CFP: The New International Economic Order and the Global Interregnum of the 1970s

The Editors of the new Journal HUMANITY have is­sued the fol­lowing call for papers:

The 1970s are re­membered in the Global North as a time of stag­fla­tion, mal­aise, and polit­ical drift. But from the point of view of much of the Global South, this same epoch was a time of un­pre­ced­ented eco­nomic prosperity and polit­ical am­bi­tion. Particularly for primary pro­du­cers in the wake of the OPEC oil price hikes, the 1970s were a time of un­par­alleled hopes for a re­bal­an­cing of global power re­la­tions and in­sti­tu­tional au­thority. One mani­fest­a­tion of the new global mood was a pro­found shift in the un­der­standing of global re­spons­ib­il­ities for achieving de­vel­op­ment in the South.

Drawing on an­ti­co­lo­nial thought and de­pend­ency theory, the UN General Assembly in 1974 pro­posed the cre­ation of a “New International Economic Order” that offered a new in­ter­pret­a­tion of both the moral im­per­at­ives and global mech­an­isms of de­vel­op­ment. While Robert McNamara’s World Bank spent the 1970s moving away from funding big in­fra­struc­ture pro­jects to­ward pro­grams de­signed to meet the “Basic Needs” of the global poor, the NIEO con­sti­tuted a more ag­gressive set of pro­posals for the global re­dis­tri­bu­tion of wealth and tech­no­logy trans­fers from North to South, with the ob­jective of building a kind of wel­fare state at the scale of hu­manity it­self. Although many in the North, and par­tic­u­larly in the United States, dis­missed this agenda, there were others who gave it a sym­path­etic hearing, not­ably former West German Chancellor Willy Brandt, who chaired an in­ter­na­tional com­mis­sion that in 1980 would en­dorse much of the global re­dis­tri­bu­tionist agenda.

The Brandt Report ar­rived, how­ever, at the very mo­ment when the ideo­lo­gical and polit­ical mood in the North had begun to shift de­cis­ively against such ideas, re­placed in­stead by a neo­lib­eral agenda spear­headed polit­ic­ally by Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. The Third World debt crisis that erupted over the next two years would provide the im­petus to move the de­vel­op­mental agenda away from global re­dis­tri­bu­tion and the pro­vi­sioning of Basic Needs, and to­ward the “struc­tural ad­just­ment” of na­tional eco­nomies. Imposed as con­di­tions in ex­change for fin­an­cial bail­outs, these pro­grams in­volved the downs­izing of the state-​provided so­cial pro­tec­tions and the di­min­ish­ment of state con­trol over na­tional eco­nomies. Across the South, fin­an­cial aus­terity and global eco­nomic in­teg­ra­tion would emerge as the de­vel­op­mental leit­motifs of the rest of the twen­tieth cen­tury. While the themes of the NIEO would get re­figured in terms of a “right to de­vel­op­ment,” the idea that states in the North somehow bore a moral and per­haps even legal re­spons­ib­ility to en­able and fund the de­vel­op­ment of the South largely with­drew into the realms of non-​binding UN res­ol­u­tions and the uto­pian dis­courses of polit­ic­ally mar­gin­al­ized non­gov­ern­mental organizations.

The journal Humanity is is­suing a call for pa­pers to ex­plore this episode in the his­tory of de­vel­op­ment. We wel­come pa­pers that ex­plore the philo­soph­ical, legal, eco­nomic, polit­ical, and in­sti­tu­tional con­texts in which calls for global re­dis­tri­bu­tion were ar­tic­u­lated, as well as ones that as­sess how those calls were even­tu­ally mar­gin­al­ized. Successful pro­posals will lead to pa­pers presented at a fully funded con­fer­ence in fall 2013 and pub­lished in a sub­sequent dossier of the journal. Send a pro­posal of no more than 400 words tohumanity@​pobox.​upenn.​edu by October 20, 2012.

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