Bras. Political Sci. Rev.2015;9(1):159-63.
In Search of the Latin American Variety of Capitalism
The classical endeavor of comparing national models of capitalism has fortunately returned to the center of political science. Its resurgence can be attributed to the publication of Varieties of Capitalism () and the multiple debates triggered by this book. Almost a decade later, Ben Ross Schneider has published Hierarchical Capitalism in Latin America, the first comprehensive and systematic effort to apply the framework of VoC to Latin America. This inspiring book feeds the growing community of scholars who are calling for a renovation of the traditionally vibrant but recently stagnant field of Latin American political economy (). The book presents new arguments and empirical evidence to support the critical diagnosis that if we do not strengthen the study of business actors and how politics and markets are mutually shaped, we will continue to miss extremely important political processes and outcomes in this region.
Schneider’s book utilizes institutional complementarities—VoC’s core and most elegant analytical device—to build the novel concept of hierarchical market economy (HME), which, he argues, defines the distinctive nature of capitalism in Latin America. Four elements characterize HMEs: diversified business groups, multinational corporations (MNCs), segmented labor markets, and low levels of education and vocational skills. The book dedicates one chapter to each of the four dimensions of HMEs. These mutually reinforcing attributes result in a tight equilibrium that has proved resilient over time, even through the regional transition from a state-led import substitution industrialization model to a post-neoliberal setting.