In This Review

The Economic Development of Latin America since Independence
The Economic Development of Latin America since Independence
By Luis Bértola and José Antonio Ocampo
Oxford University Press, 2012, 352 pp

This well-argued interpretive economic history is reasonably balanced in its assessment of the region’s progress and shortcomings, even as it leans toward the neostructuralist school of thought and the approach associated with the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, both of which favor state activism. The distinguished authors consider four major historical periods: the chaotic postcolonial era (1810–70), the first great wave of globalization and commodity exports (1870–1929), the era dominated by the kind of state-led industrialization that Bértola and Ocampo prefer (the 1930s through the 1970s), and the recent turn back toward market mechanisms, which they view with some skepticism. During the golden age of state-led growth, development strategies promoted national industries and domestic markets and the public sector’s delivery of education and health services. But adjustments became necessary, the authors recognize, and the book identifies four main ingredients for promoting sustainable growth going forward: sound macroeconomic management to confront global vulnerabilities, energetic competitiveness and technology policies, strong governance institutions (although the optimal mix of state and market varies across countries), and equity agendas to encourage more just distributions of wealth.