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Making the Empire WorkLabor and United States Imperialism$
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Daniel E. Bender and Jana K. Lipman

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9781479871254

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479871254.001.0001

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What Is Imperial about Coffee?

What Is Imperial about Coffee?

Rethinking “Informal Empire”

(p.312) 12 What Is Imperial about Coffee?
Making the Empire Work

Augustine Sedgewick

NYU Press

This chapter discusses informal imperialism in relation to coffee production. Many historians have argued that the subjugation of one society to another can proceed in the absence of formal political and territorial control—through what is most often called “informal empire.” It is in exactly this informal-imperial sense that historians have described the rise of coffee and other export commodities after independence as a “second conquest of Latin America.” By this argument, whatever is imperial about coffee inheres in the market for it, in the terms of its exchange. As the price of coffee, a commodity produced on a competitive basis around the globe, deteriorated over time against the price of the value-added manufactured goods produced in coffee-consuming countries, and against the price of capital itself, formal market equality has secured and generated substantive inequality and a de facto loss of sovereignty.

Keywords:   informal imperialism, coffee production, commodity, formal market equality, de facto loss

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