Los valores de la economía social como impulsores del cambio en los clústeres de América Latina: El caso de la caña de azúcar en Veracruz (México)

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Using the evolutionary approach combined with other lines of thought, which incorporate the phenomena of power, it is possible to improve our understanding of the structural problem underlying the dialectic of fragmentation/integration of knowledge and society, which marks the dynamics of territorial systems of production and innovation (STPI) in agribusiness clusters in developing countries. In this sense, the thesis objective is to show, on the one hand, how the economic-political organization of the sugarcane cluster is blocking change and innovation and generating deep inequality and social degradation. Now, this is not necessarily a fatality, but that a socially integrative transformation of the cluster is possible. In this sense, and on the other hand, the purpose of this thesis is to also show that the identity (purpose) conferred by the values ​​and principles of the social economy to a series of actors critical of the status quo, but committed to the cluster, unifies the direction of actions (vision) and promotes collective awareness (reflection) to address common problems with an integrative, inclusive and sustainable approach. To explain the pursued objective, the work of the thesis is structured as follows: starting with the introduction in Spanish and English, in the first section the theoretical framework is outlined where the evolutionary problem of innovation focus on social innovation (inclusion and equity) is integrated in an original way, where the values of the social economy ​​operate as drivers of change in favour of sustainable development. Then, in the second part, this conceptual framework is used to offer a new light on the organization and dynamics of the sugarcane cluster in the centre of Veracruz (Mexico). The thesis ends with the conclusions in Spanish and English. All this based on qualitative research supported by in-depth interviews. In this thesis, the case of the sugar cane cluster in Veracruz has been analyzed, which is characterized by presenting a strong vertical integration in its value chain. This integration involves the fragmentation of society and knowledge, which has its roots in the concentration of political and economic power. The concentration of power orders the network of relationships that determines the direction in the dynamics of the political, financial, production, as well as science and technology (R&D) system. This can be recognized by observing government actions (legal, legislative and administrative), in the results of the enactment of laws, international agreements, public policies and in the allocation of resources for “development”. Specifically, in this investigation were observed the dynamics of relations that conform the R&D system, and, in the social area, the actions for implementation and promotion of agricultural “cooperatives” and from the development of local business capacities. Within the organization and dynamics of this cluster, the influence of the interests of the main political-economic actors in the use of their relations to decide the direction of economic growth and innovation is crucial. At the same time, it is evident that decision-makers (politicians, scientists, businesspeople) have a narrow vision of what innovation is. With this narrow concept of innovation, in principle, only scientific and technological innovation is considered and are left outside of any development strategy, the social innovation and resources that can be found within the territory. The development of people's capacities (know-how, accumulated experience, sense of belonging, proximity, values, customs) that could be integrated into the production system of the cluster and to other economic sectors is not taken into consideration. On the contrary, by contemplating institutions and markets based on how they affect people's competencies locally, a balanced economic growth plan with human development and social capital can be initiated. It is undeniable in this respect that the fundamental pillar of sustainable development is the social pillar. Against this backdrop, the thesis imposes the understanding of a sustainable development model suitable for the context of developing Latin American countries. The thought is that the starting point cannot be a technological innovation but a social innovation, and where the values ​​of the social economy operate as integrators of knowledge and as regulators of socio-economic change. Social innovation constitutes the path through which new actors, new skills (Nooteboom, 2010), new capabilities (Sen, 2000), new relationships (Portes, 2006) and new rules (Dopfer & Potts, 2008) appear on the scene, which are critical factors in the change processes (Nelson & Winter, 1982; Nelson, 2016). Therefore, Social Innovation is essential for the materialization of networks of diverse actors in companies and entities dedicated to science and technology (research centres, universities, etc.) that provide a different view of the world, and are carriers of the aforementioned values ​​and benefits of group learning to contain social disintegration. One way to change the habit of disapproving and excluding, instead of integrating new actors with different capacities into the sustainable development process, is to advance by putting into practice the human values of inclusion and equity which are the foundation to bring about changes in the community (social innovation), not with a moralistic purpose but with a practical mission of governance and transparency. From this point of view, values become “key drivers” of innovation (López-Cláros, 2018). The importance of the social economy for inclusive and durable economic growth (sustainable development) is because it drives local actors to mobilize internal resources. The local actors satisfy their social aspirations of equality and participation from other spheres and thus, balance the productive and social forces. Social economy has historically spread values ​​and principles that are the patterns of behaviour referencing the mode of portraying values ​​and guide to the community. The social economy, directed as a sociocultural process, can have an important effect on prosperity and regional development as a whole because the presence of its values ​​is desired in society (Moreno, 2017). Ultimately, the aim is to show that the values of the social economy values constitute a lever for the mobilization of the dispersed, unused and already existing resources on which development depends (Hirschman, 1961: 17). This