“We Speak the Same Language in the New World”
Capital, Class, and Community in Mexico’s “American Century”
This chapter explores how Mexican “development” and the “American way of life” were constituted through a mutual—though contradictory and asymmetrical—process of transculturation and capital accumulation. It uses the case of the U.S. Big Three automakers, driving forces in Mexico's post-World War II rapid industrialization effort, to reveal how working people, state officials, and capitalists on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border united in unprecedented ways around a shared commitment to “development” and “modernization.” It argues that autoworkers were upheld as exemplars for Mexico's “modernizing” working class and embraced development discourse, particularly its universalist claims to democracy, modernity, and security. However, as autoworkers militated for their own version of the American way of life with the help of Confederación de Trabajadores de México and the United Auto Workers, automakers and state authorities abandoned collaborative capitalism—a cornerstone of development discourse—for an economic model based on deterritorialized markets and flexible modes of accumulation, effectively uprooting the working-class community that rapid industrialization helped beget.
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