The Frontiers of Uneven and Combined Development

In: Historical Materialism
Neil Davidson School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Glasgow

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Alexander Anievas and Kerem Nişancıoğlu’s How the West Came to Rule is an important intervention within Marxist historical debates which seeks to use the theory of uneven and combined development (UCD) to explain the origin and rise to dominance of capitalism. The argument is shaped by a critique of Political Marxist ‘internalist’ explanations of the process, to which the authors counterpose an account which emphasises its inescapably ‘inter-societal’ nature. While recognising the many contributions that the book makes to our historical understanding, this article argues that these insights do not depend on UCD, and could have been arrived at without reference to it. In particular, it will try to show that UCD is inapplicable in periods before the consolidation of capitalism, but might be more usefully extended spatially rather than chronologically.

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