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Kathleen C. Schwartzman

Neoliberalism swept over Mexico like a tsunami. It swept away the country’s edifice of economic nationalism and left in its place an economy based on principles of neoliberalism. These neoliberal practices go by the names of the structural adjustment programs (SAPs), or the Washington Consensus. In 1982, when Mexico declared its lack of adequate resources to meet external debt service payments, it (like other Latin American countries) entered into debt renegotiations. These renegotiations required Mexico to implement reforms such as the privatization of state-owned enterprises, currency devaluation, and state budget reductions. Later agreements expanded upon the neoliberal reforms (the 1986 adherence to GATT; the 1992 revision of Article 27 of the Constitution, the 1993 signing of NAFTA, and the 1994 peso devaluation). Multiple iterations of the Foreign Investment Laws opened up Mexico to foreign investors. The goal of the neoliberal adjustments was to stabilize the economy and make it attractive for foreign direct investment. FDI, as well as open trade, promised to bring economic well-being and political stability to Mexico. The evaluations of the post-1982 reforms are mixed, but by the 21st century, tend toward “disappointing.” Increasing globalization has further marginalized Mexico. Neoliberal globalization is essentially about Mexico’s integration into the current global economy and the interaction of the global and the local. Mexico has been integrated into the global economy since Cortez, but the tsunami of neoliberalism has left Mexico with fewer armaments for successful development.


For three centuries New Spain was one of the great jewels of Spain’s colonial empire, producing wealth for immigrants and the Crown. The brunt of the labor was performed by indigenous Mexicans, often under duress, but natives also succeeded in seizing opportunities to promote their interests. It is tempting to portray the economic history of Mexico as a simple story of domination of colonial subjects by their European rulers, and indeed historians have often resorted to this straightforward rendition. This article, while certainly presenting the conventional wisdom, presents a more complex story, highlighting debates among historians on a wide range of issues, from the experiences of indigenous people to the profitability of colonialism. What follows is a general presentation of New Spain’s economy.


Carlos Brandão and Hipólita Siqueira

Brazil is a vast and highly complex country that is subordinated to its central hegemonic poles and that combines both backwardness, modernity, progress interrupted by unfinished cycles of growth, and extreme inequality. Paradoxically, it is on the one hand ranked among the nine most advanced capitalist countries in the world and, on the other, listed as one of the nine countries with the worst income distribution. Attempts to interpret these dilemmas, historical disjunctives, and impasses have produced a plethora of original intellectual work that deals with the specificities of this most dynamic and yet highly contradictory national space. A select few authors have produced extensive work on the subject and have legitimized themselves as the pinnacle of classical interpreters of Brazilian social and political thought. The originality, broad scope of analysis, and ingenuity of these great national thinkers have made them the authors of choice for those seeking to better understand Brazil as a nation. Their classics have formulated key and critical questions relating to the often-interrupted construction of this nation and the truncated, material, and spiritual or immaterial development of the Brazilian civilization as a whole, which began as a former Portuguese colony founded on slave labor. These are very comprehensive formulations, with a long-term historical perspective produced by those who have taken a very profound and highly structural look at Brazil, shedding light on aspects of its hitherto-obscure or unquestioned reality, enlightening and inviting to think more coherently, boldly, and consequently about its present and, indeed, future. Among the main contributors are the likes of Caio Prado Júnior, Celso Furtado, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, and Florestan Fernandes, who have developed approaches to help unveil the nature and characteristics of the processes of dependence and underdevelopment that are so specific to Brazil’s peripheral capitalism.