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Independent business biographies by academics are again small in number. Until recently, the art was rarely practiced at all. Recent years have seen a small proliferation of works. In Mexico, anti-capitalist bias pervaded the academy; as Mario Ceruttip. In some quarters, antipathy towards industrialists persists.
Historians may ad- mit, and lament, the influence of big business, but that does not mean they wish to study it. For three de- cades now, English-speaking historians have studied the impact upon the na- tion-state of workers, peasants, women, students, and rebels, but they have seldom considered the impact of industrialists. There are logistical factors too. This tradition is bolstered by the fact that a high proportion of firms relative to the United States and northern Europe remain in the hands of their founding family.
Until very recently, Mexican moguls were far more media-shy than their U. Their executives and friends still frequently refuse to talk to a would-be interviewer without an express say-so from the magnate. Corporate archives are typically off-limits, even to contracted historians.
The most basic reason for the utility of Mexican business biography is that traditions of concentration of wealth and family ownership of firms have made a relatively small business elite unusually rich and powerful.
One might argue that concentration of wealth is a characteristic of any capitalist society, but there remains the matter of degree. For several decades, economists have chiefly used the Gini coefficient to gauge the inequality of income distribu- tion within nations. Roderic Campp. It contrasts with the managerial capitalism and fragmentation of shareholding long favoured in the United States and northern Europe.
A second trait that makes business biography worth pursuing is the history of interdependence between business elites and political elites. This symbiosis helped steer Mexico on a much more conservative developmental path than the Revolution promised, especially after the oil expropriation of Businessmen used their political influence to resist the agents of radi- calism, from socialistic cabinet ministers to union activists, thereby checking the expropriation of certain industries and plantations; they supported the most conservative governors, which helped incline the pri to the right in the late s and s; they and their political allies championed capitalistic and often monopolistic development over the redistributive promises of the Revolution.
With the arrival of alternation between parties in the federal govern- ment inthe balance of power between the political and the business elite arguably tilted in favour of the latter. Among them certain business leaders loomed large: Hence and despite attempts by the pri since to rein in the de facto powersthe study of the business elite has arguably taken on a new urgency. A related reason for business biography owes to the fact that tycoons have often dealt with authorities face-to-face rather than through sector-wide channels.
Such personalism has permeated the business domain Maurer,p. We also see the limitations of the collec- tive approach to the private sector preferred by Marxist historians and some political scientists. For exam- ple, businessmen are sometimes motivated by their ideological convictions.
Yet another factor is their inclination for philanthro- py, diverting profits to hospitals, colleges, and foundations. Some businessmen believe that la noblesse oblige. Others have big egos; they want to be recognised as community leaders and are prepared to pay handsomely for such recognition. The Museo Soumayawhich houses the largest collection of Rodin outside Paris, was built to honour the late wife of Carlos Slim, and it is run by one of his daughters.
Within the Mexican context, business biography —in its indepen- dent variety— can offer a useful antidote to a culture of public deference to- wards magnates that long pervaded most of the press, bolstered in turn by biographies contracted by magnates themselves or their families. The problem, of course, is that such magnates are routinely lauded as visionaries and saints, their success owing to a mix of entrepreneurial vision, very hard work, and gracious treatment of their employees.
Occasionally, but probably not enough, such accounts will allow for strokes of luck and the decisive actions or innovations of subordinates. They will seldom admit the role of government policy —protectionism in par- ticular— in their success. As a result, the existing historiography of Mexican business has been greatly skewed by self-serving accounts. Independent versions can help us better understand not only corporate histories but the trajectory of state for- mation at federal and local levels, the growth of the middle classes, and the paradoxically concomitant persistence of inequality.
Two further justifications for business biography relate to the analyt- ical advantages of biographies as a genre per se: As I shall shortly argue for William Jenkins, his six decades of business activity in 20th-century Mexico shed light on the extent to which the country experienced a revolutionary transformation. That is, his biography fleshes out the question: Does a revolution do away with most of the business elite, as is popularly believed, or do the oligarchs prove persistent?
