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The UN and Global Political Economy

Trade, Finance, and Development

John Toye and Richard Toye

Publication Year: 2004

Against the backdrop of a 20-year revolt against free trade orthodoxy by economists inside the UN and their impact on policy discussions since the 1960s, the authors show how the UN both nurtured and inhibited creative and novel intellectual contributions to the trade and development debate. Presenting a stirring account of the main UN actors in this debate, The UN and Global Political Economy focuses on the accomplishments and struggles of UN economists and the role played by such UN agencies as the Department of Economic (and Social) Affairs, the United Nations Commission on Trade and Development, and the Economic Commission for Latin America (and the Caribbean). It also looks closely at the effects of the Latin American debt crisis of the 1980s, the growing strength of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in the 1990s, and the lessons to be drawn from these and other recent developments.

Published by: Indiana University Press

Series: United Nations Intellectual History Project Series

Table of Contents

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pp. v

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pp. vii-ix

It is surprising that there is no comprehensive history of the United Nations family of organizations. True, a few of the UN funds and specialized agencies have written or are in the process of writing their institutional histories. But this is mostly a recent endeavor and, indeed, it is no more than what should be expected of all public organizations, especially internationally accountable ...

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pp. xi-xii

During the process of researching and writing this book, we have received invaluable help from many different people and organizations. We would like to thank the directors of United Nations Intellectual History Project, Louis Emmerij, Richard Jolly, and Tom Weiss, not only for commissioning the volume, but also for much valuable help throughout the different stages of our ...

List of Abbreviations

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pp. xiii-xv

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pp. 1-16

After the Second World War, the new United Nations organization was the bearer of extravagant, even utopian, hopes for the development and maintenance of an international order that would safeguard the peoples of the world from the recurrence of the extraordinary destruction that they had just suffered. In the founding vision of faith and optimism, economic and social security ...

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1. The UN Trade and Development Debates of the 1940s

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pp. 17-44

In June 1942, U.S. vice president Henry A. Wallace sat next to Soviet foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov at a reception at the Soviet embassy in Washington. The conversation turned to postwar problems. Molotov, Wallace recorded, “realizes that Russia cannot have the enduring peace which she requires to develop her territory unless there is economic justice elsewhere in ...

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2. The UN Recruits Economists

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pp. 45-62

People often offer strong opinions about the United Nations—its success, its failure, its force for good, its utter hopelessness. The term “United Nations,” however, has a number of different meanings that we must distinguish if we are to succeed in avoiding opacity and muddle as we chart its intellectual history. First of all, one can think of the United Nations as the collection of countries ...

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3. Michal Kalecki, the World Economic Report, and McCarthyism

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pp. 63-86

The Truman Doctrine is generally seen, following the earlier buildup of tensions between the USSR and the West, as marking the start in earnest of the Cold War. In a panicky reaction to Britain’s decision to withdraw military aid from Greece and Turkey, both of which were believed to be under threat from Soviet expansionism, President Harry S. Truman stated on 12 March 1947 ...

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4. From Full Employment to Economic Development

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pp. 87-109

By 1947, the new United Nations organization was perceived to be “carrying on largely in the League [of Nations] tradition and by League methods.”1 This might seem odd, given that cooperation in economic and social matters was a fundamental objective of the UN, whereas it had never been one of the formally stated purposes of the League. The difference was, however, more ...

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5. The Early Terms-of-Trade Controversy

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pp. 110-136

By the late 1940s, one of the main political results of the Second World War had become apparent: an increasing differentiation of the power relations of the countries of the world. Europe was now divided, and Western Europe needed massive foreign aid for reconstruction. The Marshall Plan, followed by the establishment of NATO, “began in earnest an era of American military, political ...

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6. ECLA, Industralization, and Inflation

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pp. 137-162

In spite of the McCarthyite pressure on radicals at the center of the UN system, the U.S. was markedly less successful at exerting its will on those at the system’s periphery. The proliferation of UN regional commissions was in itself a snub to the original American conception of a strictly global organization; and of these, the Economic Commission for Latin America in particular ...

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7. Competitive Coexistence and the Politics of Modernization

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pp. 163-183

Two great shifts in international power relations took place in the 1950s. After the death of Stalin, the Soviet leadership moved to a strategy of peaceful coexistence between social systems and competition between them. This was accompanied by a new, more cooperative Soviet strategy toward the UN’s economic activities. Simultaneously, many newly created states joined the UN ...

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8. The Birth of UNCTAD

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pp. 184-205

Many contemporaries perceived the birth of UNCTAD as a historical turning point. At the close of its first conference in 1964, the seventy-seven developing countries represented declared that it marked “the beginning of a new era in the evolution of international co-operation in the field of trade and development.” 1 Raúl Prebisch told the ECOSOC meeting of July 1964: “[T]he world ...

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9. UNCTAD under Ra

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pp. 206-229

Writing in 1965, Philippe de Seynes, the elegant Frenchman who was undersecretary for economic and social affairs at the UN, claimed that “an economic doctrine for the developing countries is gradually evolving.” It was not analytically unified, he noted, nor was it purely scientific in motivation ...

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10. World Monetary Problems and the Challenge of Commodities

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pp. 230-253

After 1968, the world political and economic situation began to undergo profound changes that weakened the international power and prestige of the OECD countries. Student unrest, which had started on the U.S. West coast, spread across to Europe. The Paris events of May 1968, when students momentarily allied with workers, sparked a continuing student protest movement ...

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11. The Conservative Counterrevolution of the 1980s

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pp. 254-275

In 1977, Robert McNamara was at the height of his influence as president of the World Bank. A man of considerable vision, he thought that the international community was in some danger of losing its bearings and needed fresh ideas on the international dimension of development.1 He approached Willy Brandt, the former chancellor of West Germany, who agreed to head an ...

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12. What Lessons for the Future?

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pp. 276-298

Member governments support the UN for a variety of very different motives. It is a point that one writer emphasized in the following way: It is recorded that a traveller in France once came upon a wayside hotel named “The Immaculate Conception and Commercial.” This is a very apt name for the house in which the world lives and might appropriately be hung up as an ...

Appendix: List of Archival Sources

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pp. 299-300


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pp. 301-372


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pp. 373-390

About the Authors

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pp. 391

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About the UN Intellectual History Project

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pp. 393

The United Nations Intellectual History Project was launched in mid-1999 to fill a gaping hole in the literature about the world organization. The project is analyzing the origins and evolution of the history of ideas cultivated within the United Nations family of organizations and of their impact on wider thinking and international action. Certain aspects of the UN economic and social ...

E-ISBN-13: 9780253004642
E-ISBN-10: 0253004640
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253344113

Page Count: 416
Illustrations: 1 index
Publication Year: 2004

Series Title: United Nations Intellectual History Project Series