Mexico on the World Economic Stage

AHA Session 291
Conference on Latin American History 71
Sunday, January 8, 2017: 9:00 AM-10:30 AM
Room 601 (Colorado Convention Center, Meeting Room Level)
Christy Thornton, Rowan University
Jurgen Buchenau, University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Session Abstract

While the transnational turn has produced important new scholarship that considers the impact of state and non-state actors from the global south in cultural, social, and political history, histories of the ideas and institutions that have shaped the global economy remain stubbornly circumscribed within the North Atlantic, structured by the prerogatives of powerful actors in cities like Washington, D.C., New York, and London. In fact, the framework of dependency theory, one of the most significant contributions to economic thought from the global south itself, has contributed to an understanding of the global economy in which the poor, weak, and debtor countries of the world are objects of global economic policy, acted upon by the richer, stronger, creditor nations and the institutions they control. This panel, on the other hand, will consider actors from the global south as subjects who shaped global economic policy. Specifically, this panel examines how post-revolutionary Mexico worked to project the economic ideas of the Revolution outward, onto the global stage, and in the process shaped not only ideas about self-determination and economic development, but also how those ideas were codified in international agreements and institutions. In the decades before Harry Truman’s Point IV or the creation of the UN Economic Commission on Latin America, Mexican state representatives were arguing not only for a policy of international economic development, but for multilateral frameworks to sustain it. Fabián Herrera Leon’s paper will consider how Mexico used the 1933 World Economic Conference in London to argue for an multilateral agreement on silver, forcing the United States to implement international policies beneficial to Mexico. Amelia Kiddle’s paper will argue that Mexican promotion of agricultural development in Latin America the 1930s under president Lázaro Cárdenas created a vision for Latin American development that represented an important precursor to better-known postwar development paradigms. And Christy Thornton’s paper will argue that Mexican economists and diplomats pursued a sustained campaign throughout the 1930s for the embedding of those ideas into emergent international institutions, culminating in Mexico’s successful insertion of a development agenda into the institutions created to manage the global economy in at Bretton Woods in 1944. Rather than understanding the promotion of economic development as a post-war imposition of the powerful countries, this panel will consider how, even before World War II, Mexico successfully promoted economic development as an interest of the poorer nations—and in so doing had a profound impact on global economic ideas and institutions in the 20th century.
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