Bringing Latin America into the Mainstream: The 1963 Rio de Janeiro Conference on Inflation and Growth

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November 2022
Paper author(s): 
Carlos Eduardo Suprinyak
André Roncaglia de Carvalho
Macroeconomics - Economic growth - Monetary Policy

In January 1963, distinguished economists from all over the world descended on Rio de Janeiro to discuss the phenomenon of chronic inflation and how it interfered with the developmental prospects of Latin America. A non-exhaustive list of participants included such notable figures as Hollis Chenery, Gottfried Haberler, Arnold Harberger, Roy Harrod, Albert Hirschman, Nicholas Kaldor, W. Arthur Lewis, and Dudley Seers, who shared conference halls for an entire week with high-profile Latin American economists like Roberto Campos, Celso Furtado, Eugenio Gudin, Felipe Pazos, Aníbal Pinto, Mario Henrique Simonsen, Osvaldo Sunkel, and Victor Urquidi. The conference has since been regarded as an early peak in the decades-long controversy between monetarists and structuralists about the causes of inflation in Latin America. While local economists had been grappling with the problem of monetary stabilization for some time, the topic entered the agenda of the economics mainstream as the Cuban Revolution turned Latin America once again into a strategic security concern. The paper shows how the sense of urgency generated by Cold War geopolitical considerations attracted the interest of the economics profession at large to the phenomenon of chronic inflation in Latin America. At the same time, it imposed the standards embraced by the mainstream onto a debate that had so far developed according to regional concerns and priorities. The resulting tension would shape the evolution of monetary and macroeconomic analysis in Latin America for decades to come.


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