Research Programs: Fellowships

Period of Performance

2/1/2020 - 7/31/2021

Funding Totals

$60,000.00 (approved)
$60,000.00 (awarded)

The World that Latin America Created: Knowledge and Power in the Development Era

FAIN: FEL-262747-19

Maria Margarita Fajardo
Sarah Lawrence College (Bronxville, NY 10708-5999)

A book-length study about the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and its development of dependency theory in post-World War II Latin America.

This book project is a history of dependency theory and the production of ideas about economic development in Latin America during the post-WWII era. Dependency theory has circulated as product of Marxism and shorthand of imperialism, obscuring the project of the network of Latin American economists and sociologists, diplomats and policymakers in which it flourished. Focusing on the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America (CEPAL in Spanish and Portuguese) my project traces the efforts of development experts to bring about economic development and social change and examines the formation of the politics of expertise in the region. Driven by policy questions and political dilemmas, cepalinos formulated a new vocabulary of development –such as the concepts of center-periphery and dependency– that despite its provocative connotation offered a critique of the regional and global left.

Associated Products

The World that Latin America Created (Book)
Title: The World that Latin America Created
Author: Margarita Fajardo
Abstract: After the Second World War demolished the old order, a group of economists and policymakers from across Latin America imagined a new global economy and launched an intellectual movement that would eventually capture the world. They charged that the systems of trade and finance that bound the world’s nations together were frustrating the economic prospects of Latin America and other regions of the world. Through the UN Economic Commission for Latin America, or CEPAL, the Spanish and Portuguese acronym, cepalinos challenged the orthodoxies of development theory and policy. Simultaneously, they demanded more not less trade, more not less aid, and offered a development agenda to transform both the developed and the developing world. Eventually, cepalinos established their own form of hegemony, outpacing the United States and the International Monetary Fund as the agenda setters for a region traditionally held under the orbit of Washington and its institutions. By doing so, cepalinos reshaped both regional and international governance and set an intellectual agenda that still resonates today. Drawing on unexplored sources from the Americas and Europe, the book retells the history of dependency theory, revealing the diversity of an often-oversimplified movement and the fraught relationship between cepalinos, their dependentista critics, and the regional and global Left. By examining the political ventures of dependentistas and cepalinos, The World That Latin America Created is a story of ideas that brought about real change.
Year: 2022
Primary URL:
Publisher: Harvard University Press
Type: Single author monograph
ISBN: 9780674260498
Copy sent to NEH?: No

Latin America’s Dependency Theory: A Counter–Cold War Social Science? (Book Section)
Title: Latin America’s Dependency Theory: A Counter–Cold War Social Science?
Author: Margarita Fajardo
Editor: Mark Solovey and Christian Daye
Abstract: This chapter examines how Latin American dependency theory became a global counter–Cold War social science. To do so, it focuses on a transnational network of economists and sociologists, diplomats and policymakers, whose nexus was the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America (CEPAL in Spanish and Portuguese). By shaping the theory and practice of economic development in the region, the economists in this network, referred to as cepalinos, became the fundamental point of reference for the generation of social scientists who came of intellectual age in the global 1960s and whose work gave rise to the concept of dependency. As “dependency theory” circulated across the region and flowed from South to North, it became the counterpart to the Cold War-imbued modernization theory.
Year: 2021
Publisher: Palgrave MacMillan
Book Title: Cold War Social Science: Transnational Entanglements
ISBN: 978-3-030-7024

Capitalism, Inequality, and Development in Latin America (Article)
Title: Capitalism, Inequality, and Development in Latin America
Author: Margarita Fajardo
Abstract: Few of the works reviewed here refer to capitalism as such. That seems to be the territory of historians, and more specifically of historians responding to the global turn.1 But the historians, economic historians, and historically informed sociologists and political scientists included in this review do provide histories of Latin American capitalist development and of the impact of the region’s integration to the global economy, from sixteenth-century silver capitalism to the most recent soy-driven orientation to China. Reading as an intellectual historian of development and capitalism in Latin America, specifically of “dependency theory” writ large, I find continuity and legacies as well as ruptures in these books’ approach to the study of Latin American capitalist development.2 Latin American studies have a rich and long tradition of thinking both historically and globally about capitalist development. The recent scholarship draws from that tradition while moving away from the implied assumptions and perhaps unintended implications of the dependency-theory-inspired narratives of old.3 However, unlike the previous generation of scholars, the works under review highlight Latin American states, entrepreneurs, municipal councils, and peasants “carrying”—to borrow one of the terms discussed below—capitalism rather than being carried or crushed. In particular, the twentieth-century development era, with its promises and legacies, appears for the most part in a new light, especially when looking at Brazil, which also appears prominently in this selection. The change in emphasis is perhaps the result of the comparison with the neoliberal era and its failure to promote either development or equality, with the exception of the short-lived commodity boom in the first decade of the twenty-first century. The question of persistent and perhaps even growing inequality, not just as an obstacle for development as in the past but as a problem in and of itself is key.
Year: 2021
Format: Journal
Periodical Title: Latin American Research Review