revolutionary reflections | Uneven and Combined Development: Modernity, Modernism, Revolution (3): Cartographies And Chronologies


In the third of his five pieces on Uneven but Combined Development, Neil Davidson looks at the application of the theory to England, Scotland, Germany and Japan before looking the Soviet transition to state capitalism.

All five pieces will appear together as a PDF and in a range of e-reader formats.


The discussions of modernity, modernism and hegemony in Part 2 of this article might seem to have taken us some distance from uneven and combined development, but in fact they constitute a necessary basis for understanding the full implications for those societies – the vast majority – which have been subject to it. In concrete terms, the concept of uneven and combined development should help us explain why – to pick two wildly different example – former peasants from the Staritski uezd in Tver’ province could become the driving force behind the factory committee of the Baltic shipyard in Petrograd, and why former black sharecroppers from Clarksdale in the Mississippi Delta could create the electric blues in the South Side of Chicago. In this part I will sketch the impact of uneven and combined development in the West which began some decades earlier than in Russia, but for the most part, and in most cases, occurs contemporaneously. There is, of course, one major exception, to which I will turn first: England.   

3.1.      The English Exception

Memoirs of individuals who lived in England through most of the nineteenth century often reflect on the scale of the transformation which occurred during that period. The historian Godwin Smith, for example, recalled the difference between the town of Reading at the time of his birth in 1823 and on the eve of the First World War. At the former date:

It is a very quiet place. The mail-coaches travelling on the Bath road at the marvellous rate of twelve miles an hour change horses at The Crown and the Bear. So do the travelling carriages and post-chaises of the wealthier wayfarer. The watchman calls the hour of the night. From the tower of old St. Lawrence’s Church the curfew is tolled. My nurse lights the fire with the tinder-box. Over at Caversham a man is sitting in the stocks. … From this state of things I have lived into an age of express-trains, ocean greyhounds, electricity, bicycles, globe-trotting, Evolution, the Higher Criticism, and general excitement and restlessness. Reading has shared the progress. The Reading of my boyhood has disappeared almost over the horizon of memory.[1]

Yet England had completed the transition to capitalism over a century before Smith was born and these changes began. It was not, of course, the only territory to have done so, as it was preceded by both the Italian city-states and the Netherlands.[2] Capitalist relations of production were considerably more highly developed in England than in either of these, but England was also able to absorb their genuine innovations and those of states which failed to make the transition, then put them to more effective use than in their places of origin, a process for which the possession of an effective capitalist state apparatus was essential. As Marx noted in the chapter from Capital on ‘The Genesis of the Industrial Capitalist’:

The different moments of primitive accumulation can be ascertained in particular to Spain, Portugal, Holland, France and England, in more or less chronological order. These different moments are systematically combined together at the end of the seventeenth century in England; the combination embraces the colonies, the national debt, the modern tax system, and the system of protection.[3]

This is not ‘combination’ in Trotsky’s sense, however, as all the forms referred to by Marx are ‘contemporary’.

Recognising the uniqueness of England at this time should not lead us to exaggerate the immediate impact of the transition to capitalism in the countryside there. ‘Englishmen and women did not know that they had crossed a barrier that divided them from their own past and from every other contemporary society’, writes Joyce Appleby.[4] For well into the eighteenth century labour in the English countryside under the capitalist mode of production, whether in agriculture or handicraft production, was still carried out in the natural daylight hours and – in the case of the first, at any rate – according to the rhythms of the farming seasons, within the framework of long-established customary rights and traditions. Edward Thompson famously discussed plebeian resistance ‘in the name of custom’ to ‘innovation in the capitalist process’ which is ‘most often experienced by the plebs in the form of exploitation, or the expropriation of customary use-rights, or the violent disruption of valued patterns of work and leisure’: ‘Hence the plebeian culture is rebellious, but rebellious in defence of custom.’[5]

By the latter half of the eighteenth-century this rebelliousness was therefore not resistance to capitalism, but a reaction to the transition from the ‘formal’ to the ‘real’ subsumption of labour. In this respect, only the Northern states of the US, particularly those on the North-Eastern seaboard, underwent a comparable development to that of England. There too an established agrarian capitalist economy, under an existing bourgeois regime, made the transition to industrial capitalism, initially, as Charles Post has detailed, with industry servicing the farming sector in what was effectively an ‘agro-industrial complex’.[6] It is unsurprising therefore that in these areas within the US the class struggle also took the form of a defence of an earlier form of socio-economic life, although this lasted later into the nineteenth century than it did in England.[7]

The move from field or cottage to the factory as a workplace constitutive of real subsumption is one of the most unsettling and disorientating experiences human beings can collectively undergo. Sydney Pollard has written of the process by which the English were transformed into industrial wage labourers:

The worker who left the background of his domestic workshop or peasant holding for the factory entered a new culture as well as a new sense of direction. It was not only that ‘the new economic order needed…part humans: soulless, depersonalized, disembodied, who could become members, or little wheels rather, of a complex mechanism’. It was also that men who were non-accumulative, non-acquisitive, accustomed to work for subsistence, not for maximization of income, had to be made obedient to the cash stimulus, and obedient in such a way as to react precisely to the stimuli provided.[8]

To make the experience even more disruptive of previous forms of life, labour increasingly took place in an urban context. As Engels noted in 1845, previously, the workers had been shut off from the towns, which they never entered, their yarn and woven stuff being delivered to travelling agents for payment of wages – so shut off that old people who lived quite in the neighbourhood of the town never went thither until they were robbed of their trade by the introduction of machinery and obliged to look about them in the towns for work – the weavers stood upon the moral and intellectual plane of the yeomen with whom they were usually immediately connected through their little holdings.[9]

In this and preceding passages Engels may be guilty of over-romanticising country life, but his summary of the conditions to which they were subsequently subject in Manchester cannot be accused of exaggeration:

In a word, we must confess that in the working-men’s dwellings of Manchester, no cleanliness, no convenience, and consequently no comfortable family life is possible; that in such dwellings only a physically degenerate race, robbed of all humanity, degraded, reduced morally and physically to bestiality, could feel comfortable and at home.[10]

Thompson noted that ‘industrialization is necessarily painful’ involving as it did ‘the erosion of traditional patterns of life; but adds to this general assessment that ‘it was carried through with exceptional violence in Britain’.[11] Thompson’s reassertion of the ‘cataclysmic’ view of the English industrial revolution is defensible in the context of a discussion which sought to overturn the economistic vulgarity of the ‘standard of living’ debate, but does not require that we regard that country as having undergone a uniquely traumatic experience. Indeed, as Craig Calhoun has pointed out, when we consider the experience of India, Africa the USSR and even the USA, his claim for the singularity of the English experience in relation to both physical and ‘psychic’ violence is extremely difficult to uphold: ‘Where are the mass shootings, for physical violence, and the prison camps and utter defeats, for psychic violence?’[12] For our purposes, the point of distinguishing the English experience from that of what Thompson used to call Other Countries is not the respective severity of their industrialisations, but why the experience did not lead to the same type of revolutionary upheavals which were to convulse Petrograd and Shanghai a hundred years later.[13] There was certainly a high level of class struggle in Britain between the 1790s and 1840s but, with the possible exception of 1831-2, at no point was there a revolutionary threat to the state.

