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Neither synthesis nor rivalry: Complementary policy models and technological learning in the Mexican and Brazilian petroleum and automotive industries

  • Alberto Fuentes and Seth Pipkin


Although technological learning is indispensable for economic transformation in developing countries, recent research on industrial policy both lacks consensus regarding policy models and engages in little long-term analysis of policy impacts. This study contributes to this literature through a controlled case comparison of the varied addition of new and unique functional capacities in the Mexican and Brazilian automotive and petroleum industries from 1975 to 2000. It offers a dynamic industrial policy perspective that underscores the explanatory role of alternating state- and market-led industrial policy approaches and their associated cumulative processes of “exploration” and “exploitation” (March (1991)). It also suggests that two background conditions—prior investments in learning and exogenous shocks that undermine the status quo—intervene decisively in the successful sequencing of policy approaches. The study concludes by proposing a framework that recognizes three main learning pathways formed through different configurations of the main independent variable and background conditions. This framework can be deployed as a rough predictive tool to assess how other industries might most effectively increase their technological sophistication.


Corresponding author

*Corresponding author: Alberto Fuentes, Georgia Institute of Technology; Email:
Seth Pipkin, University of California, Irvine


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The authors would like to thank attendees at the 2016 Red de Economía Política de América Latina (REPAL) and Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics (SASE) conferences, participants in the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs junior faculty workshop, and the anonymous reviewers as well as the editors of Business and Politics.



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Neither synthesis nor rivalry: Complementary policy models and technological learning in the Mexican and Brazilian petroleum and automotive industries

  • Alberto Fuentes and Seth Pipkin


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