Finally, biographies allow one to consider multiple themes and em- ploy multiple approaches that historians, in this age of intense specialization, are apt to treat separately. For example, the existing histories of Mexican cin- ema are chiefly exercises in textual analysis.El Porfiriato Económico
If we are to chronicle that indus- try in a holistic fashion, one that takes into account its social, political, and economic impact, historians must consider labour history, business history, 17 Here I draw on Ben Pimlott The biography of a film industry mogul such as was William Jenkins in the s and s —who had to deal with all the constituencies that these five fields imply— affords a framework for the interweaving of all these disparate threads.
The Life of William Jenkins I will now demonstrate the use of business biography with reference to my life of William Jenkins. In the former case, it helps subvert the still-popular view that the thirty years from were bad for business.
Time and again Jenkins found chances for profit. During the Revolution he speculated with great success in property; he also kept his textile mills running. Again, the old periodization —radicalism up toconservatism afterwards— seems simplistic. I use the Jenkins story to demonstrate how the success of post-rev- olutionary capitalists owed much to cozy relations with authoritarian politi- 19 The following section is based on part of my Introduction to Jenkins of Mexicopp.
These privileges and exchanges have long been assumed but little studied at the interpersonal level. There is a common term for this kind of arrangement: But the term fails to distinguish between distinct dimensions of the state-capital bond: The state depended on the business elite to help rebuild the economy, through invest- ment, job creation, the paying of taxes, and the securing of loans.
Business- men depended on the state for the restoration of order, the building of roads, the taming of radicalised labour, and the enforcement of property rights. The latter trend included such mutual favours as covert business partnerships and credit arrangements. Jen- kins repeatedly exploited the symbiotic imperative, too. In Puebla, he made loans and donations to cash-strapped authorities, both state and city govern- ments.
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The practice helps explain how he, a high-profile gringo, accrued and safeguarded vast estates at a time of growing xenophobia and accelerating land confiscation. In the s and s, the two forms of symbiosis in- creasingly the convenient kind underpinned his success in business nation- wide. Indeed, the Jenkins experience suggests that such interdependence was widespread.
As noted earlier, biographies also combine various approaches —from cultural to labour to diplomatic history— that en- able us to understand the complex matrix of interests at play as the state dealt with individual captains of industry. Everyday exchanges between industrialists and politicians are most frequent at the municipal or state level, yet these often snug relation- ships are little explored. The President and the ruling party could not simply impose their candidates.
Mijares and Maximino had to campaign extensively, so they solicited large wads of private-sector cash. What resulted from their victories was a local entrenchment of conservative rule that privileged industrialists even in the face of federal opposition. Alan Knightpp. Biography helps unearth the details of such state-capital symbiosis and contextualises it within the modus operandi of a particular businessman across several decades. In this case, there is evidence of Jenkins exerting an influence over Puebla politics for more than 40 years.
I trace how Jenkins functioned in Mexican rhetoric as the epitome of the grasping U. His image afforded leftist politicians, business rivals, and unions a symbolic bogeyman and inflammatory totem.
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His rep- utation dated from his kidnapping, while a consular agent, in Facing a bilateral crisis, the precarious regime of Venustiano Carranza countered U.
Though later exonerated, Jen- kins remained so tarred by the episode that every subsequent accusation of skulduggery gained a ready audience. This episode and further controversies —over Jenkins as landowner, monopolist, political intriguer, even as a philan- thropist— often reveal a common denominator: The attacks on Jenkins show not only the prevalence but also the uses of gringophobia.
Political benefit could be had from assailing him, above all inupon his kidnapping, and during the Cold War, within the battle for the soul of the PRI that pitted the pro-business right against the nationalist left. In turn, criticism of Jenkins contributed to the polarizing of opinion that defined the s, with its student radicalism and consequent bloody repression.
After all, monopolistic practice, tax evasion, union-busting, and purchase of political influence are common to both cultures.
A transna- tional biography, in this case following the trajectory of an American who lived for 62 years in Mexico, brings one time and again to consider questions of difference, commonality, and universality between cultures. Some of the dubious ways in which Jenkins seemingly emulated his Mexican peers had precedent and parallel in the United States.
He pursued market dominance: His fortune owed much to covert alliances with the powerful. Distinctions between business culture do of course exist.
The United States set up a na- tional commission to monitor monopolistic practice inMexico not until In the late s, just as Jenkins was gaining dominance over the Mex- ican film industry, corporate power in Hollywood was being reined in by the Supreme Court. Still, differences exist in much less dichotomized a fashion than the subjects of neighbouring nations are apt to assert; very often they are matters of degree.
