Volume 27, 2011

Modernization in Times of Globalization II

Carlos H. Waisman
Pages 151-166

Institutional Transfer and Varieties of Capitalism in Transnational Societies

This paper discusses the varieties of capitalism in transitional societies in Latin America and Central / Eastern Europe. The intended purpose of these transitions from semi-closed import-substituting economies in the first case and state socialist ones in the second was to institutionalize open-market economies. Twenty or thirty years later, there is a variety of types of capitalism in these countries, which I classify into three: open-market, neo-mercantilist, and anemic. The question for sociology is whether these quite different variants represent temporary stages or distortions in the same process of transition or whether, on the contrary, they may institutionalize as discrete forms of peripheral capitalism. Neither standard “legacy” argu­ments nor institutionalist theories offer satisfactory answers to this question. The multiple modernities approach, on the other hand, is more appropriate as a theoretical perspective, but it has not produced yet specific propositions applicable to this question. My paper makes two claims. First, the successful transfer of institutions depends on the congruence between these institutions and the broader institutional framework of the recipient economies, a point not developed by institutionalist theories. I offer a hypothesis in this regard: Two critical nodes of congruence are the regulatory and extractive capacity of the state and the strength of civil society. Second, market capitalism (as liberal democracy as well) is a complex institution, and some of its components “travel” more easily across societies and institutional frameworks, and therefore are easier to institutionalize. This is the source of the hybrid variants.