012055#) and a report sponsored by CEPAL (item #bi 99002965#). A highly technical paper by Salorio and Brewer examines the relative importance and contribution of various components of foreign direct investment (item #bi 99003897#).

In recent years, the number of high-quality studies on the economic history of the region has increased significantly. Noteworthy are Latin America and the World Economy: Dependency and Beyond, edited by Salvucci (item #bi 98012021#), which covers the colonial period to the present; Thorp's Progress, Poverty and Exclusion (item #bi 00000628#), which focuses on the period from 1900 to the present; Weaver's Latin America in the World Economy: Mercantile Colonialism to Global Capitalism (item #bi 00006666#), which covers the period 1450 to the present; and The Political Economy of Latin America in the Postwar Period, edited by Randall (item #bi 98012053#), which focuses on the post-World War II period to the present. Also worthwhile is an article by Baer and Love, "Las raíces del retraso económico en Latinoamérica" (item #bi 97013712#), which analyzes the differing growth performances of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Mexico from a historical perspective.

Miscellaneous works that merit attention include an ECLA report on the status of women in the region (item #bi 98012012#); a volume edited by Cárdenas, El crecimiento económico en América Latina: teoría y práctica, which provides highly technical analyses of growth models and the growth process as it relates to the region (item #bi 98012050#); and Modern Political Economy and Latin America, edited by Frieden, Pastor, and Tomz, which uses a modern political economy approach to analyze the relationship between politics, economics, and economic change (item #bi 00001566#).

As a final note, the changing nature of methodology used to analyze the economies of the region has vastly improved the quality of publication. Prior to the 1990s, much of the literature was of a qualitative, descriptive, and nonempirical nature. Since then, there has been an ever-increasing trend toward the use of high-powered quantitative techniques to test the validity of economic theories and causal relationships. This change is, in part, due to two factors: 1) it is now almost impossible to obtain a graduate degree in economics without solid quantitative skills, and 2) data sets are more readily available than was the case in the 1980s. As a result, the high quality and analytical rigor of the region's economic literature have never been higher.


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