England and the absence of Modernism

Nor did English conditions produce a local modernist movement, as can be seen in we take one of the few painters working in the period of English industrialisation which might plausibly be categorised in this way: J. M. W. Turner (1775-1851). During the last 15 years of his life in particular, Turner made his subject, not industrialisation as such, but rather the fossil-fuel powered transport which made it possible, above all steamboats and trains. A sense of how unusual this was in his national context can be gathered from the assessment by Nikolaus Pevsner – Hungarian-born but in most respects a naturalised Englishman – who described Turner’s world as ‘a fantasmagoria’ and his work as ‘irrational’: ‘Turner’s position in English art is indeed baffling from whatever point of view one considers it – also from that of his Englishness.’[14]

During the same year (1955) as Pevsner was expressing his bafflement, Greenberg was equally dismissive, albeit for different reasons: ‘Turner was actually the first painter to break with the European tradition of value painting’, he wrote of Turner’s later paintings. Despite describing them as ‘atmospheric’, however, ultimately he regards them as merely ‘picturesque’, a verdict endorsed by their popularity with a public which would not have expected his intangible subject matter – clouds, rain, mist, sea – to be rendered with ‘definite shape or form’: ‘what we today take for a daring abstractness on Turner’s part was accepted then as another feat of naturalism’.[15] Here Greenberg is judging Turner against his own assumptions about the necessity for modernism in the visual arts to necessarily involve an increasing shift from resemblance (‘representation’) towards abstraction.

Turner’s later work is however neither a regression towards naturalism nor a prototype of abstraction, but an attempt to express his response to mechanisation in a way similar to the Italian Futurists, with boats and trains as his subject rather than automobiles. Rain, Steam and Rail – the Great Western Railway (1844) is not primarily about H2O in its various forms, but about the intrusion of modernity into nature in the shape of the train, the rail bridge which it necessitates and the city of London, looming indistinctly in the background of the picture, from which it has emerged. In Turner’s most famous and popular painting, The Fighting Temeraire tugged to her last berth to be broken up (1838), the symbolism could not be more obvious: the steam-powered tug (representing the mundane but functioning modernity) pulls a ghostly ship from the age of sail (representing the heroic but outmoded past) towards its final dismemberment.

Turner’s intimations of modernism are all the more startling for their almost complete isolation. Paul Wood notes the influence Turner had on the French Impressionists:

But in a British context, such artistic radicalism was isolated, even idiosyncratic. Turner’s Rain, Steam and Speed…a dynamic image of the modern if there ever was one, was painted in the 1840s, 30 years before comparable studies of Gare St Lazare by Claude Monet…in Paris. But in Britain Turner’s example gave rise to no school.

Wood concludes that ‘something seems to have restrained British artists from the innovations embarked on in France’.[16] Steve Edwards similarly writes of British painters in the latter half of the nineteenth century, that ‘something about English society prevented them from finding a way to make ambivalence and incoherence suggestive of modern experience; from making a moral dilemma from uncertainty’:

Modernity is depicted in the British art of the period, but modernist form doesn’t really break the surface. In France, the ongoing clash between traditional ways of life and the rapid transformations of Paris and other urban centres made these changes available for representation.

As Edwards stresses, the point is not that Britain (or more precisely, England) was free from conflict – we have already seen that this was not the case – but rather that the capitalist modernity was so embedded as to produce a sense of familiarity, it ‘had come to seem natural’ and ‘this made it more difficult to depict modern society as bewildering or awkward, simultaneously exhilarating and horrifying’.[17] The determining nature of context is nicely illustrated by a conversation from the beginning of the twentieth century reported in the biography of Wyndham Lewis (1882-1957). It is important to remember here that Lewis was one of the very few native English modernists. When Filippo Marinetti (1876-1944) tried to claim him for Futurism, Lewis replied:

‘Not too bad,’ I said. ‘It has its points. But you Wops insist too much on the Machine. You’re always on about these driving-belts, you are always exploding about internal combustion. We’ve had machines here in England for a donkey’s years. They’re no novelty to us.

To which Marinetti responded:

‘You have never understood your machines! You have never known the ivresse of travelling at a kilometre a minute. Have you ever travelled a kilometre a minute?’

Lewis had not, nor had he any wish to.[18]

The dominant theme in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century English art and literature – including that produced by socialists – is a rejection of both modernity and modernism. Alasdair MacIntyre once commented:

There have been since the industrial revolution in Britain two main critiques of our form of life. One was the romantic protest against capitalist ugliness whose culmination is in Lawrence and Leavis. The other was the socialist protest. William Morris held them together in his own day: it is a prime victory of bourgeois ideology to have kept them apart ever since.[19]

But if we look at the socialist future envisaged by Morris, it is described in the subtitle of his most famous novel as ‘an epoch of rest’:

‘You see, guest, this is not an age of inventions. The last epoch did all that for us, and we are now content to use as much of its inventions as we find handy, and leaving alone those which we don’t want.’ … ‘In the half-century that followed the Great Change…it began to be noteworthy: machine after machine was quietly dropped under the excuse that machines could not produce works of art, and that works of art were more and more called for.”[20]

This constitutes the main exception to the socialist and indeed Marxist conception of socialism representing a new form of modernity. Raymond Williams wrote of Morris that,

…what the representation of discontinuity typically produces is a notion of social simplicity which is untenable. The extent to which the idea of socialism is attached to simplicity is counter-productive. It seems to me that the break towards socialism can only be towards an unimaginably greater complexity.[21]

England, or more precisely, London was a subject of modernist writing – think of Eliot’s ‘Unreal City’ in The Waste Land (1922) – and a provided a destination for modernist writers from outside Britain, like James, Pound and Eliot himself from the USA, Conrad from Poland or Yeats from Ireland. What Malcolm Bradbury calls, ‘a distinguishable English brand of Modernism’, was much more a literal sense of writing expressive of a new ‘Modern’ era after ‘the era of Victorianism was ending, [and] a new phase in society, art and thought beginning’, than expressive of the tension between the archaic and the modern.[22] The reason why capitalist modernity in England produced neither a social nor artistic revolutionary movement lies with the two unique conditions under which industrialisation and urbanisation took place.

Early consolidation of the capitalist state

First, the capitalist state in England was consolidated at the completion of the bourgeois revolution in 1688, at a time when its economy was still dominated by agrarian, mercantile and financial capital. None of the other early capitalist states achieved this. The Italian city-states refused to unite and indeed were involved in ferocious competition with each other which left them exposed to conquest and enforced regression at the hands of local feudal lords and ultimately the Spanish Empire by the beginning of the sixteenth century. The United Netherlands, although formally a unified state even before the revolt against Spain in 1567, did not possess an integrated economy, but rather a highly fragmented one in which competition between cities and provinces was unimpeded.

More importantly, in this context, the state itself remained resolutely decentralised and unable to pursue initiatives in the interest of Dutch capital as a whole, with power lying in regional governments which tended to be dominated by particular capitalist banking and mercantile interests.[23] It was, as Anderson points out, ‘a hybrid between a city-state and a nation-state’.[24] As a result, industrialisation in both areas was largely postponed until nation-states were finally consolidated in the mid-nineteenth century. Industrialisation in England, however, arose within the context of a society where the state was already dedicated to the accumulation of capital, and that state had a far greater capacity for absorption and renovation under pressure than rival pre-capitalist states. As Norman Stone notes of the English – later British – bourgeoisie, in whose interests the state acted:

In Great Britain, that class existed so strongly, even in the eighteenth century, that liberal reforms were introduced piecemeal there, and often without formal involvement of parliament. Existing ancien-régime institutions, such as the old guilds or corporations, would be gradually adapted to suit a changing era. Thus, in form, England (more than Scotland) is the last of the ancien régimes; she did not even have a formal law to abolish serfdom.[25]

In other words, while Britain, or perhaps England, appeared to represent an ancien regime (‘in form’) this concealed what was actually a supremely adaptive modernity, which is only now reaching its limits.[26] As I noted in Part 2, the absorbent character of the English state had had nothing to do with democracy as such: no section of the working class was granted the vote until after industrialisation and urbanisation were well advanced. It is rather that, on the one hand, the different sections of the ruling class were fundamentally united and presided over a series of protective structures and enabling institutions which had developed over a prolonged period of time. This did not simply involve repression or control: confronted by major working class insurgency they were collectively prepared to make gradual compromises over non-essentials rather than risk losing what meant most to them: their capital.

