NAFTA as Rupture and Communion: Neoliberalism in the Poetic Imagination of Octavio Paz
In a rapidly shifting world order following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the celebrated Mexican poet Octavio Paz enthusiastically endorsed his government’s program of neoliberal reforms, including the North American Free Trade Agreement. For critics on the Left, such a stance was—and continues to be—evidence of a late-life conservative ideological pivot. Beyond political orientation, however, Paz’s support for NAFTA followed the logic of a long-elaborated Romantic worldview in which la ruptura and la comunión with el otro functioned as complimentary actions required to transcend la soledad. Following a critique and negation of its past of economic patrimonialism in favor of the free market, Mexico could overcome its historical solitude and discover itself as a democratic and modern nation through integration with the United States. In light of NAFTA’s failures, however, Paz’s flawed enthusiasm for neoliberalism should serve as an example of the danger of an artist with wide public appeal and political weight applying an abstract and idealized interpretation of reality to matters of concrete socio-economics and politics.