Theses Doctoral

Reluctant Globalists: The Political Economy of "Interdependence" from Nixon's New Economic Policy to Reagan's Hidden Industrial Policy

Shah, Rohan Niraj

This dissertation examines the political, social, and economic responses to the end of the Bretton Woods system from 1971-1988 in the United States. It offers a “pre-history” of globalization which focuses on a period when international economic entanglement became a question of serious political debate within the U.S., but before “globalization” became common parlance. Contemporaries referred to the world after Bretton Woods as newly characterized by “interdependence,” a concept which highlighted vulnerability to external economic forces and declining national autonomy.

This dissertation argues that far from enthusiastically embracing market globalization in this period, U.S. policymakers worked to supervise and manage global integration, and insulate workers, consumers, businesses, and themselves from the full force of the world economy. Restoring domestic social conflict to the center of our understanding of international economic policy, it investigates how labor unions and federations like the UAW and the AFL-CIO, business lobbying organizations like the National Association of Manufacturers and the Chamber of Commerce, and officials in the Treasury, Congress, and the Federal Reserve conflicted over their response to growing economic entanglement deep into the 1980s.

It excavates a history of protectionism, planning, subsidies, industrial policy, currency politics, and other forms of state intervention—often driven by elites in the industrial Midwest and Northeast. The result of these collisions was an ambivalent and fragmented national approach to global integration which persisted until more recently than typically assumed. Rather than being driven by a coherent ideological vision for American power, or a clear-cut embrace of neoliberal theory, foreign economic policy was propelled forward by a much more contingent, ad-hoc, and conflictual process across this period. When globalization took on truly historical force in the 1990s, it was not because social conflicts over interdependence had been resolved, but because a more reluctant and resistant approach to global integration had lost its political and institutional foothold.


This item is currently under embargo. It will be available starting 2026-06-25.

More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Stephanson, Anders
Phillips-Fein, Kimberly Kather
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
June 26, 2024