The extended timescale of English industrialisation

Second, the internal pressures to which England was subject were in any case more containable than in later-developing states because of the extended timescale in which industrialisation took place. At least in part this was because it faced no real economic competition in capitalist terms until the latter third of the nineteenth century and was therefore not subject to the types of pressure to which all other subsequent developers, with the exception of the United States, were subject.

As Pollard writes: ‘Unlike the experience of the following countries which were faced with a fairly comprehensive package of mutually reinforcing changes, the British [sic] evolution was slow, piecemeal and unconscious, in the sense of being unperceived as a whole.’[27] Consequently, notwithstanding the significance of industrialisation, even it did not have an immediately transformative impact on every aspect of social life. This is partly because the effects were cumulative and partly because, initially at least, industrialisation took place within a broader pre-existing non-industrial context as Jonathan Crary explains:

Modernity, contrary to its popular connotations, is not the world in a sweepingly transformed state. Rather… it is the hybrid and dissonant experience of living intermittently within modernized spaces and needs, and yet simultaneously inhabiting the remnants of pre-capitalist life-worlds, whether social or natural. … Factory manufacturing, for example, did not abruptly extinguish the long-standing diurnal rhythms and social ties of agrarian milieus. Instead there was an extended period of coexistence during which rural life was incrementally dismantled or subsumed into new processes.[28]

The gradual, dispersed and unplanned nature of the process in England had implications for both the structure of the working class and the nature of the class struggle, both of which are in stark contrast to the forms these took later under actual conditions of uneven and combined development. Workplaces remained relatively small until very late in the nineteenth century, not least in London. As a result, trade union struggles were typically defensive of traditional or at least transitional forms of labour.[29] This was one of the reasons Trotsky identified for the greater implantation of Marxism among the working classes of Russia than in that of Britain. In the case of Russia itself,

…the proletariat did not arise gradually through the ages, carrying with itself the burden of the past, as in England, but in leaps involving sharp changes of environment, ties, relations, and a sharp break with the past. It was just this – combined with the concentrated oppressions of czarism – that made Russian workers hospitable to the boldest conclusions of revolutionary thought – just as the backward industries were hospitable to the last word in capitalist organization.[30]

Describing the situation prior to the Russian Revolution of 1917, Gareth Stedman Jones has contrasted ‘the revolutionary maturity of the Petrograd proletariat, uniquely concentrated in the most advanced factories of the capitalist world’ with Britain, ‘the most advanced capitalist country’, where ‘the structure of the metropolitan working class still looked back to pre-industrial divisions of skill and status’: ‘A few large plants were lost in an ocean of small workshops’.[31] These conditions were productive of neither Bolsheviks nor Constructivists. Elsewhere in the West the effects of industrialisation and urbanisation would fall between the English and Russian extremes.

3.2.      The Western Origins of Uneven and Combined Development

The most important new capitalist nation-states to follow Britain – the USA, Italy, Germany and Japan – unified (or re-unified) and consolidated themselves between 1848 and 1871. France achieved this slightly earlier – 1830 is the French 1688, in the sense of concluding the era of its bourgeois revolution; but French industrialisation takes place essentially within the same time frame as these later developers. These involved transitions to capitalism which were, as Robert Looker and David Coates put it, ‘virtually contemporaneous’ with industrialisation and urbanisation, rather than preceding them, as had been the case in England.[32]

The very existence of the British imperial state altered both the context for subsequent capitalist development and the pace with which it occurred. The latter was faster, partly because the long period of experiment and evolution characteristic of the Anglo-Saxon pioneer could be dispensed with, but partly because of the urgency involved in acquiring the attributes of capitalist modernity in the face of military and economic competition from Britain. In very compressed timescales these emerging rivals adopted Britain’s socio-economic achievements to the extent that they became recognisably the same kind of societies, without necessarily reproducing every key characteristic – an impossible task anyway, given their very different histories and social structures.

Harry Harootunian writes of Marx’s comments on German uneven development (in the ‘Preface to the First Edition’ of Capital Volume 1) that he ‘was proposing that capitalist modernization is inevitably destined to produce the co-presence of colliding temporalities, contemporary non-contemporaneities forcing people constantly to navigate their way through different temporal regimes as a condition of becoming modern’.[33] The point is capable of being generalised beyond Germany: in fact, all of the second wave capitalist nation-states simultaneously faced in two directions, although usually inclining more towards one than the other.

From uneven and combined to uneven development: Scotland

One direction was forward to conditions which would later emerge in Russia and to anticipations of permanent revolution. The increased tempo of development meant that the process of capitalist modernisation, and consequently the character of the class struggle, took respectively more intense and explosive forms – first of all in the country which was also geographically closest to England, and which since 1707 had been joined with it in the United Kingdom of Great Britain: Scotland. From the suppression of the last Jacobite attempt at counter-revolution in 1746 through to the end of the Napoleonic wars in 1815, Scottish society was marked by two processes, both in sharp contrast to the English experience: one was the extraordinary speed with which capitalist agriculture and the foundations of industrialisation was introduced in the Lowlands; the other was the concentrated effervescence of the Enlightenment, which was both a programme for agrarian transformation and a theorisation of the process. Even a society accelerating out of feudalism at this speed would however inevitably retain some of the characteristics of pre-existing conditions and Jameson has correctly noted some of the implications, although as usual without identifying them as the results of uneven and combined development:

Enlightenment Scotland is above all the space of a coexistence of radically distinct zones of production and culture: the archaic economy of the Highlanders and their clan system, the new agricultural exploitation of the Lowlands, the commercial vigour of the English ‘partner’ over the border, on the eve of its industrial ‘take-off’. The brilliance of Edinburgh is therefore not a matter of Gaelic genetic material, but rather owing to the strategic yet eccentric position of the Scottish metropolis and intellectuals with respect to this virtually synchronic coexistence of distinct modes of production, which it now uniquely fell to the Scottish Enlightenment to ‘think’ or to conceptualize. Nor is this merely an economic matter: Scott, like Faulkner later on, inherits a social and historical raw material, a popular memory, in which the fiercest revolutions and civil and religious wars now inscribe the coexistence of modes of production in vivid narrative form.[34]

One aspect of what Jameson calls ‘the co-existence of radically distinct zones of production and culture’ is the Highland/Lowland divide. This was not, however, the inert juxtaposition of two mutually sealed societies but their mutual interpenetration, first through the imposition of capitalist social relations on Highland land occupancy, then – a virtually inevitable consequence of this – the migration of now landless Highlanders into the industrialising Lowland towns and cities, above all to Glasgow.

Migration was then and remains now one of the great catalysts for uneven and combined development. ‘Since most Europeans were rural, so were most migrants’, notes Hobsbawm of the latter half of the nineteenth century, and, while pointing out that some migrants exchanged ‘a poor agricultural milieu for a better one’, for the majority the most important fact was ‘their exodus from agriculture’:

Migration and urbanization went together, and in the second half of the nineteenth century the countries chiefly associated with it (the United States, Australia, Argentina) had a rate of urban concentration unsurpassed anywhere except in Britain and the industrial parts of Germany.[35]

In this respect as in many others, Scotland was a forerunner for what was to follow more widely later, as external migration from Ireland was at least as significant as internal migration from the Highlands in providing the labour force for industrialisation.

Although industrialisation took place more or less simultaneously in both England and Scotland, the latter largely ‘skipped the intervening stages’ between peasant self-sufficiency and wage labour which the former had experienced. ‘Scotland entered on the capitalist path later than England,’ wrote Trotsky in 1925, ‘a sharper turn in the life of the masses of the people gave rise to a sharper political reaction’.[36] By the early decades of the nineteenth century, the enormous tensions produced by industrialisation were heightened by the repressive weight of undemocratic state forms retained from the Union of 1707 until the Great Reform Act of 1832. These tensions expressed themselves in moments of sharp class struggle, above all the unsuccessful 1820 general strike for male suffrage, the first such action in history, involving around 60,000 workers – a substantial section of the global working class at the time – and two attempts at armed insurrection.[37] However, because Scotland did make the transition to the ranks of the advanced societies, albeit as a component part of another national formation, the revolutionary moment passed – not because the tensions of uneven and combined development had all been resolved, but because after 1832 a suitably adaptive state form had been extended to Scotland which was able to contain them. Uneven and combined development was resolved as uneven development, with Scotland as a whole ‘catching up and overtaking’ England, within the overall British social formation.