serves as the basis to set up their trajectories that allow them to escape from economic and external technological dependence (Prebisch, 1981), which functions as an exercise to increase people's capacities and emphasizes human development (Sen, 2000). For this purpose, it is important to understand that innovation is a cultural process that spreads and accelerates with acceptance and selective social integration (Ferrer, 2013; Steiner & Hartmann, 2006) consequently, in the strategic planning of a company or a policy, it is important to adopt values ​​compatible with human development and community culture. Among the research results obtained, it is shown that a tendency of discriminatory actions exists within this territory and that plurality is not promoted through the inclusion of actors. On the one hand, the business cooperation that prevails at all levels is not an inclusive one, nor does it foster an impulse to modernization and innovation, but the maintenance of the status quo. Inequalities continue to be reproduced, and a dynamic that accelerates social disintegration and violence is reinforced. In parallel, the effective employment of cooperatives is a mechanism that accelerates the vicious circle of exclusion and corruption. On the other hand, the development of capacities to create and reproduce knowledge is conditioned, and learning is limited since innovation is a collective activity that requires the recognition of diversity. Faced with this situation, it is necessary to focus on promoting relations between actors that foster collective learning, the development of local business capacities and that communicate and convey a dynamic of inclusion and participation among all actors, especially among peripheral actors. This defines a different development path based on the use of endogenous resources (know-how, accumulated experience, belonging, proximity, values, customs) that can be integrated into the cluster production system and other sectors or activities of the territory. In terms of the latter, the most dynamic actors with the capacity to promote necessary changes have been spotted. These actors should also have a desire to implement these institutional changes (new habits, routines and practices). This aspiration for change has been found by some actors in the values ​​of cooperation promoted by the social economy, which transmit trust (social capital), strengthen relationships between various actors, manage to modify the rules of the game and encourage learning capacity (human capital) to conquer an equitable, viable and livable balance (durable development). An vital research result shows that the feature that allows the social innovation objective to be achieved and satisfies the social aspirations of equality and participation, is represented in the cooperation values ​​of the social economy. These values ​​inspire behavioural patterns (new rules of the game or institutions) that are the regulating instrument between productive and social forces and become engines of change. At the same time, local actors are given the opportunity to implement and to put into practice a virtuous governance. Thus, conditions are created to establish a virtuous dynamic or, at least, a more positive one in this process. The appearance of new actors has been detected that no longer pursue the use of resources supported by imports of external demand for technology and agricultural sciences. These are young entrepreneurs endowed with higher skills and new values, which leads them to turn their attention to human resources, intellectual capital and endogenous capacities in the territory. In other words, towards the utilization of resources already available, but that due to differences in valuations and power between the actors involved, weren’t recognized until recently. This implies the valorization of a part of the local knowledge collection, in part of a tacit nature, in terms of agricultural production, industrial transformation, and so on. A good use of local knowledge that serves as a basis for the intensification of the division of labor and specialization in the value chain, as well as the improvement of sectoral and external spatial connections and the opening of new markets. The new companies and associations that have emerged and manage to project themselves within the value chain of the sugar cluster have a series of characteristics that define them as actors with different values ​​from the rest, with which, they can reshape their relationships networks, their learning and their markets. These characteristics could display the contours of a policy of modernization of the clusters so that they become territorial systems of production and innovation based on the use of endogenous potential in terms of the origin and mobilization of local resources, mainly human capital. The novelty and ability to generate variety, which involves the start-up of these new companies and associations can be observed from different areas: production diversification, the quality of internal and external relations that they establish, the support with other universities, technology centers and by different political actors; in their proximity (and remoteness) between them by ethics and values, and because they incorporate and do not exclude the capabilities of other actors in the realization of their project. The diversity element that distinguishes these new groups and companies the most is that they have achieved, by a different worldview and the values ​​underlying it, a radical social innovation (Marques et al, 2008). These are initiatives that arise within the community, but develop their relationships with other actors outside the territory seeking more significant advantages, new customers, offering specialized products and/or renewing the commitment of transparency and responsibility within their organization. Being a relatively small group, at the moment, they do not pose a real challenge to the institutional structures and established power relations. The fundamental contribution of this work consists in elaborating a possible way to integrate endogenous resources into the innovation processes within the framework of clusters of developing countries, especially in Latin America, and to operate a change in pattern or tendency to disapprove and exclude what predominates in them. Moreover, all this through the practice of the human values ​​of inclusion, participation and equity, that social innovation and the social economy promotes as a privileged vehicle for it, not with a moralizing purpose, but with a practical mission of good governance and transparency as "vectors" of innovation.
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