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  • Print publication year: 2014
  • Online publication date: June 2014

3 - The Export Sector and the World Economy, circa 1850–1914


By the middle of the nineteenth century, the growth of the world economy and the secular expansion of international trade provided the background for all discussion in Latin America on economic policy and economic development. Throughout the subcontinent, a broad measure of agreement had been reached that Latin America's best hope for rapid economic advancement rested on closer integration into the world economy through commodity exports and capital imports, with some countries also favoring European immigration. Alternative theories, which emphasized either protection of domestic import-competing activities or (less realistically) the promotion of manufactured exports, commanded little support among the political elite.

As the early postindependence period had shown, the growth of commodity exports in the presence of a favorable external stimulus could not be taken for granted. The obstacles on the supply side were still considerable, and the political weakness of many of the emerging states was a major handicap. Even an apparently strong state, such as Argentina under General Juan Manuel de Rosas (1829–52), lacked the necessary political consensus to implement successfully a set of consistent economic policies.

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