Edward Fertik

Primary field of interest: 

US


My project is about agents of globalization – the individuals, firms, and government bodies who between the 1890s and the 1950s, and especially in the interwar years, worked to spread steel manufacture from its heartlands in the U.S., Britain, and Germany, to Brazil. The history of how steel came to be produced in Brazil will stand as a case study of what I will call “nationalist globalization.” Focusing principally on the interwar period, my dissertation will argue that, under the right conditions the economically nationalist nation-state itself was a dynamic agent of economic globalization. Brazil was like many countries in the interwar period in viewing a modern steel industry as the price of entry into the club of modern industrial nations. But achieving this nationalist goal required means – especially capital and technology – that had to come from abroad. Rather than resist this nationalist project, a variety of actors in the U.S., Britain, and Germany aided Brazil in achieving it. My dissertation follows those actors who established the transnational networks across which the necessary capital and technology could flow. Those networks prove to have been complex and globe-spanning, created in an international field of force structured by economic and political competition between great powers. The history of the steel industry in the interwar period runs counter to the consensus view of the economic history of globalization. My dissertation challenges this history on the grounds of its economic bias in favor of competitive industries, its lack of a theory of international politics, its neglect of real actors, and its view that globalization is fragile and reversible. It argues for a different view of globalization that focuses less on quantitative ups and downs, and more on the ways in which globalization creates a context for all actors, especially political actors seeking national self-assertion through economic means.