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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Steel and Sovereignty: The United States, Nationalism, and the Transformation of World Order, 1898-1941
by Fertik, Edward S., Ph.D., Yale University, 2018, 593; 10957323
Abstract (Summary)

In 1943 Brazilian President Getulio Vargas declared that his country's new national steelworks represented the transformation of Brazil from "a semicolonial agrarian country" to one "able to meet the exigencies of an autonomous industrial life." Built by American engineers, using American equipment, with a low-interest loan from the U.S. government, over objections from U.S. bondholders and exporters, and despite stiff competition from German manufacturers and the German government, this steelworks stands at the endpoint of a transformation of the institutional order of global capitalism, from an order in which economic interdependence was a threat to the sovereignty of developing countries, to one designed to guarantee it. This dissertation argues that this transformation was the result of concerted efforts by nationalists in developing countries to overcome an old system of creditor-debtor relations – imperialism – and replace it with a new one – international development – and that it was made possible by the rise of anti-imperialist nationalism after World War I and Germany's turn away from cooperation with the Britain and the U.S. after the collapse of international liberalism in 1931. Using documents collected from research in thirty official, firm, bank, and personal archives in Great Britain, Germany, the U.S., and Brazil, it shows how the business strategies of consulting engineers, capital goods producers, and international banks, and the efforts of policymakers and diplomats to manage interdependence, combined to forge a new international economic order in the interwar years. Rather than leading this worldwide trend, the United States was a follower, entering and only when, in the late 1930s, American fear of German economic and political gains from cooperation with nationalists in Brazil led US policymakers to abandon the defense of bondholders and the separation of economics and politics in international life, embracing instead a new "dollar diplomacy" whose effects would soon be felt around the world.

"Steel and Sovereignty" proceeds in six chapters. The first lays out a framework for understanding the explosiveness of imperialist diplomacy before 1914, and looks at how U.S. administrations tried to stabilize it before, during, and after World War I. Chapter 2 reinterprets the history of American financial power between 1924 and 1930. Tracing the interactions between the international activities of upstart American banks like Dillon Read and W. A. Harriman and U.S. government policy, it demonstrates that a combination of official U.S. neutralism and the specific organization of the U.S. capital market prevented nationalists in developing countries from consummating steel projects by borrowing from abroad. The third chapter focuses on the attempts of the German and British governments, machinery firms, and steel engineers in the 1930s to supply Romania, Yugoslavia, Iran, Turkey and China with modern steel industries. German success in Turkey triggered a drastic response in Great Britain, which willingly sacrificed the interests of British bondholders to keep Turkey from drifting into the German orbit. German success in China meanwhile provoked the first realization among American policymakers that a new approach was necessary if they were not to lose markets and favor in a strategically and commercially important developing country. Chapter 4 turns the view back to the rich world by investigating 1930s projects to achieve self-sufficiency in steel production in Great Britain, Germany, and Japanese Manchuria. Highlighting mobile technologies pioneered by the Anglo-American engineer Hermann Brassert and a slew of actors in the German steel industry, it demonstrates that the search for "raw material freedom" was a staggeringly complex process in which expertise and technology moved from one highly politicized economic setting to another. Chapters 5 and 6 look to Brazil, where intensifying German competition helped Brazil's authoritarian regime escape the regime of sovereign lending, and German offers to build a steel industry in the late 1930s were the wedge that opened the doors to massive U.S. official aid to Brazil. This final chapter shows the contortions that Roosevelt administration officials put themselves through to justify such a program, but how as a result an entirely new precedent for development aid was established. An epilogue follows changes in U.S. attitudes towards sovereignty and intergovernmental lending into the postwar period. It considers what the recent return of great power rivalry means for the developmental aspirations of weak states in the world today.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Lamoreaux, Naomi R., Tooze, Adam
School: Yale University
School Location: United States -- Connecticut
Source: DAI-A 79/12(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: American history, World History, Economic history
Keywords: Brazil, Foreign Economic Relations 1930-1939, Germany, Foreign Economic Policy 1930-1939, International Economic Relations 1919-1941, Nationalism, U.S.Foreign Relations, 1930-1939
Publication Number: 10957323
ISBN: 978-0-438-27368-9
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