Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of History

Content Description

1 online resource (ii, 277 pages)

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Ryan Irwin

Committee Members

Michitake Aso, Carl Bon Tempo, Kendra Smith-Howard


Basic Needs, Diplomatic History, Human Rights, International Development, International History, Neoliberalism, Basic needs, International economic relations, Economic development, Economic assistance, American, Cold War

Subject Categories



This project examines how international development changed during the second half of the Cold War, using development to highlight transformations in global discourse on needs, rights, and socioeconomic equity. After the late 1960s, nations in the global North, most notably the United States, struggled to reconcile the failure of the modernization schemes they had funded throughout the global South. In response, experts and activists around the world worked together in the 1970s to create a diverse array of alternative theories meant to uplift socioeconomically disadvantaged nations which centered on the concept of basic human needs. Yet the idea of basic needs was controversial from the beginning, and the nations in the global South that were the target recipients of this new form of development assistance proposed a different, more holistic reform of the international economic system meant to create true parity between the wealthy and poorer nations of the world. The duels between these concepts lasted throughout the rest of the Cold War, and reveal deeply rooted international connections between development, decolonization, and the rise of “neoliberal” market-centric ideologies in the United States.

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