- Asian Industrialization in Latin American Perspective:The Limits to Institutional Analysis
Latin America's economic performance has frequently been evaluated against the backdrop of the so-called Asian miracle. After all, the comparative method presupposes and privileges the study of variation. The East Asian newly industrializing countries (NICs) have outperformed their Latin American counterparts for almost half a century. And experts on Latin America have therefore looked—and at times contributed (Evans 1995)—to a sophisticated body of literature on Northeast Asia for "positive" cases of late development.
Who deserves credit for East Asia's success? While political scientists and sociologists underscored the exceptional nature of the region's political institutions in the 1980s and 1990s and thereby treated the state as their independent variable, they implicitly—and at times explicitly (Evans 1995, 41–42)—bracketed the problem of institutional origins, and thereby raised more questions than they answered. What are the origins and underpinnings of the proverbial "developmental" state (see Evans 1995)? Are East Asian institutions transferable, and if so, under what conditions? The books under review, David Kang's Crony Capitalism and Vivek Chibber's Locked in Place, are among the more valuable efforts to answer these questions, and their relatively concurrent publication and favorable reception offer Latin Americanists a wonderful opportunity to take stock of the debate.
Indeed, the books form a near-perfect tandem. They offer interest-based accounts of the Korean miracle but nonetheless grow out of distinct theoretical traditions: the new institutional economics (NIE) and [End Page 183] historical institutionalism—with a strong dose of Marxist state theory—respectively.1 They rely on the method of paired comparisons but nonetheless invoke different "negative" cases: the Philippines and India, respectively. They call the autonomy and probity of the Korean state into question but nonetheless attribute the country's atypically dynamic performance to distinct sociopolitical variables: the structure of state-business relations and the unique contributions of Japanese investors and traders, respectively. And they tend to confuse causes and consequences and thereby illustrate the limits not only of institutional analysis of the Asian miracle but of institutional analysis more generally.
This essay assesses the two books in four different steps. First, it reviews their criticisms of the existing literature and thereby underscores the limits of state autonomy, not only in Asia but in Latin America. Second, it compares the books' distinct institutional logics—rational choice and historical—and thereby highlights the limits to institutional analysis not only in Asia but in the developing world more generally. Third, it examines their common oversights—including the nature and legacy of agrarian social-property relations—in light of the Latin American literature and thereby develops and defends an alternative account of development outcomes in the late twentieth century. In conclusion, it counsels against the mechanical importation of institutional models ill-suited to the Latin American reality and in defense of structural approaches more relevant not only to Latin America but to the rest of the developing world.
The Limits of State Autonomy
The orthodox account of the Asian miracle is straightforward. According to Bela Balassa, Korean and Taiwanese officials not only "adopted an outward-oriented development strategy in the early 1960s," and thereby opened the door to export-led industrialization (ELI), but resisted the siren song of protectionism in the early 1970s—when the first oil shock generated a pronounced slowdown in international trade—and thereby continued to prosper. By way of contrast, Latin American policymakers pursued import substitution industrialization (ISI) in the postwar years and, for the most part, "maintained, or reinforced, their inward oriented stance" in the aftermath of the oil shock (Balassa 1986, 75).
A number of dissident scholars have cast doubt on Balassa's conclusions, however, by underscoring the prevalence—and some would say the ubiquity—of tariffs, import controls...