Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in History (PhD)

Degree Level





Michael Pierce

Committee Member

Patrick Williams

Second Committee Member

Kathryn Sloan

Third Committee Member

Steven Rosales


Both the rise of conservatism as well as the neoliberal turn of the twentieth century have received much scholarly attention in recent decades. Often, these two subjects are examined separately, with the former focusing on questions of party realignment in the United States and the latter on global economic shifts toward privatization, finance, and the segregation of labor types across international boundaries. As a result, efforts to trace the dual movement between questions of domestic politics and international economy are left underdeveloped. “Zona Libre: Conservatism, Urban Growth, and the Rise of the New Economy” remedies this gap by exploring the linkages between conservatism and neoliberal globalization, arguing that instead of a top-down innovation of business, the contours of the New Economy were dictated from the middle-up by middle-class homeowners wary of the impact of growth and development on their quality of life.

The San Diego-Tijuana corridor, a uniquely urban binational space on the U.S.-Mexico border, proved an early microcosm between 1965-1995 of both the political and economic forces that would come to transform the United States moving into the twentieth-first century. After World War II, growth liberalism created a government-subsidized class of white homeowners seeking to safeguard their quality of life. Fearful of the potential impact of traditional smokestack industries and the physical and political presence of an industrial proletariat, they forced business interests to seek binational solutions. But, as international economic integration between San Diego and Tijuana accelerated, these same homeowners demanded tighter border controls. In the end, the reorientation of the region’s economy to globalization birthed a brand of conservatism dedicated to a new nativism centered on protecting quality of life.