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About the Book

Beyond the Book

312 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 15 illus., notes, bibl., index

Luther H. Hodges Jr. and Luther H. Hodges Sr. Series on Business, Entrepreneurship, and Public Policy

ISBN  978-0-8078-5350-4
Published: April 2002

Missionary Capitalist

Nelson Rockefeller in Venezuela

By Darlene Rivas

The first work to draw on Nelson A. Rockefeller's newly available personal papers as well as research in Latin American archives, Missionary Capitalist details Rockefeller's efforts to promote economic development in Latin America, particularly Venezuela, from the late 1930s through the 1950s.

Rockefeller's involvement in the region began in 1936 with his investment in Creole Petroleum, the Venezuelan subsidiary of Standard Oil. Almost immediately, he began trying to influence North Americans' individual, corporate, and government relationships with Latin Americans. Through his work developing technical assistance programs for the Roosevelt administration during World War II, his business ventures (primarily agricultural production and food retailing), and his postwar founding of the nonprofit American International Association, Rockefeller hoped to demonstrate how U.S. capitalists could nurture entrepreneurial spirit and work successfully with government agencies in Latin America to encourage economic development and improve U.S.-Latin American relations. Ultimately, however, he overestimated the ability of the United States, through public or private endeavors, to promote Latin American economic, political, and social change.

This objective account paints a portrait of Rockefeller not as the rapacious, exploitative figure of stereotype, but as a man fueled by idealism and humanitarian concern as well as ambition.

About the Author

Darlene Rivas is associate professor of history at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California.


"Sparkle[s] with originality and innovation. . . . Engaging. . . . Provides an effective overview of U.S. policy toward Latin America from the late 1930s to the early 1950s."
--Latin American Research Review

"A solid, archive-based assessment of Nelson Rockefeller's efforts to promote economic development in Venezuela. . . . This fascinating account strips away the many stereotypes to provide a more nuanced view of Rockefeller's enthusiasm."
--Foreign Affairs

"[A] carefully researched, well-written book . . . Rivas's work makes a strong contribution to a much needed historicization of development and raises important questions about the way it was contested and negotiated in diverse contexts."
--American Historical Review

"[Rivas] makes a solid case for viewing Rockefeller as emblematic of a persuasive world view in U.S. foreign policy."
--Journal of American History

"Darlene Rivas has written an intriguing book that is tightly argued while also offering a controversial interpretation of its subject."
--International History Review

"Opens up new dimensions to the familiar debate concerning the nature of American capitalism."
--Business History

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