Disruption: Economic Globalization and the End of the Cold War Order in the 1970's

De Groot, Michael, History - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Hitchcock, William, Department of History, University of Virginia

This dissertation argues that the economic globalization that swept over the world during the 1970s provides the key to understanding why the Cold War ended. During this decade, industrial states on both sides of the Cold War divide endured a series of shocks to their economic and financial structures. The Western capitalist states adapted to the new economic landscape; the socialist bloc states did not. While the end of the U.S.-Soviet geopolitical and ideological struggle cannot be reduced to a monocausal explanation, this dissertation provides extensive evidence that in a causal hierarchy of factors, the ascendency of neoliberalism and terminal decline of socialism as an economic system should be placed at the top of any explanation for the end of the Cold War. Material prosperity was central to both blocs’ Cold War strategies. The complex economic shifts of the decade compelled all industrialized nations to rethink their strategies for navigating this new globalizing world. The fact that the socialist states failed to recover from the hammer blows of the 1970s signaled that the East had lost both its ability to “bring home the bacon” to a disgruntled population, as well as the ideological authority to wage the Cold War. Although the dramatic political endgame did not take place until 1989-1991, the Cold War as a matter of the East-West economic rivalry had ended by the start of the 1980s.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Cold War, 1970s, political economy, energy, finance, capitalism, socialism
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