Sorting Out the Mixed Economy: The Rise and Fall of Welfare and Developmental States in the Americas

Amy C. Offner (Author)


The untold story of how U.S. development efforts in postwar Latin America helped lead to the dismantling of the U.S. welfare state

In the years after 1945, a flood of U.S. advisors swept into Latin America with dreams of building a new economic order and lifting the Third World out of poverty. These businessmen, economists, community workers, and architects went south with the gospel of the New Deal on their lips, but Latin American realities soon revealed unexpected possibilities within the New Deal itself. In Colombia, Latin Americans and U.S. advisors ended up decentralizing the state, privatizing public functions, and launching austere social welfare programs. By the 1960s, they had remade the country's housing projects, river valleys, and universities. They had also generated new lessons for the United States itself. When the Johnson administration launched the War on Poverty, U.S. social movements, business associations, and government agencies all promised to repatriate the lessons of development, and they did so by multiplying the uses of austerity and for-profit contracting within their own welfare state. A decade later, ascendant right-wing movements seeking to dismantle the midcentury state did not need to reach for entirely new ideas: they redeployed policies already at hand.

In this groundbreaking book, Amy Offner brings readers to Colombia and back, showing the entanglement of American societies and the contradictory promises of midcentury statebuilding. The untold story of how the road from the New Deal to the Great Society ran through Latin America, Sorting Out the Mixed Economy also offers a surprising new account of the origins of neoliberalism.

Product Details

Princeton University Press
Publish Date
September 17, 2019
6.3 X 9.4 X 1.5 inches | 1.8 pounds

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About the Author

Amy C. Offner is assistant professor of history at the University of Pennsylvania.


"A most welcome addition to our understanding of public policy in the United States and Colombia, Sorting Out the Mixed Economy shows the deep links between economic and social policy since the mid-twentieth century and also helps to explain the cruel erosion of the welfare state."--Victor Bulmer-Thomas, University College London
"With Sorting Out the Mixed Economy, Amy Offner stakes a claim for a whole new approach to understanding the U.S. development enterprise--and indeed U.S. political economy--in the mid-twentieth century. Startlingly original and deeply researched, the book reshapes our comprehension of the rightward trends in U.S. economic policy since the 1960s, as well as of the nature of U.S. engagement with Latin America."--David C. Engerman, Yale University
"Persuasively argued and thoroughly documented, Amy Offner's brilliant book is a model of historically embedded political economic analysis--not least in revealing how the best-laid designs of Cold War poverty warriors were continually reshaped by historical contingencies and popular resistance, and ultimately used to undermine the vision of democratic capitalism they were designed to promote."--Alice O'Connor, University of California, Santa Barbara
"With meticulous research and incisive analysis, Sorting Out the Mixed Economy demonstrates the thoroughly interwoven character of postwar strategies for Latin American economic development and U.S. domestic antipoverty policies. This alone would be a major contribution to the historiography of the Americas. But Amy Offner goes further, and makes a very compelling argument for the way in which corporate influence and private capital paved the way for our current neoliberal order."--Barbara Weinstein, New York University
"Sorting Out the Mixed Economy is an agile narrative that makes a truly important contribution to the study of twentieth-century history, capitalism, and the state in the western hemisphere."--Marco Palacios, El Colegio de MΓ©xico
"[A] dazzling, transnational history. . . . [The] insights it provides into the link between decentralized development from 50 years ago and contemporary privatization across the Americas is revelatory."---J. M. Rosenthal, Choice Reviews