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The Janus-face of interdependence: A transnational intellectual history of global inequality in the US and Ghana, c. 1975–1985

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Writing ‘global’ intellectual histories involves historicising the transnational lives of key concepts. In this article, we argue that interdependence became a key concept in global inequality debates of the 1970–1980s. While ideas about interstate dependency have a long history, interdependence saw a remarkable breakthrough from the late 1960s onwards, partly in tandem with a liberal global egalitarianism, calling for the moral duties of ‘rich nations’ to alleviate poverty in ‘poor nations.’ Interdependence took centre stage in writings on international affairs and inequality within and between nations in the 1960s–1980s, both in the US and in Ghana. We first examine the work of American foreign policy intellectual Robert Tucker, and the conservative backlash against liberal global egalitarianism in late 1970s US. We then investigate writings on African regionalism by Ghanaian political economist S.K.B. Asante in the 1980s. A critique of interdependence shaped debates on global inequality, distribution, and justice amongst both American and African intellectuals. Coming from different perspectives and places, both Asante and Tucker were critical of the descriptive value of the concept of ‘an interdependent world.’ Interdependence was an ambiguous notion, which could be used to ‘cover-up’ persisting power structures in a world of very unequal nations.
Original languageEnglish
JournalGlobal Intellectual History
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 10 Jun 2022

    Research areas

  • Interdependence, dependency, global intellectual history, global inequality, US intellectual history, Ghanaian intellectual history

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