The possibilities for proto-permanent revolution were sometimes retained at a local level even when nation-states (or stateless national territories like Scotland) attained overall ‘developed’ status – particularly where backward areas were deliberately preserved at a level of development below that of society as a whole as a source of labour or raw materials, and then experienced rapid regional industrialisation and urbanisation. In so far as uneven and combined development could be found in the USA, for example, it was mainly in the ex-Confederate states. As Ernest Mandel notes: ‘They functioned as a reservoir of agricultural raw materials and as an “internal colony” in the sense that they formed a steady market for the industrial products of the North and did not develop any large-scale industry within their own territory (this was to change only with the Second World War)’.[38] It is unsurprisingly then, that when forms of industrialization did finally arrive in the South immediately before the First World War, they gave rise to situations more typical of Saint Petersburg or Shanghai than Memphis, Tennessee. One such area was around the Alabama coalfields. According to Brian Kelly:

The region presents an almost classical example of what Marxists have described as ‘combined and uneven development’: the turn-of-the-century South included a number of exceptional areas where large concentrations of industrial workers laboured in mills, foundries, and manufacturing plants on a par with the most advanced in the North, but these stood like frontier outposts of a new age in a region overwhelmingly steeped in primitive agriculture, in some places little-changed from the way it had been conducted in the antebellum period.[39]

Contained uneven and combined development: Japan

The other direction faced by the second wave nation-states was back to the English experience in the sense that they were able to accomplish the bourgeois revolution from above – 1688 being the model rather than 1640 or 1649 – and transform the state, albeit over a much more compressed period of time, in order to direct rapid industrialisation and contain the social tensions which it produced, often within the context of archaic socio-cultural forms.

The process is perhaps best illustrated by the only Asian country to undertake this form of development in the closing decades of the nineteenth century after the bourgeois revolution from above known to history as the Meiji Restoration of 1868. Trotsky wrote in the 1930s, ‘we observe even today…correlation between the bourgeois character of the state and the semifeudal character of the ruling caste.’[40] The former outweighed the latter. Mark Elvin argued that ‘Japan does not have to become identical to the present-day West to be ranked as comparably “modern”.’[41] Indeed – but we should note the similarities between the British and Japanese states after 1868, to which Christopher Bayly has drawn attention. Between 1870 and 1914, both consciously emphasised the role of their monarch-emperors, the preexisting symbolism of the crown being used to represent national unity against two main challenges: external imperial rivalry and internal class divisions.[42]  Both were capitalist states that could be strongly contrasted with feudal absolutist Austria-Hungary or Russia, even down to the role of the emperor and empresses: ‘Russia represented the opposite pole to Japan within the spectrum of authoritarian monarchy – no corporate regime strategy, much depending on the monarch himself.’[43] The state structure was crucial, as in many respects Japanese development was far more rapid than Russia’s, as Trotsky himself noted:

Even late-developing Russia, which traversed the same historic course as the West in a much shorter length of time, needed three centuries to get from the liquidation of feudal isolation under Ivan the Terrible, through the Westernizing of Peter the Great, to the first liberal reforms of Alexander II. The so-called Meiji Restoration incorporated in a matter of a few decades the basic features of those three major eras in Russia’s development. At such a forced pace, there could be no question of a smooth and even cultural development in all fields. Racing to achieve practical results with modern technology – especially military technology – Japan remained ideologically in the depths of the Middle Ages. The hasty mixture of Edison and Confucius has left its mark in all Japanese culture.[44]

The differences were sharply demonstrated by the Japanese victory over Russia in the war of 1904-5. Lenin welcomed the result, arguing that it clearly demonstrated the different class nature of the two states:

Here again, as so often in history, the war between an advanced and a backward country has played a great revolutionary role. And the class-conscious proletariat, an implacable enemy of war – this inevitable and inseverable concomitant of all class rule in general – cannot shut its eyes to the revolutionary task which the Japanese bourgeoisie, by its crushing defeat of the Russian autocracy, is carrying out.[45]

In effect, the post-Meiji Japanese state represented a way of containing the tensions created by uneven and combined development, even though these grew greater during and immediately after the First World War:

The war signalled the transformation of the industrial base from light to concentrated heavy industries and the ceaseless migration of rural populations to the urban sites of factory production. … Critics, along the way, noted the sharp lines of unevenness between the newer, modern capitalist industries and the so-called traditional sectors, which, in the Meiji period, had grown concurrently and even complimentarily rather than competitively. But by 1920 and the succeeding years, the sharply silhouetted contrast was widely observed in the uneven relationship between the large metropolitan sites like Tokyo/Yokohama and Osaka/Kobe, which had literally been transformed overnight, and a countryside that supplied the cities with a labour force and capital but…received nothing in return. … Moreover, it brought new classes and an awareness of new identities and subject positions, and it expanded the possibilities for women in the labour market.[46]

Germany and the question of non-synchronicity

If Japan is most extreme example of ‘contained’ uneven and combined development, all the states which emerged at the same time display similar characteristics, to one degree or another. Yet discussions of their trajectories tend to emphasise either the feudal archaism which they retained or the capitalist modernity which they embraced. In relation to the former, it is often suggested that archaism was expressed through military dictatorships (in the case of Japan) or fascist regimes (in the cases of Italy and Germany). Tom Nairn, for example, writes of Germany:

In both situations, hastily created state-nations had dissolved a host of older countries – city and princely states, early-modern or even mediaeval kingdoms – in a way intended to be final, and which indeed still appeared to be so in the in the circumstances of the 1920s. … And yet the liberal-progressive unit, the grandly proclaimed wider identity, had clearly foundered. What way out was there but a drastic reformulation of that identity along illiberal-populist lines, emphasizing the things either denied or side-lined by the former unity regimes?

Later we are reminded that ‘ethno-nationalism has normally had a powerfully rural or small-town foundation’ and ‘how rural the Germany of Hitler and Heidegger was’.[47] From the opposite perspective entirely, Zygmut Bauman argues that to treat the Nazi dictatorship and its dreadful consequences as an aspect of pre-modernity is in effect to avoid confronting our own culpability: ‘The Holocaust was born and executed in our modern rational society, at the high stage of civilization and the peak of human cultural achievement, and for this reason it is a problem of that society, civilization and culture.’[48]

Neither position captures what ‘combination’ actually meant in Germany – or indeed any of the other countries which underwent comparable trajectories. As Richard Evans has pointed out, despite all that has been written about its ‘supposed backwardness’ on the eve of the First World War, including ‘its alleged deficit of civic values, its arguably antiquated social structure, its seemingly craven middle class and its apparently neo-feudal aristocracy’, it was not regarded in this way by contemporary observers, not least because ‘Germany was the Continent’s wealthiest, most powerful and most advanced economy’. This did not mean that no tensions had been produced by the onset of capitalist modernity:

…beneath its prosperous and self-confident surface, the sheer pace of economic and social change was frightening and bewildering. Old values seemed to be disappearing in a welter of materialism and unbridled ambition. Modernist culture, from abstract painting to atonal music, added to the sense of disorientation… The old established hegemony of the Prussian landed aristocracy, which Bismarck had tried so hard to preserve, was undermined by the headlong rush of German society into the modern age. Bourgeois values, habits and modes of behaviour had triumphed in the upper and middle reaches of society by 1914; yet simultaneously they were being challenged by the growing self-assertion of the industrial working class, organized in the massive Social Democratic labour movement. Germany, unlike any other European country, had become a nation-state not before the industrial revolution, but at its height; and on the basis, not of a single state but of a federation of many different states whose German citizens were bound together principally by a common language, culture and ethnicity. Stresses and strains created by rapid industrialization interlocked with conflicting ideas about the nature of the German state and nation and their place in the larger context of Europe and the world. German society did not enter nationhood in 1871 in a wholly stable condition. It was riven with rapidly deepening internal conflicts which were increasingly exported into the unresolved tensions of the political system that Bismarck had created.[49]

