A historical and long-term analysis of large companies is a challenge since it seeks to understand the relation between Argentina’s position in the global economy, the impacts of macroeconomic changes and state policies on the local productive structure, by analyzing the transformations and strategies of the business elite.
The significance of foreign capital in the formation of the Argentine business class, as well as the analysis of the forms of articulation/opposition between agricultural and industrial activities that gave an impulse to economic cycles of growth and crisis are fundamental to interpret the evolution of Argentine capitalism in the twentieth century. During the formative period of the export-import model, the dominant participation of foreign firms in the financing, transportation, and distribution of raw materials for the foreign market promoted the prominence of business communities made up of immigrants of British, Belgian-German, and French origin. The early formation and expansion of Northern European business networks in the Argentine Pampas region at the end of the 19th century gave rise to the first diversified economic groups that had a lasting impact on the Argentine economy. These conditions gave rise to a business elite made up of Argentines and foreigners with complementary interests and diversified investments whose decisions and strategies were aimed at taking advantage of the business opportunities of a growing economy.
One of the central problems of the long-term analysis of the business elite is to identify the patterns of continuity and those of rupture. They alert us to the possibilities of change in the economic structure and the variants of the country’s development models during the phases of globalization and economic opening and in times of de-globalization and industrialization by import substitution. The elements of continuity or rupture can be evaluated in terms of the origin of capital, in the forms of ownership and organizational formats, in their sectoral insertion, and the companies’ levels of durability and turnover. In this regard, the durability of diversified economic groups and foreign companies as the dominant organizational forms among large local private capital companies has been raised by previous studies; however, this issue had not yet been the subject of long-term empirical analysis that would allow reconstructing the changes in the corporate leadership in relation to external investment cycles and the economic policies implemented by the Argentine state.
The project then reconstructs the profile and evolution of the Argentine business leadership in its different aspects: sectoral insertion, organizational forms, and durability or rotation of large companies. Its objective is to contribute to the debate on the varieties of capitalism over time and to problematize the role of companies and entrepreneurs in the country’s economic development processes.