The Fletcher Development Seminar
“A Gospel of Liberalism: Modernization and an American World Order”
Monday, October 17
12:30pm – 1:45pm
Abstract: Development has a long history in U.S. foreign relations as a means to buttress the legitimacy of liberalism worldwide. But development, as both theory and practice, was not purely a product of the Cold War. A specific variant crystalized during the Depression. For liberals facing ideological challengers in fascism and communism, concepts emerging from the New Deal offered a powerful example that the United States could muster an appealing approach to international development. Key elements of the New Deal became emblems of a new liberal developmentalism, deploying the social sciences and technology to produce rapid social and economic change in a politically acceptable manner that claimed universal application--what some began to call modernization. Following World War II, the U.S. government mobilized these existing concepts, incorporating them prominently into its Cold War strategy. In the 1960s and 1970s the intimate connection of modernization to the war in Vietnam, growing criticism of Western concepts of mass consumption assumed to be the end goal of development, as well as an environmental critique that highlighted development's ecological and human costs sundered the American led-consensus. While this “crisis of development” left many institutions that had dominated the preceding period in place, it profoundly reshaped how development was conceptualized.
David Ekbladh is assistant professor of history at Tufts University. His book The Great American Mission: Modernization and the Construction of an American World Order, 1914 to the Present (Princeton University Press, 2010) which won the 2011 Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations Stuart L. Bernath Book Prize as well as the Phi Alpha Theta 2010 Best First Book Award. He earned his Ph.D. in history from Columbia University. Work of his has appeared in Diplomatic History, The Wilson Quarterly, The International History Review, and International Security. For several years he worked with the Carnegie Corporation of New York on conflict prevention and international affairs issues. He has also been a visiting scholar at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies of Johns Hopkins University, a John M. Olin Fellow with International Security Studies at Yale University, a visiting scholar at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a Research Fellow with the International Security Program at the Belfer Center at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. He is currently at work on a book tentatively entitled Look at the World: The Birth of a New American Globalism in the 1930s.