Nor is the order indicated to be taken rigidly. For exam- ple, archives may yield repeated references to persons of uncertain relevance, whose relationship with the subject can be clarified only through returning to those one has earlier interviewed. Moreover, business biographers must be flexible and versatile in approach, engaging with archives, periodical collec- tions, and live subjects with equal zeal.
Access the personal archive: This step is both the most obvious and, often, the least feasible. When I began researching Jenkins, I found that his right-hand man, the banker Manuel Espinosa Yglesias, had dispatched his archive to be incinerated in the s.
So there are business archives to be accessed, some of them open to researchers, some requiring persuasion. With persistence and luck, perhaps anything is possible.
This se- ries runs from around to the early s, and digital cameras are permit- ted. Prominent businessmen, their companies, and all the industrial sectors are included as distinct items.
Postrevolutionary contents are subject to change, and some series are restricted to access at the Hemeroteca Nacional on the campus of the unam. It also has a searchable periodical database, known as Sircaar. Several Mexican periodicals offer comprehensive online databases, in some cases limited to subscribers.
On the subject of physical collections, several extinct publications pro- vided sporadic but provocative coverage of the business elite.
The most diligent coverage is found in the Wall Street Journal, whose paid-access database is searchable from ; the New York Times, which has a paid-access database going all the way back to though some libraries only offer the post version ; and the magazine BusinessWeek, whose database is freely searchable from For the pre-database era, such publications are avail- able on microfilm.
Also worth bearing in mind are sector-specific periodi- 22 Note: Other specialised magazines with Mexico-based reporters have included Advertising Age, Billboard, Plastics News, Platts for the oil industryTwin Plant News for the maquiladora sec- torand the online journal Narco News. Several caveats are in order. The most important is that until the launch of Reforma, which raised standards within the national press, business journalism was almost indistinguishable from company press releases.
Most business reporters, like Mexican journalists in general, were expected to sup- plement their meager income by accepting bribes from the sources they cov- ered. Further, they often evinced little understanding of the workings of pri- vate enterprise.
A case in point: Such cov- erage tended to regard all businessmen as exploitative. For both of these rea- sons, biographers must read most historical business reporting against the grain. Third, foreign reporting on Mexican business was only incidental until the Salinas era. Carlos Slim, for example, does not appear in the Wall Street Journal until his Telmex purchase ofand in the New York Times he goes unmentioned until Even today, reporting is compromised by the threat of advertiser boy- cotts.
Mexico City has more than 25 daily newspapers, compared with just eight in New York City, despite the fact that New York boasts a higher ag- gregate readership and a far larger economy.
This means that the local ad- vertising pie is not only relatively small but also highly fragmented, which in turn gives major advertisers —like Carlos Slim Telmex, Telcel, Sanborns, Sears, etc.
These caveats, taken together, suggest that business biographers in Mex- ico must rely a good deal less on print media than their U. It may strike the researcher as odd to suggest interviews as the next step. They are the daily practice of journalists but to historians they may be an afterthought, if not an alien pursuit. Besides, I have yet to mention public archives.
The starting point for investigating any company to which one does not have access might ordinarily be a Public Property Registry or a Notary Archive.
Five victories in 17 appearances —, ; runner-up in ; third place in and Tommy Milner: Like every year, no one knows how we will stack up against the competition. We will be very prepared. From a competition standpoint, we have spent a lot of time and laps in testing finding every possible area where we can extract tenths and hundredths of a second.
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We want to win every race we enter, but this one has a little something extra to it. Lacking more than that at Le Mans can be very, very painful because of the safety car rules and length of the lap. It spent two days at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin earlier this month to fine-tune and analyze setup options, as well as continue testing its race-specific Michelin tire. Two victories in eight appearances — and ; third place in Oliver Gavin: All it takes is one look at the GTE Pro entry to see why.
Three victories in 12 appearances —and ; runner-up in ; third place in Jan Magnussen: I was really close in with the team, and last year we had the tools to do so. In the end, Le Mans is long enough to work your way back if you lack just a little pace.
You can run your own race, but as we saw last year you really have to race your competition. Hopefully that transfers well to the race. My personal goal is to win Le Mans in this class. It may seem like plenty of time to run through a test program, but eight hours goes by quickly on such a long track, not to mention cycling through each of the drivers during the day.