Emerging Markets and the Future of Business History

by Gareth Austin, Carlos Dávila, and Geoffrey Jones

Overview — This paper argues that there are important commonalities about the business history of countries across Africa, Asia, and Latin America despite differences between countries and within regions of each country. It is possible to discern a distinctive body of scholarship different from that on the West.

Author Abstract

This working paper suggests that the business history of emerging markets should be seen as an alternative business history rather than merely adding new settings to explore established core debates. The discipline of business history evolved around the corporate strategies and structures of developed economies. The growing literature on the business history of emerging markets addresses contexts that are different from developed markets. These regions had long eras of foreign domination and extensive state intervention, faced institutional inefficiencies, and experienced extended turbulence. This working paper suggests that this context drove different business responses than in the developed world. Entrepreneurs counted more than managerial hierarchies, immigrants and diaspora were critical sources of entrepreneurship, illegal and informal forms of business was commonplace, diversified business groups rather than the M-form became the major form of large-scale business, corporate strategies to deal with turbulence were essential, and radical corporate social responsibility concepts were pursued by some firms. Today, emerging markets such as China, India, Brazil, South Korea, Mexico, and Indonesia are among the largest economies in the world. If business history is to remain relevant as a subject, it must transition as a discipline from being heavily focused on North America, Europe, and Japan to fully incorporating the historical experiences of Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

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