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In Their Own Best Interest

In Their Own Best Interest

A History of the U.S. Effort to Improve Latin Americans

Lars Schoultz

ISBN 9780674244924

Publication date: 04/14/2020

Winner of the William M. LeoGrande Prize

For over a century, the United States has sought to improve the behavior of the peoples of Latin America. Perceiving their neighbors to the south as underdeveloped and unable to govern themselves, U.S. policy makers have promoted everything from representative democracy and economic development to oral hygiene. But is improvement a progressive impulse to help others, or realpolitik in pursuit of a superpower’s interests?

“In this subtle and searing critique of U.S. efforts to ‘uplift’ Latin America, Lars Schoultz challenges us to question the fundamental tenets of the development industry that became entrenched in the U.S. foreign policy bureaucracy over the last century.”
—Piero Gleijeses, author of Visions of Freedom

“In this masterful work, Lars Schoultz provides a companion and follow-up to his classic Beneath the United States…A necessary and rewarding read for scholars and students of U.S. foreign policy and inter-American relations.”
—Renata Keller, The Americas


  • The insightful historical narrative of the interplay between altruism and realism over the 20th century, the case studies, the trenchant analysis, and the clear, jargon-free exposition make this a highly recommended read.



  • 2018, Winner of the William M. LeoGrande Prize


  • Lars Schoultz is William Rand Kenan, Jr., Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is the author of five books on U.S. policy toward Latin America. Schoultz has been President of the Latin American Studies Association and has held research fellowships from the Ford Foundation, Fulbright-Hays Program, MacArthur Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, Social Science Research Council, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and National Humanities Center.

Book Details

  • 400 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press

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