One way of understanding the tensions within German society after 1871 is through the notion of ‘nonsynchronism’, first used by Ernest Bloch in 1932: ‘Germany in general…is, unlike England, and much less France, the classic land of non-synchronism, that is, of unsurmounted remnants of older economic being and consciousness.’ According to Bloch, this condition was ‘not dangerous to capitalism’:

on the contrary, capital uses that which is nonsynchronously contrary, if not indeed disparate, as a distraction from its own strictly present-day contradictions: it uses the antagonism of a still living past as a means of separation and struggle against the future that is dialectically giving birth to itself in the capitalist antagonisms.[50]

Non-synchronism and reactionary politics

We might say that ‘nonsynchronism’ is the form taken by uneven and combined development in situations where the state had already been restructured in the interests of capital, but where it was now threatened by the most modern force of all, a potentially revolutionary labour movement, which capital seeks to repulse by mobilising pre-emptive counter-revolution under the banner of a mythical past. We can see this in microcosm in the attitudes of the Japanese sociologist and film theorist, Yasunosuke Gonda, during the inter-war period, here discussed by Harootunian:

With Gonda and others, it was possible to understand how capitalism had led to the present, but what he feared most, and what his own vision of a mixed culture circulating elements from past and present, Japan and the West, revealed, was that continuous march of capitalism that would eventually eliminate unevenness – the culture of difference – for one of evenness, levelling, and the homogenizing of the cultural ground. It was this fear of ‘modern life’, as he and others were calling it in the 1930s, together with the representations of cultural form that led Gonda, and others, to embrace fascism. Gonda’s agenda aimed at halting the very process of deterritorialization that had led to the present conjuncture by transmuting that national consumer into the national community.[51]

The generally conservative or even reactionary politics of ‘non-synchronism’ suggest that what Trotsky called ‘debased adaptation’ is not only a feature of backward societies seeking to preserve themselves with the help of therapeutic inoculations of capitalist modernity. Trotsky saw it as a much more general phenomenon, necessarily caused by the need to maintain bourgeois hegemony over the exploited and oppressed in an era of revolution and which reached its apogee in the United States. In an address to the First All-Union Society of Friends of Radio in 1926 he warned of the counterrevolutionary possibilities of the technological form his listeners had come to celebrate:

It is considered unquestionable that technology and science undermine superstition. But the class character of society sets substantial limits here too. Take America. There, church sermons are broadcast by radio, which means that the radio is serving as a means of spreading prejudices.[52]

Once the notion of combined development was available to him, Trotsky saw this appropriation of advanced technology as the obverse of the ideological advances made by Russian and Chinese workers. ‘In America we have another kind of combined development. We have the most advanced industrial development together with the most backward – for all classes – ideology.’[53] In a striking passage in an essay of 1933 considering the nature of National Socialism (strikingly similar in many ways to the virtually contemporaneous work of Bloch), Trotsky commented on the persistence of archaic or at least pre-modern ideas, not only in Nazi Germany but also more generally across the developed world:

Today, not only in peasant homes but also in city skyscrapers, there lives alongside of the twentieth century the tenth or the thirteenth. A hundred million people use electricity and still believe in the magic power of signs and exorcisms. The Pope of Rome broadcasts over the radio about the miraculous transformation of water into wine. Movie stars go to mediums. Aviators who pilot miraculous mechanisms created by man’s genius wear amulets on their sweaters. What inexhaustible reserves they possess of darkness, ignorance and savagery![54]

These are not merely historical observations. As John Gray has written of the contemporary USA:

It has by far the most powerful fundamentalist movement of any advanced country. In no otherwise comparable land do politicians regularly invoke the name of Jesus. Nowhere else are there movements to expel Darwinism from public schools. In truth, the US is a less secular regime than Turkey.[55]

The political implications of this have become apparent at several points in US history, most recently in the religious element within the Tea Party and in (highly regionalised) support for Donald Trump which nevertheless – due to the vagaries of the US Electoral College – delivered him victory in the 2016 Presidential elections. The dominance of religion in public life is not, however, the key element of ‘debased adaptation’ in a US context. For there is a sense in which, more than Germany and Japan, more even than the UK, the US has sustained a pre-capitalist inheritance from its emergence as an independent state which persists to this day: the Constitution. In Bloch’s words this is not only ‘not dangerous to capitalism’, but positively beneficial for it. Daniel Lazare is exaggerating only slightly to describe the USA as ‘an eighteenth-century republic that has come to resemble a democracy in certain respects, but which at its core remains stubbornly anti-democratic’: ‘While the United States might look like a democracy and sometimes even act like one, it was fundamentally a holdover from the days when not even the most radical politicians believed that the people should be free to run the government as a whole.’[56]  This continuing element of archaism at the heart of the most-self-consciously ‘modern’ of societies should caution against claims that that there are no longer any forms pre-dating capitalist modernity with which it can combine, even in the West. But these considerations take us close to the present and will be fully addressed in Part 4 below; before turning to that discussion, however, we need to return to the country whose historical trajectory uneven and combined development was first intended to explain.

3.3.      Uneven and Combined Development in Russia after 1917: from Revolution to Counter-revolution

Russia continued to be marked by uneven and combined development immediately after the October revolution. In a letter to the first issue of the journal Under the Banner of Marxism in 1922, Trotsky wrote:

The Soviet state is a living contradiction of the old world, of its social order, of its personal relations, of its outlooks and beliefs. But at the same time the Soviet state itself is still full of contradictions, gaps, lack of coordination, vague fermentation – in a word, of phenomena in which the inheritance of the past is interwoven with the shoots of the future.[57]

These contradictions continued throughout the 1920s. On a slightly less exalted note than Trotsky, Walter Benjamin observed similar ‘interweaving’ during his visit to Moscow in 1926:

Here the newcomer learns perhaps most quickly of all to adapt himself to the curious tempo of this city and to the rhythm of its peasant population. And the complete interpenetration of technological and primitive modes life, this world-historical experiment in the new Russia, is illustrated in miniature by a streetcar ride.[58]

The Stalinist counter-revolution which began in 1928 transformed the Russian society described in these passages from one undergoing, with great difficulty, the transition to socialism, into something quite different: the first example of the integrated state capitalism that was after World War II to become the typical developmental form in the Global South.[59] This transformation heightened the fusion of archaic and contemporary forms to an unprecedented degree, above all by propelling millions of former peasants into the factories and cities. In England, it took three hundred and fifty years from the emergence of agrarian capitalism to the consolidation of industrialisation, years characterised by enclosure, clearance, repressive legislation and social degradation at home, and slavery, genocide and imperial conquest abroad. In Russia the process was even more greatly compressed than in Scotland, Germany or Japan, taking less than a tenth of the time it did in England, with the same processes magnified in intensity for every reduction in duration.

