(Re)Politicizing the global economy: Liberal common sense and ideological struggle in the US NAFTA debate

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34 Scopus citations


Mainstream IR/IPE views the world from the perspective of states and statesmen, and accepts uncritically the articulation of modern states with capitalism. In this paper, I adopt a Gramscian perspective from which it becomes possible to interpret the resistance of popular movements - labor unions, environmental and human rights groups, citizen activists, and others - to the transnational liberal agenda of states and multinational capital. I argue that proponents and critics of the North American Free Trade Agreement emphasized different aspects of liberal ‘common sense’ and envisioned different possible worlds in presenting their cases to the US public. Although they were unable to block Congressional approval of NAFTA in the US, treaty opponents did articulate more explicitly a central tension of liberal capitalism, counterposing the common sense value of ‘democracy’ to liberalism’s traditional valorization of private property and envisioning a transnational political project involving participatory linkages among unionists, activists and citizens across North America. Situating their critique of NAFTA within this tension, they began to make a counter-hegemonic project - organized around the extension and deepening of democracy - more thinkable.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)658-692
Number of pages35
JournalReview of International Political Economy
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1995


  • Democracy
  • Globalization
  • Hegemony
  • Ideology
  • Liberalism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Political Science and International Relations


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