an idea in progress

The idea of Uneven and Combined Development (U&CD) originated in the writings of Leon Trotsky (1879-1940). Its most explicit formulation is found in the opening chapter of his History of the Russian Revolution (1932).

Trotsky used U&CD to explain the ‘peculiarities’ of Russia’s social structures in the early 20th century, viewing them as the outcome of a wider, inter-societal process of historical development. In this way, he incorporated the significance of international relations into a theory of capitalist world development. But in doing so, he also  created the opening for a social theory of ‘the international’.

U&CD was introduced into the discipline of International Relations (IR) at  the 1995 Deutscher Memorial Lecture. It has now emerged as a new research programme in IR, becoming the subject of doctoral research projects, conference panels and journal forums.

Key points of debate in the emerging literature are:

  • Is U&CD a theory, an intellectual paradigm or just an orienting assumption for historical research?
  • Can it be applied to earlier periods in history, or is it confined to the dynamics of modern capitalist world development?
  • Is it only a Marxist idea, or does it imply a revision to the inheritance of Classical Social Theory as a whole?

The largest concentration of researchers on Uneven and Combined Development is in the International Relations Department at the University of Sussex, where a Working Group on the subject meets regularly. For further information contact Justin Rosenberg.