Rewiring Unevenness: The Historical Sociology of Late Modernisation beyond the West/East Duality

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Echoing the theory’s original application by Leon Trotsky, the empirical scope of the recent scholarship deploying uneven and combined development (UCD) has been largely confined to the consequences of unevenness between modern Europe and the non-European world. This article seeks to enrich the causal portfolio of UCD by ‘rewiring’ that primary unevenness of the modern period via ‘Eastern circuits’ of secondary unevenness. It argues that primary unevenness and its resultant European whip of external necessity should be conceptualized beyond the singular linear cause-and-effect trajectory running from the ‘West’ to the ‘Rest’. For fastening the empirical dynamism of unevenness to static ‘civilizational’ scales does disservice to the neo-Trotskyist ambition toward empirically recovering the multilinearity of development.

The alternative offered here has two steps: historiographical and conceptual. Firstly, the article builds a case for a historiography that frames unevenness as a geographically and temporally changing dynamic of intersocietal relations with its causal consequences modified by the on-going historicity of late modernisation. This makes it possible to differentiate between early late developers (such as the Russian Empire and Meiji Japan) and late late developers. This differentiation empirically reveals a series of multi-directional and causally relevant relationships resulting from secondary unevenness among late developing countries. It is at this second step, and with the aim of capturing the causal significance of the Eastern circuits, the article utilises a mid-range concept (the politics of comparison) by bringing UCD in communication with the field of new imperial history.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCambridge Review of International Affairs
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2022
Externally publishedYes

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