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The challenge from the periphery: Latin America’s New Deals and the shaping of Liberal Internationalism in FDR’s Era – an interview with José Roman, by Igor Magri

Undoubtedly, development is part of the core ideas that sustain the Post-World War II international order. By exploring the divides between American liberal internationalists on how Latin America appropriated policy ideas emanated by Roosevelt’s administration for their development, Dr. José Antonio Sanchez Roman shows how the construction of the new international order was influenced by this process.

Professor Roman argues that Roosevelt stances on policies, mainly the New Deal, were widely inspirational for Latin American elites, as far as they provided the reasons greater state intervention in the economy and in society. However, due to the lack of consensus between the American liberal internationalists on this expansion of the state reach for pushing development in a broader way, as the end of the War approached, this process of “expanding development” was strongly hindered.

The author of the article The challenge from the periphery: Latin America’s New Deals and the shaping of Liberal Internationalism in FDR’s Era, published in RBPI (v. 61, n. 2) was interviewed on his views about the article by Igor Magri, member of RBPI team.

It is explained in your article that Latin American countries inspired themselves in the policies emanated by the FDR administration, particularly the New Deal, in order to reform their economies to tackle 1930s economic crisis. You also say that “Latin Americans did not assume FDR’s new stance uncritically,” rather they translated it bearing in mind their own objectives of development. How would you characterize this process of policy translation into the national realities of the Latin American countries? Could you point out the main differences between the United States’ version of the New Deal and the Latin American versions?

Since the 19th century, Latin Americans, in particular, the elites, had maintained an ambiguous position toward the United States. On the one hand, the United States seemed a threat to the sovereignty of the countries of the region. On the other hand, in particular, among those of liberal-progressive ideology, the United States was also a source of inspiration. I was emphasizing in the article that the New Deal became a powerful source of inspiration not only for the elites but for wide sections of Latin American societies. This does not mean that Latin American governments followed FDR’s policies when facing the global depression. In fact, most governments improvised and looked for their own ways to tackle the situation. But the popularity of the New Deal in Latin America helped to reinforce the legitimacy of two kinds of policies: greater state intervention in the economy and a more socially-oriented policy. On the other hand, the differences in income, industrial development, the role of banks, etc, between the United States and Latin America were many and therefore the impact of the crisis and the responses were also different.

It is argued in the text that by the end of the World War II, Latin American countries had lost its momentum to influence “the shaping of the new international order that the United States was advocating.” How would you relate this moment with the later period of the resolution adopted by the General Assembly (RES/S-6/3201), in 1974, about the establishment of a New International Economic Order (NIEO)?

This is a very pertinent question. In fact, my idea is that the road toward the NIEO had some roots in this moment. At the end of WWII, many Latin Americans realized that their role in the international order was marginal and sought for alternatives. This is the moment of creation of CEPAL, and CEPAL and Prebisch provided the intellectual foundations for the debates about a new economic order. On the other hand, I have the impression that already in the 1930s some Latin Americans were already aware of the inequalities of the global economic order. The participation in the League of Nations taught them a hard lesson about how that international economic order worked. In truth, the Good Neighbor Policy seemed to offer an alternative to marginalization.

In the historical period you discuss in the article, we see the beginning of the construction of the foundations of the current multilateral order, in which its rules were being created. You also consider that at the heart of the construction this order was the formulation of a “transnational space of discussion” begot to debate the ideas of what was to be considered development. To what extent would you say that the construction of this new order internalized this discussion? Were the ideas from the Latin Americans considered in it at all?

As Eric Helleiner has demonstrated, the discussion about Bretton Woods took it very seriously the proposals coming from Latin America, and the interaction between the United States and Latin America was key for the US formulation of new ideas about a global order. I have discussed in other essays how the idea of development was not a mere creation of world “centers” and the participation of Latin Americans in multilateral venues, such as those provided by the Pan-American system or the League of Nations, contributed to create this transnational space of discussion and to shape ideas about international development. This does not mean that the international arena was an open space with equal access for everyone. We cannot forget power imbalances and power struggles within the discussions about how to shape an international order.

I would like to explore more about your methodology. It is clear from your article that a vast array of primary documents were used, giving a robust historical account in which the research lies upon. Could you give us an account on your research experience for this article?

This article draws mostly on US sources, although I have also worked with the sources of the League of Nations and some Latin American records as well. I was trying to uncover how Latin Americans’ appropriation of US New Deal impacted on the US debates and created domestic divisions. I am very interested in those labeled as “liberal internationalist” and therefore I have been working with public records but also with the records of the Rockefeller Foundation, the Council on Foreign Relations and the League of Nations, some of the main venues where liberal internationalist views were expressed. Furthermore, in these venues public and private actors but also American and Latin Americans interacted and maintained a conversation about the rules of international order. This conversation needed -to some extent- a common vocabulary and the New Deal provided one (not the only one, of course) of the semantic repertoires employed by those implicated.

Read the article

Roman, José Antonio Sanchez. (2018). The challenge from the periphery: Latin America’s New Deals and the shaping of Liberal Internationalism in FDR’s Era. Revista Brasileira de Política Internacional, 61(2), e008. Epub December 03, 2018.

About the authors

José Antonio Sanchez Roman – Full professor of Contemporary History at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Madrid, Spain (

Igor Magri de Queiroz is a senior undergraduate International Relations student at the University of Brasilia.

How to cite this interview

Cite this article as: Editoria, "The challenge from the periphery: Latin America’s New Deals and the shaping of Liberal Internationalism in FDR’s Era – an interview with José Roman, by Igor Magri," in Revista Mundorama, 22/01/2019,

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