Global Markets, Local Labor: Development, Production, and Crisis in Rural Colombia


ACLS Fellowship Program




“Global Markets, Local Labor” engages scholarly debates about the plight of workers in the age of globalization through a comparative and world historical analysis of three local labor regimes in rural Colombia—coffee, bananas, cocaine—from the postwar decades through the present. It traces local dynamics using mixed methods: a quantitative dataset that tracks incidents of labor militancy and repression since 1975 and qualitative fieldwork in each site—over 100 interviews with labor and human rights activists, state officials, business leaders, and others. It then uses commodity chains and world hegemony frameworks to explain how each local regime is impacted by its global market niche and by historical changes in the geopolitics of the world economy. The project finds that the development opportunities offered by the world market have shrunk over time as US world hegemony unravels, leaving Colombia’s local regimes squeezed between labor repression and chronic social crisis.