Research on the historical impact of globalization in Argentina and Chile

The business history group in Harvard Business School’s Entrepreneurial Management Unit, which has set the globalization of research and teaching of business history as a high priority, has a strong interest in facilitating research on Latin American business history, especially the Southern Cone countries.

The initial research in this domain has focused on the historical impact of globalization on Argentina and Chile. To start implementing this strategy, Harvard Business School created a research fellowship within the business history group. Andrea Lluch, a former Harvard-Newcomen Fellow, was appointed to this faculty position. The initiative was coordinated by Geoffrey Jones, the Isidor Straus Professor of Business History at the Harvard Business School, and facilitated by Sven von Appen, an HBS alumnus and a prominent Latin American businessman. This on-going project now also involves Harvard University's David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies.

Currently, our knowledge of Chilean and Argentinean business history over the last century is limited. As a result, policy makers and business practitioners have few places to look for guidance from the past. This is a substantial loss, as the region offers rich and often traumatic historical data, especially concerning the impact of globalization and economic cycles. The response of firms to this turbulent history is poorly understood.

This ongoing research program seeks to help fill this lacunae. The research is focused on the study of entrepreneurship, business groups, and corporate governance; the impact of multinationals and foreign investment; the international growth of locally owned firms; and the evolving relationship between the state and private sector in Argentina and Chile since the nineteenth century. As part of this continuing research, a collaborative book, El Impacto Histórico de la Globalización en Argentina y Chile : Empresas y Empresarios, edited by HBS Professor Geoffrey Jones and Andrea Lluch, was published in 2011 about the historical impact of globalization on Argentina and Chile. It is hoped that this volume will be the start of a wider research project, which can incorporate the experiences of neighboring countries, including Uruguay and Peru.

It is also a high priority to translate this new research into teaching material which can provide course materials for teaching the history of entrepreneurship in Latin America. Teaching entrepreneurship can be extremely difficult because there are no textbooks with simple lessons or steps to follow to become an entrepreneur. Moreover, success and failure may depend heavily on the context in which entrepreneurs pursue their ventures. At Harvard Business School, business history faculty have been successful at teaching entrepreneurship precisely because the discipline is not only effective at compiling and recording past successes or failures but also contextualizes them in a rich legal, social, economic, and cultural setting. Ideally, with a course focused on the stories of entrepreneurs in Latin America, local teachers could be similarly successful.

As part of this initiative to promote business history teaching in Latin America, scholars from the United States, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Venezuela, and Argentina were invited to an April 2008 meeting on the Harvard Business School campus. With the support of the regional office of the David Rockefeller Center of Latin American Studies, a second workshop was also held in Santiago, Chile, in late March 2009 to discuss the design of course materials that would enable the development of a full-scale course on Latin American business history. This work is on-going.