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The Limits of Convergence

Globalization and Organizational Change in Argentina, South Korea, and Spain

This book challenges the widely accepted notion that globalization encourages economic convergence--and, by extension, cultural homogenization--across national borders. A systematic comparison of organizational change in Argentina, South Korea, and Spain since 1950 finds that global competition forces countries to exploit their distinctive strengths, resulting in unique development trajectories. Analyzing the social, political, and economic conditions underpinning the rise of various organizational forms, Guillén shows that business groups, small enterprises, and foreign multinationals play different economic roles depending on a country's path to development. Business groups thrive when there is foreign-trade and investment protectionism and are best suited to undertake large-scale, capital-intensive activities such as automobile assembly and construction. Their growth and diversification come at the expense of smaller firms and foreign multinationals. In contrast, small and medium enterprises are best fitted to compete in knowledge-intensive activities such as component manufacturing and branded consumer goods. They prosper in the absence of restrictions on export-oriented multinationals. The book ends on an optimistic note by presenting evidence that it is possible--though not easy--for countries to break through the glass ceiling separating poor from rich. It concludes that globalization encourages economic diversity and that democracy is the form of government best suited to deal with globalization's contingencies. Against those who contend that the transition to markets must come before the transition to ballots, Guillén argues that democratization can and should precede economic modernization. This is applied economic sociology at its best--broad, topical, full of interesting political implications, and critical of the conventional wisdom.

Author Information

Mauro F. Guillén is Associate Professor of Management and of Sociology at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. A former Guggenheim Fellow, he is the author of Models of Management: Work, Authority, and Organization in a Comparative Perspective and the coauthor of The AIDS Disaster.


The strength of this book is its comparative and historical approach to the study of organizational and institutional change. . . . [A]n informative work and a valuable contribution to the literatures on these countries and to debates about globalization generally.---Robert K. Schaeffer, Social ForcesThis book offers a sophisticated and lively analysis of three well-researched and important cases of distinctive political economies. It is a valuable contribution to the debate about the impact of globalization on national trajectories and the varieties of capitalism in the modern world.---Anthony W. Pereira, Political Science Quarterly"Mauro Guillén's rich narrative of industrial strategy in Argentina, South Korea, and Spain sets its sights squarely on the conventional wisdom. It fills a gaping hole in comparative studies, and it is the first book to succeed at showing the substantial variation that persists in national economic institutions. It effectively undermines a fundamental assumption that shapes contemporary economic thought."—Frank Dobbin, Princeton UniversityThis is an important book: theoretically nuanced, comparative in the best sense, and empirically rich.---Stephen Haggard, American Journal of Sociology"This is a valuable contribution, based on an impressive collection of different kinds of data combined with some smart thinking. Globalization is almost an academic buzzword, and has generated too much trendy-sounding but muddle-headed thinking. Guillén cuts through the jargon and dissects the issues precisely. He also brings some new cases to the discussion. His book will be of interest to academic scholars, but also to policy analysts and business school students."—Bruce Carruthers, Northwestern University, author of City of CapitalA very ambitious study, striding across a number of disciplines. . . . This is a groundbreaking contribution to the study of business organization and economic development.
Edition: Course Book
Audience: Professional and scholarly;College/higher education;