Despite the atrocities of Stalinism, (state-) capitalist modernity produced new forms of consciousness and perception among formerly agrarian peoples, in ways similar to the process in Western Europe, North America and Japan. During the early 1930s the Russian psychologist Alexander Luria undertook a number of studies of behaviour in Uzbekistan and Kirghizia, both areas of what was then Soviet Central Asia. These were areas where the economy was largely pre-capitalist and the majority of the population were illiterate. The first five-year plan provided for more intensive industrialisation of regions like Central Asia than in the USSR more generally. Accordingly: ‘Industrial production, and numbers of workers employed in industry, expanded more rapidly in Central Asia and Kazakhstan, and in the Urals and West Siberia, than in the rest of the USSR.’ Furthermore, this was from a lower level: ‘While 9.4 per cent of the Soviet population lived in these republics, they contained only 1.5 per cent of those employed in large-scale industry; and most industrial workers were Russians.’ By 1934 this had completely changed, with the number employed in large-scale industry nearly trebling from 53,000 to 158,000:

The increase in the working class in these areas took place against the background of the forcible transfer of a large part of Central Asian agriculture to the production of cotton, and the forcible settlement of the nomadic Kazakhs, many of whom died from starvation in the subsequent famine, or emigrated from Kazakhstan.[60]

Both regions were therefore experiencing what Luria later called ‘a radical restructuring of their socioeconomic system and culture’ as a result of Stalinist collectivisation and the industrialisation process. The economy was based on cotton, with some transhumant cattle-rearers who spent part of the year in the mountains. The population were dominated by Islam, in respect of whose tenets women were confined to their own quarters, from which they could only emerge if draped in the veil. ‘The radical changes in class structure were accompanied by new cultural shifts.’ These included the universalisation of literacy and numeracy, but also of agronomy. ‘As a result, people became acquainted not only with new fields of knowledge but also with new motives for action.’ These developments produced new forms of consciousness, in which ‘abstract’ rather than ‘situational’ thinking came to predominate, on the basis of new state capitalist social relations rather than those associated with those of petty commodity production. As Luria notes:

…sociohistorical shifts not only introduce new content into the mental world of human beings; they also create new forms of activity and new structures of cognitive functioning. They advance human consciousness to new levels. We now see the inaccuracy of the centuries-old notions in accordance with which the basic structures of perception, representation, reasoning, deduction, imagination, and self-awareness are fixed forms of spiritual life and remain unchanged under differing social conditions. The basic categories of human mental life can be understood as products of social history – they are subject to change when the basic forms of social practice are altered and are thus social in nature.[61]

Why then did these transformations not produce a revolutionary response similar to those which had erupted in 1905 and 1917? As we by now come to expect, a crucial aspect was the specific character of the emerging state – or perhaps it would be more accurate to say, a crucial aspect was the specific character of the personnel whose relationships constituted the state. Alex Callinicos has noted that the counter-revolution in Russia had four main components: forced collectivisation, rapid industrialisation, systematic coercion and – most important in the context of this discussion – the fact that ‘a minority of the population benefited from the changes it brought’: ‘the social meaning of the changes involved was upward mobility for a minority at a time when the mass of the population was experiencing an appalling decline in its material conditions’.[62] We tend to think of Stalinist Russia primarily as a totalitarian monolith but, near the top, social relations were also flexible enough to allow entry into the new ruling class and for its members to make sharp tactical shifts within what was in many respects a chaotic (and certainly not ‘planned’) accumulation process. As Mike Haynes points out:

The drive to industrialise Russia opened up new possibilities for people to find ‘room at the top’. New enterprises needed managers. So did hospitals, schools, universities and research institutes. The expanding party state needed new layers of senior administrators. Beneath them, intermediate layers of white collar workers, professionals, doctors, teachers and architects had to be filled out. … The fact that capitalism is always in movement creates some capacity for people to move up to the top. But the leap forward begun in Russia in the 1930s vastly expanded these opportunities.

Haynes argues against regarding the ruling class as wholly new, rather: ‘The rapid changes opened up possibilities for mobility alongside those who had already established themselves before 1928.’[63] At least some talented and potentially rebellious people were elevated into a new ruling class which regarded itself – for the most part quite sincerely at this stage – as a revolutionary force in Russian society; but precisely because ‘Marxism’ was the official doctrine of the state, it was unavailable to the overwhelming majority of the new, urbanised working class as a doctrine of resistance, let alone of revolution, in the way it had for an earlier generation of workers facing the Tsarist state.

The obstacles to revolutionary consciousness were not purely ideological. Moshe Lewin explains some of the reasons why the ‘social cleavages did not turn into political ones’:

Repression and terror alone could not explain the phenomenon. Factors like the cultural level, the relatively short industrial experience of the bulk of the employees (and the upward social mobility for many in the system), the existence inside the working class of large unintegrated segments of newcomers, women, youth, a kind of worker’s aristocracy, too, as well as a large differentiation span, all those explain social tensions, crude language, vodka and hooliganism, tekuchka [i.e. ‘spontaneous mobility of manpower’] and dirt, but may also serve as an explanation for the lack of any direct political challenge to the regime. Such a mass was probably difficult to rule – but easy to control…[64]

Control was partly exercised by the ways in which the processes of urbanisation and industrialisation were instituted, which was quite different to the pre-1917 period. In relation to urbanisation, the parallels are not so much with the recent growth of mega-cities in the contemporary Global South (which will be discussed in Part 4 of this article) but somewhere rather more unexpected.

At the conclusion of her comparison of industrial cities in the USA and USSR, Kate Brown points out that both states were centrally concerned to suppress the resistance of workers to the dictates of capitalist industrialisation, ‘to fix social relations in place’:

…despite the fact that both the United States and Soviet Union were founded on revolution and grew through rapid urbanization, leaders in both countries distrusted the revolutionary and spontaneous quality of urban space and worked to destroy it. With straight lines and the force of the grid, Soviet and American leaders planned new ‘garden cities’ cut through with wide, rebellion-proof avenues, which negated the unpredictability and anarchy of nineteenth-century cities. As a result, both expanding American corporate power and expanding Soviet party-state power etched an anti-revolutionary conservatism onto twentieth-century urban scapes.[65]

Nor were workplaces themselves conducive to the type of organisation which had been characteristic, above all in engineering, before 1917. Here too there were ironic parallels with Russia’s Cold War rival:

Before 1917…there was a high concentration of labour in Russian plants and this helped forge solidarity. But workers then, even under Tsarist repression, had more chance of independent organisations. After 1928 the larger plants operated more like company towns, fiefdoms of the plant managers, which gave them a degree of authority not only over workers in the workplace but outside it as well.[66]

It is in this context that Stalinist Russia’s own versions of ‘debased adaptation’ and ‘non-synchronicity’ emerged. As Smith writes, ‘once the project of achieving Communist modernity got underway, it quickly became apparent that a side-effect of massive social and economic transformation was to revitalize many “neo-traditional” practices and representations’, including ‘the emergence of a charismatic leader, the revival of clientism as a principle of social organization, and reconstitution of social hierarchies more akin to status groups than to modern social classes’.[67] The retreat to pre-existing ideologies was inscribed into the Stalinist experience from the Russian point of origin during the late 1920s, as a form of consolation for a population being subjected to otherwise unendurable social convulsions, both terrorized into submission and mobilized into production for a process of breakneck industrialization. Lewin points out: ‘Institutions and methods which seemed to be entirely new, after deeper insight show the often quite astonishing reemergence of many old traits and forms.’ Not least of these was the reproduction, the recreation in secular form, of the iconography and values of Russian Orthodoxy:

One telling example of extolling some of the more primitive trends of rural society when state interests seemed to have warranted it, and offering it as a value for the whole nation, is the policy in regard to the family undertaken in the 1930s. …it was clearly the large, archaic rural family, with its high demands on the reproductive faculties of women, authoritarian structure, and apparently solid moral stability, that was presented as a model. … The ‘crusaders’ themselves got trapped in some of the least modern, most orthodox, and most nationalist elements in their tradition, now put to use as ingredients of a renewed worship of the state and its interests.[68]

In cultural terms these regressions are far from the defiant modernism which had characterised the revolutionary years and, not unexpectedly, the consolidation of the Stalinist regime within the USSR saw the institutionalisation of anti-modernism as state policy. John Berger traces the implications for the artists involved:

