Volume 43, Number 170,
July-September 2012
Emerging Countries:
The Marxism-Institutionalism Controversy
Sergio Ordóñez
THE AGENCY-STRUCTURE PROBLEM IN THE CURRENT PROCESS OF A NEW PHASE
OF DEVELOPMENT AND DIFFERENCES BETWEEN “SUCCESSFUL”
AND “LAGGING” DEVELOPING COUNTRIES ( ...continuation )

Neoliberalism is thus characterized by the rationalization of a social-institutional branch inherited from the preceding phase of development, or Fordism-Keynesianism, and a break with old commitments established with classes and subordinate groups, in terms of recognizing and solving social conflicts in the distribution of social products, with a double objective: (a) seek to restore the hegemony of dominant classes — which was strongly questioned at the end of the 1970s (Harvey, 2005:9) —; and (b) provide and outlet for technological-productive basics in the new development phase, a process that is taking place under the domination of financial capital over productive capital.3

The new technological-productive base, which arose from the political ideologies described above, succinctly consists4 in a new connection between the educational-scientific sector (ES-S) and social production (which makes the former an immediate condition of the latter). This is possible thanks to the telecommunications and computer science revolutions, whose rise translates in the formation of a new technological base that tends to link with Toyotism, as a new form of managing and organizing work processes, which particularly follows the incorporation of tacit knowledge in the work process and the resulting product.5

On a macroeconomic level, the rise of a computing and communications revolution brings with it the integration of a new technological-productive complex, composed of the set of industrial activities and services made up of technological bases of the integrated circuit, software, and the digitalization of the computing-electronics and telecommunications sectors (ce-ts),6 which translates into new economic and global commerce dynamics.

The global financial-production crisis and the current conditions of recovery in the framework of neoliberalism thus express the limitations of a subsequent rise and development of a new technological-productive base derived from autonomization and the growing extremes of financial capital, which imply an unprecedented and growing capacity to channel speculative monetary capital, to the detriment of capital accumulation and world economic growth. To this, we add social exclusion of lagging neoliberal countries, which acts against the internal integration cycle of countries in a global knowledge cycle.

As a result, this is not a crisis of the new development phase in and of itself, but rather a crisis of the predominant development route that it has assumed on a global scale. This makes it the central problem of the crisis and current recovery of the relationship between structure, understood as the new technological-productive base, and agent, understood as the action framework of social subjects.

Another problem is found in countries lagging in development and the challenges and opportunities that are part of the framework of the neoliberal crisis and the rise of knowledge capitalism: it is important to understand the phenomenon of (relative) lagging not only as a development gap that separates these countries from advanced economies, but also in terms of the various paths to development among different developing countries, where there exists a group that has managed to achieve important catch-up and have upward industrial mobility in the new international framework, using learning and innovation processes combined with low international labor costs. This group is generally made up of Asian countries, while other countries have shown lagging development and even worrisome tendencies towards falling behind, stagnation and paralysis. This is the general situation for Latin American countries, with a few exceptions, such as Mexico.

Developing countries that have managed upwards mobility and industrial catch-up have done so based on non-neoliberal social-institutional schemes, by developing knowledge capitalism processes. In other words, they have more or less broken with neoliberal orthodoxy to develop new elements of the technological-productive base, which once again puts the problem of the relationship between structure and agent at the center of discussion to understand these current processes of differentiation.

3 For a development of the defining characteristics of neoliberalism, see Ordóñez (2010).

4 For a detailed study of the characteristics of the new phase of development, see Ordóñez, 2004 and 2009A.

5 Toyotism follows different objectives, contrary to Fordism, as it is about producing a series of differentiated and varied products, incorporating improvements to the work process and the product from the operator (Coriat, 1991:22).

6 Previous works have used the name “electronics-computing sector” to refer to this sector, but here we add the term “telecommunications,” due to its growing importance in the current framework of the convergence of technology and services, and its important and growing weight in the sector.

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PROBLEMAS DEL DESARROLLO. REVISTA LATINOAMERICANA DE ECONOMÍA, Volume 49, Number 194 July-September 2018 is a quarterly publication by the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Ciudad Universitaria, Coyoacán, CP 04510, México, D.F. by Instituto de Investigaciones Económicas, Circuito Mario de la Cueva, Ciudad Universitaria, Coyoacán,
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