Bilkent IR Talks, Spring 2023 – 3

Prof. Benjamin O. Fordham
Binghamton University (SUNY)

“Race, Trade, and the Demise of Southern Support for Multilateralism in U.S. Foreign Policy, 1945-62”

Date: Friday, March 31st, 12.30
Location: A-130

Abstract: Through 1945, Southern members of Congress strongly supported multilateralism in U.S. foreign policy, nearly unanimously backing the United Nations and other multilateral initiatives. By the end of the 1950s, though, many of them turned against this institutional form. This shift bolstered domestic opposition to multilateralism, with lasting consequences for both U.S. foreign policy and world order. This paper assesses two complementary explanations for the change. First, changes in the region\’s economy made multilateral cooperation less valuable. Export-oriented agriculture, especially cotton, became less important. Labor-intensive industries, especially textiles and apparel, became more sensitive to international competition. Second, multilateral rules on human rights increasingly threatened racial hierarchy in the South. The racial order provided material benefits to white elites through voter suppression, legal impunity, and labor-repressive agriculture that were much like those they derived from trade protection or access to foreign markets. Integrating the two explanations clarifies the effects of each one.

Biography: Benjamin O. Fordham is Professor of Political Science at Binghamton University (SUNY), where he has taught and conducted research on international relations since 2004. He received his Ph.D. in political science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1994. His research focuses on the influence of domestic political and economic considerations on foreign policy choices, and on the politics of foreign policy. He has published articles on these topics in International Organization, the Journal of Conflict Resolution, International Studies Quarterly, and other journals.