The following Sussex research students and faculty are currently writing about Uneven and Combined Development.
My research uses uneven and combined development (UCD) as a framework with which to excavate the ‘how and why’ of Chinese economic reform since the 1970s. In Trotsky’s original innovation UCD offered an explanation for the amalgam of historic forms – the juxtaposition and interpenetration of advanced industrial capitalism with feudal state and land relations – in the Tsarist Russia of his time. In contemporary China we find a similarly puzzling socio-historic amalgam. The one-party communist regime, which survived the crises that led to the fall of its sister states in the latter part of the 20th century, has been the principal force behind a decidedly un-communist process of market-driven urban industrialisation against a broader backdrop of agricultural backwardness. The hypothesis of my research is that the idea of UCD can explain the historical lineages, incorporating both domestic and international determinants, which have given rise to this peculiar social formation.
I work on the political economy of East Asian development and have written specifically on the role of social forces in Korea, Taiwanese and Chinese development. I am interested in how U&CD can provide an alternative theorisation of differentiated developmental outcomes across Japan, Korea, China and Taiwan from the 19th century to the present. I am also interested in the parallels between Trotsky’s theory of U&CD and Gramsci’s theory of passive revolution in the theorising of state-society relations in conditions of late-industrialisation.
Using the idea of Uneven and Combined Development, my doctoral thesis aims to provide a socio-historical analysis of the peculiarities of modern Chinese state formation. I believe that the emergence of the 1949 Chinese state could be viewed as an epitome of S. N. Eisenstadt’s notion of ‘a world of multiple modernities’. However contra the conventional understanding – that Chinese modernity was created through a premodern polity’s passive response to the super-imposed impact from the west – I will show that the specific Chinese version of modernity has arisen from the dynamics of a long term ‘social amalgam’, which not only determined the particular pattern of Chinese revolution, but also endowed the new state with an historically unprecedented legacy in both domestic policy and foreign relations.
I have been critically deploying U&CD in constructing a post-exceptionalist account of modern Iran. This has involved the formulation and/or refinement of intermediary concepts necessary for the concrete application of U&CD. More recently, I have been looking at the methodological and normative implications of a critical dialogue between U&CD and postcolonialism.
My research is focussed on Ottoman-Turkish history, and how far its peculiar development can be explained through the conceptual apparatus deployed by Trotsky’s theory of Uneven and Combined Development. By examining this non-capitalist and non-Western case, I aim to test U&CD’s viability as general theory of not only International Relations, but social development as a whole. In this regard, I am also interested in the extent to which Trotsky’s theory represents a ‘break from’ or ‘improvement on’ classical Marxism.
Over the last few years I have been trying to unpack the conceptual implications of U&CD, especially in connection with the problematic separation of social and international theory. More recently, I have been applying it to some major historical debates such as those on the causes of the First World War, and the early modern rise of the West. This work is building up into a monograph entitled Uneven and Combined Development: Theory and History.
I am a political economist who teaches International Relations at the University of Sussex. I have conducted fieldwork in and written extensively about capitalist development in north east Brazil. I have also written/am writing articles on major thinkers in the political economy of development including Joseph Schumpeter, Friedrich List, Alexander Gerschenkron, Leon Trotsky, Karl Polayni and Amartya Sen.