For a few years after 1921 the condition of Russian art was the very antithesis of that which had preceded it for nearly two centuries. ‘We have taken the Bastille of the Academy’, claimed the students. For a few years artists served the State on their own initiative in a context of maximum freedom. Soon a very similar academicism was to be re-imposed. … They had to abandon their total prophetic claims and resign themselves to becoming good workers in a single productive sector.[69]

This was new form of ‘academic naturalism’ which had, as Macintyre points out, ‘appeared in other times and places and notably in Victorian England, another society dominated by a technically oriented, sexually conservative bourgeoisie’.[70] This is of course an aspect of a wider conservatism shared by British and Soviet societies.[71] It is worth noting, in this connection, that it was not only in Stalinist Russia, but in Fascist Germany that ‘a restoration of former bourgeois cultural forms and relations is instituted’ during the 1930s.[72]

Needless to say the levels of mobilisation associated with break-neck industrialisation could not be sustained for decades on end – but then, they did not need to be. Even before Stalin’s death in 1953 the processes of industrialisation and, to a large extent, urbanisation were essentially complete, and the regime stabilised. Looking back from the nineteen sixties, MacIntyre imagined what Trotsky’s response would have been: ‘The liberalization of Khrushchev would have appeared to him as parallel to the liberalisation which has developed in other capitalisms once primitive accumulation has been accomplished.’[73] We cannot know what Trotsky would have thought, but this assessment of the shift involved is accurate enough. The relaxation of state repression went hand-in-hand with modest but real improvements in levels of consumption and standards of living more generally, although these were still shadowed by developments in the West, they were by now clearly moving in the same direction.[74] The most familiar image we have of the USSR is as it was at the very end – decaying, hollowed-out and in full disintegration. It is therefore easy to forget that, even as late as the 1970s, serious figures in the West expected it to match or overtake living standards in the USA by early in the twenty-first century.[75] By the time these predictions were being made, however, the era of uneven and combined development in Russian history was long over: it had become at least as much an exemplar of capitalist modernity as its Cold War rival.


[1] Godwin Smith, Reminiscences, edited by Arnold Haultain (London: Macmillan, 1911), pp. 1, 4.

[2] Giovanni Arrighi, The Long Nineteenth Century: Money, Power, and the Origins of Our Times (London: Verso, 1994), pp. 36-47.

[3] Karl Marx [1867], Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, vol. 1 (Harmondsworth: Penguin/New Left Review, 1976), pp. 915-916.

[4] Joyce Appleby, The Relentless Revolution: A History of Capitalism (New York: W. W. Norton, 2010), p. 83.

[5] Edward P. Thompson, ‘Introduction: Culture and Custom’, in Customs in Common (London: Merlin Press, 1991), p. 9.

[6] Charles Post [1995], ‘The Agrarian Origins of US Capitalism: The Transformation of the Northern Countryside before the Civil War’, in The Agrarian Road to Capitalism: Studies in Class-Structure, Economic Development and Political Conflict, 1620-1877 (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 2011), pp. 98-99.

[7] Steve Fraser, The Age of Acquiescence: The Life and Death of American Resistance to Organized Wealth and Power (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2015), pp. 88-144

[8] Sydney Pollard, The Genesis of Modern Management: A Study of the Industrial Revolution in Britain (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1965), p 190; the quotes within this passage are from Werner Sombart’s Modern Capitalism.

[9] Frederick Engels [1845], The Condition of the Working-Class in England: From Personal Observations and Authentic Sources, in Collected Works, vol. 4 (London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1975), p. 308.

[10] Ibid, p. 364.

[11] Edward P. Thompson [1963], The Making of the English Working Class (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1980, p. 486.

[12] Craig Calhoun, The Question of Class Struggle: Social Foundations of Popular Radicalism during the Industrial Revolution (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982), p. 52.

[13] Edward P. Thompson ‘The Peculiarities of the English’, in The Socialist Register 1965, edited by Ralph Miliband and John Saville (London: Merlin Press, 1965), pp. 312-313.

[14] Nikolaus Pevsner, The Englishness of English Art (London: The Architectural Press, 1956), pp. 18, 152.

[15] Clement Greenberg [1955], ‘”American-Style” Painting’, in The Collected Essays and Criticism, vol. 3, Affirmations and Refusals, 1950-1956, edited by John O’Brian (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993), p. 229.

[16] Paul Wood, ‘The Avant-Garde from the July Monarchy to the Second Empire’, in The Challenge of the Avant-Garde, edited by Paul Wood (New Haven: Yale University Press in association with The Open University, 1999), pp. 42-43.

[17] Steve Edwards, ‘Victorian Britain: From Images of Modernity to the Modernity of Images’, in Art and Visual Culture, 1850-2012: Modernity to Globalisation, edited by Steve Edwards and Paul Wood (Milton Keynes: Tate Publishing in association with The Open University, 2012), p. 60. Edwards specifically refers to uneven and combined development in his introduction to this multi-authored collection. See ‘Introduction: Stories of Modern Art’, in Art and Visual Culture, p. 9.

[18] Wyndham Lewis [1932], Blasting and Bombardiering: An Autobiography (London: John Calder, 1982), p. 34.

[19] Alasdair MacIntyre [1961], ‘Culture and Revolution’, in Alasdair Macintyre’s Engagement with Marxism: Selected Writings, 1953-1974, edited by Paul Blackledge and Neil Davidson (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 2008), p. 178.

[20] William Morris [1890]. News from Nowhere: Or an Epoch of Rest, Being some Chapters from a Utopian Romance (London: Longman, Green, 1920), p. 198.

[21] Raymond Williams, Politics and Letters: Interviews with New Left Review (London: Verso, 1979), pp. 128-129.

[22] Malcolm Bradbury, ‘London: 1890-1920’, in Modernism, edited by Malcolm Bradbury and James McFarlane (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1976), 178-179 and pp. 172-179 more generally.

[23] Neil Davidson, How Revolutionary Were the Bourgeois Revolutions? (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2012), pp. 563-64, 580-82.

[24] Perry Anderson,, ’Heirs of Gramsci’, New Left Review II/100 (July/August 2016), p. 92.

[25] Norman Stone, Europe Transformed, 1873-1999 (London: Fontana Books, 1983), pp. 18-19.

[26] Non-Marxists have also highlighted the significance of state forms for capital. Despite the business management terminology deployed by Darren Acemoglu and James Robinson (‘virtuous circles’, ‘positive feedback loops’), at the core of their discussion is a defensible argument about the adaptability of the British capitalist state. See Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty (New York: Random House, 2012), pp. 308-18.

[27] Sydney Pollard, ‘The Industrial Revolution – an Overview’, in The Industrial Revolution in National Context: Europe and the USA, edited by Mikuláš Teich and Roy Porter (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), p. 377.

[28] Jonathan Crary, 24/7: Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep (London: Verso, 2013), pp. 65-66.

[29] Calhoun, The Question of Class Struggle, pp.60-84, pp. 149-82; Michael Andrew Zmolek, Rethinking the Industrial Revolution: Five Centuries of Transition from Agrarian to Industrial Capitalism in England (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 2013), pp. 509-792.

[30] Leon D. Trotsky [1930–32], The History of the Russian Revolution (London: Pluto Press, 1977), p. 33.

[31] Gareth Stedman Jones [1971], Outcast London: A Study in the Relationships between Classes in Victorian Society (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1984), p. 346

[32] Robert Looker and David Coates, ‘The State and the Working Class in Nineteenth-century Europe’, in The Rise of the Modern State, edited by James Anderson (Brighton: Harvester, 1986), pp. 98-101, 112-13.

[33] Harry Harootunian, ‘Piercing the Present with the Past: Reflections on Massimiliano Tomba’s Marx’s Temporalities’, Historical Materialism 23, no. 4 (2015), p. 62; Marx, Capital, vol. 1, p. 91.

