Big Business in Argentina: An Analysis of the Corporate Elite in the Long Term, 1913-1971

In economic historiography, the analysis of large companies constitutes a relevant topic associated with economic development. Since the pioneering studies of Alfred Chandler, Business History has contributed to identify the expansion strategies that gave rise to the large multinationals and develop a typology of companies to explain the development of industrial capitalism in developed countries. On the other hand, in debate with Chandler's thesis, studies of large companies in other countries have identified other dominant organizational forms, including economic groups. Likewise, in recent years, the question about the relationship between the corporate structure and the forms of capitalism has returned. As refers to Latin American economies, the leading role of diversified economic groups and foreign companies in coordinating Latin American economies and its impact on economic development has also been pointed out. The entry of Argentina into the first globalization as a supplier of raw materials, its late industrialization and its focus on the domestic market implied the dominance of foreign companies and diversified economic groups in the corporate elite. This paper will analyze the profile and transformations of large companies in the long term in Argentina. The main contribution of the research consists in the elaboration of the rankings of the 200 largest companies according to their social capital between 1913 and 1971 and the construction of a database of large companies in Argentina based on homogeneous sources and criteria. After the registration and processing of information on the companies registered in the country, the rankings of the 200 largest companies by social capital were elaborated for selected years: 1913, 1923-4, 1930-1, 1937-8, 1944, 1959- 60 and 1970-1. The sources for the elaboration of this database were the directories and companies’ annual reports published in Argentina. The research also contributes to integrate the information provided by the numerous sectorial and case studies, in a first attempt to identify the dynamics and extent of the life cycles of the largest companies in Argentina.