Summary - TST 14


TST 14

Colin M. Lewis
Capital, tecnología y nacionalismo: economía política de los tranvías urbanos en América Latina, 1850-1940

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Key words: Railroads; tramways; Latin America; Argentina and México.

[ Abstract ]

The history of the financing, management and operation of tramways in Latin America offers insights into several themes that have long engaged business historians, namely: ‘models’ of corporate organisation; the dynamics of international investment; the diffusion of innovation - in the broadest sense, including technology and managerial practices; and the political economy of establishing and operating public utilities - often in rapidly changing political and economic environments. The case of tramways serves to illustrate the impact of key technology shocks on corporate finance and organisation, and the influence of socio-political change, associated with modernisation and urbanisation, on the business environment. Arguably, the sheer diversity of the experiences of tramway companies in Latin America between the mid-nineteenth century until the 1940s also means that the continent provides a unique opportunity to test arguments relating to the entrepreneurial and technical capacities of ‘national capitalists bourgeoisies’ and, in the case of foreign-owned utilities, responses to the rise of economic nationalism, often associated with the flexing of labour power and growth of ‘consumer pressure’.