[34] Fredric Jameson, ‘Secondary Elaborations’, in Postmodernism, or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (London: Verso, 1991), p. 405; [1989], ‘Marxism and Postmodernism’, in The Cultural Turn: Selected Writings on the Postmodern, 1983-1998 (London: Verso, 1998), p. 44. See also Neil Davidson, ‘The Scottish Path to Capitalist Agriculture 3: The Enlightenment as the Theory and Practice of Improvement’, Journal of Agrarian Change, vol. 5, no. 1 (January 2005), pp. 29-36.

[35] Eric J. Hobsbawm, The Age of Empire, 1975-1914 (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1975), p. 196.

[36] Leon D. Trotsky [1925], ‘Where Is Britain Going?’, in Collected Writings and Speeches on Britain, vol. 2, edited by R. Chappell and Alan Clinton (London: New Park, 1974), p. 37.

[37] Neil Davidson, The Origins of Scottish Nationhood (London: Pluto Press, 2000), pp. 167-186; ‘Class Consciousness and National Consciousness in the Scottish General Strike of 1820’, in New Approaches to Socialist History, edited by Keith Flett and David Renton (Cheltenham: New Clarion Press, 2003).

[38] Ernest Mandel [1972], Late Capitalism (London: Verso, 1975), p. 87.

[39] Brian Kelly, ‘Materialism and the Persistence of Race in the Jim Crow South’, Historical Materialism, vol. 12, no. 2 (2004), p. 11

[40] Leon D. Trotsky [1938], ‘Revolution and War in China’, in Leon Trotsky on China, edited by Les Evans and Russell Block (New York: Monad Press, 1976), p. 66.

[41] Mark Elvin, ‘A Working Definition of Modernity’, Past and Present 113 (November 1986), p. 212.

[42] Christopher A. Bayly, The Birth of the Modern World: 1780-1914 (Oxford: Blackwell, 2004), p. 104.

[43] Michael Mann, ‘Ruling Class Strategies and Citizenship’, in States, Wars and Capitalism: Studies in Political Sociology (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988), p. 200.

[44] Leon D. Trotsky [1933], ‘Japan Heads for Disaster’, in Writings of Leon Trotsky [1932–33], edited by George Breitman and Sarah Lovell (New York: Pathfinder Books, 1972), p. 291.

[45] Vladimir I. Lenin [1905], ‘The Fall of Port Arthur’, in Collected Works, vol. 8, January–July 1905 (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1962), p. 52.

[46] Harry Harootunian, Overcome by Modernity: History, Culture, and Community in Interwar Japan (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000), pp. 3-4.

[47] Tom Nairn, ‘Reflections on Nationalist Disasters’, New Left Review I/230 (July/August 1998, p. 149, 151. I think Nairn is on firmer ground when he describes Germany, not as irredeemably backward, but as undergoing ‘a moment of rural-urban transition–“moment” here meaning not “instant” but a world-historical phase, possibly multi-generational in duration and yet with a determinable beginning and end’. See Ibid, pp. 151-152

[48] Zygmunt Bauman, Modernity and the Holocaust (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1989), p. x. Bauman’s argument is however convincing in so far as it directed against claims that fascism is unconnected to capitalism. See Neil Davidson [2013-14], ‘Right-Wing Social Movements as a Problem for Capital’, in Nation-States: Consciousness and Competition (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2016), pp. 259-269.

[49] Richard J. Evans, The Coming of the Third Reich (London: Allen Lane, 2003), pp. 19-21. See also, Alexander Anievas, Capital, the State and War: Class Conflict and Geopolitics in the Thirty Years’ Crisis, 1914-1945 (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2014), pp. 71-84, for a version of this argument which explicitly situates the German experience with the context of uneven and combined development.

[50] Ernst Bloch [1932], ‘Nonsynchronism and the Obligation to Its Dialectics’, New German Critique 11 (Spring 1977), p. 29, p. 32. See also Harootunian, Overcome by Modernity, p. 216 and S. A. Smith, Revolution and the People in Russia and China: A Comparative History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008), p. 18.

[51] Harootunian, Overcome by Modernity, pp. 165-66.

[52] Leon D. Trotsky [1926], ‘Radio, Science, Technology and Society’, in Problems of Everyday Life: Creating the Foundations for a New Society in Revolutionary Russia (New York: Pathfinder Books, 1973), p. 257.

[53] Leon D. Trotsky [1933], “Uneven and Combined Development and the Role of American Imperialism: Minutes of a Discussion,” Writings of Leon Trotsky [1932–33], edited by George Breitman and Sarah Lovell (New York: Pathfinder Books, 1972), p. 117.

[54] Leon D. Trotsky [1933], ‘What Is National Socialism?’, in The Struggle against Fascism in Germany (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1975), p. 413.

[55] John Gray, Al Qaeda and What It Means to be Modern (London: Faber and Faber, 2003), p. 23.

[56] Daniel Lazare, The Velvet Coup: The Constitution, the Supreme Court and the Decline of American Democracy (London: Verso, 2001), p. 9.

[57] Trotsky, ‘Radio, Science, Technology and Society’, p. 271.

[58] Walter Benjamin [1927]. ‘Moscow’, in Selected Writings, vol. 2, part 1, 1927–1930, edited by Michael W. Jennings, Howard Eiland, and Gary Smith (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2003), p. 32.

[59] Neil Davidson, ‘Is Social Revolution Still Possible in the Twenty-first Century?’, Journal of Contemporary Central and Eastern Europe, vol. 23, nos 2-3, Special Issue: 25 Years of Revolution: Comparing Revolt and Transition from Europe 1989 to the Arab World 2014 (2015), pp. 119-128.

[60] R. W. Davies, The Industrialisation of Soviet Russia, vol. 4, Crisis and Progress in the Soviet Economy, 1931-1933 (Houndmills: Macmillan, 1996), pp. 485-488.

[61] Alexander R. Luria, Cognitive Development: Its Cultural and Social Foundations, edited by Michael Cole (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1976), pp. 12-4, pp. 163-4.

[62] Alex Callinicos, The Revenge of History: Marxism and the East European Revolutions (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1991), pp. 34-35 and pp. 29-37 more generally.

[63] Michael Haynes, Russia: Class and Power, 1917–2000 (London: Bookmarks, 2002), pp. 143-144.

[64] Moshe Lewin [1982], ‘Social Relations inside Industry during the Prewar Five-Year Plans, 1928-1941’, in The Making of the Soviet System: Essays in the Social History of Interwar Russia (New York: Pantheon Books, 1985), p. 257

[65] Kate Brown, ‘Gridded Lives: Why Kazakhstan and Montana Are Nearly the Same Place’, American Historical Review, vol. 106, no. 1 (2001), pp. 46-47.

[66] Haynes, Russia, p. 174.

[67] Smith, Revolution and the People in Russia and China, p. 206.

[68] Moshe Lewin [1977], ‘The Social Background to Stalinism’, in The Making of the Soviet System, pp. 274, 275; and see pp. 274-276 more generally.

[69] John Berger, Art and Revolution: Ernst Neizvestny and the Role of the Artist in the U.S.S.R. (London: Writers and Readers, 1969), pp. 47-48.

[70] Alasdair MacIntyre, Marcuse (London: Fontana Books, 1970), p. 57.

[71] Nigel Harris [1968], Beliefs in Society: the Problem of Ideology (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1971), pp. 130-166.

[72] Esther Leslie, Walter Benjamin: Overpowering Conformism (London: Pluto Press, 2000), p. 101.

[73] Alasdair MacIntyre [1963], ‘Trotsky in Exile’, in Alasdair Macintyre’s Engagement with Marxism, p. 273.

[74] Haynes, Russia, pp. 179-182; Goran Therborn, European Modernity and Beyond: The Trajectory of European Societies, 1945-2000 (London: Sage Publications, 1995), pp. 133-146, 150-160.

[75] See, for example, Acemoglu and Robinson, Why Nations Fail, pp. 127-128.

leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s