The history of globalization is one that has often been told as a story of elites. Foreign investors, eyeing an opportunity in some far-off place, partner with government officials to transform what was once a barren landscape into a Garden of Eden. These investors come promising economic development, but often end up simply lining their own pockets in the form of profits and bribes paid to corrupt government officials. It’s a story all too familiar to millions of people around the world, especially in the global South, where globalization has wrecked havoc on local subsistence economies and led to the consolidation of land in the hands of a small group of global elites. There are a number of truths to this narrative. Yet, it also ignores some things.
Today’s guest is the author of a new book, From the Grounds Up: Building an Export Economy in Southern Mexico, tracing the development of a coffee economy in the Soconusco, what is today one of Mexico’s leading regions for export. Yet, she does so not by focusing on the Mexican politicians and foreign capitalists who came to the Soconusco with dreams of grandeur. Rather, as the title suggest, Lurtz digs below the surface of these visions to reveal the role played by local people in the dual projects of economic liberalism and globalization.
Check out the episode here!
Casey Lurtz is an Assistant Professor of History at The Johns Hopkins University. She is the author of From the Grounds Up: Building an Export Economy in Southern Mexico.