Trading in Southern Futures

Michael Dennis

in The New Economy and the Modern South

Published by University Press of Florida

Published in print January 2009 | ISBN: 9780813032917
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780813038407 | DOI:
Trading in Southern Futures

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No issue symbolized the promise of the New Economy more than the North American Free Trade Agreement. It captured the imagination of those who placed their trust in the marketplace as the vehicle of social progress and material improvement. Yet because the proposed trade deal encapsulated the promise of freedom from New Deal-era social regulation, it focused the minds of people whose security depended on those arrangements. Organized labor, environmental groups, citizens' organizations, and fair trade intellectuals weighed in on the debate. They brought to the fore the issues of democratic governance and class conflict that had been erased from American political discourse in the late 20th century. The South had been the historical locus of economic colonialism in the United States and a region that stood to lose considerably from economic integration with low-wage Mexico. It figured prominently in the debate, and Virginia played a critical role in solidifying the deal. This chapter focuses on how Virginians made sense of it in the context of their world, one dominated by corporate restructuring and economic uncertainty. It was a time in which the free market, personal investment, and unimpeded entrepreneurialism seemed to offer more than hollow promises.

Keywords: NAFTA; New Economy; social regulation; democratic governance; class conflict; economic integration

Chapter.  12248 words. 

Subjects: History of the Americas

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