The 'Law' of Uneven and Combined Development: Some Underdeveloped Thoughts

The 'Law' of Uneven and Combined Development: Some Underdeveloped Thoughts Th e ‘Law’ of Uneven and Combined Development: Some Underdeveloped Th oughts Marcel van der Linden Research Director, International Institute of Social History, and Professor of Social Movement History, University of Amsterdam. mvl@iisg.nl Abstract Th is paper presents a critical reconstruction of the main Marxist debates about the idea of ‘leaps forward’ in historical development. Th ere have been two important approaches: the so-called ‘law of uneven and combined development’, as developed by Leon Trotsky, George Novack and Ernest Mandel, and Jan Romein’s ‘handicap of a head start’. Although Romein’s approach is Stalinist in origin, elements of it are compatible with Trotsky’s interpretation. But, even an expanded version of the ‘law’ of uneven and combined development lacks predictive value, although one can say with certainty in hindsight whether a combined development has taken place. It is argued that the ‘law’ is, in fact, an underspecified social mechanism and that its explanatory power can be increased by identifying a number of recurrent patterns. Keywords uneven development, combined development, diffusion, Trotsky, Novack, Romein One feels a little foolish in proclaiming a scientific law inasmuch as it is done so frequently as a form of humor. Elman Service 1 Th e http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Historical Materialism Brill

The 'Law' of Uneven and Combined Development: Some Underdeveloped Thoughts

Historical Materialism, Volume 15 (1): 145 – Jan 1, 2007

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Publisher
Brill
Copyright
© 2007 Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands
ISSN
1465-4466
eISSN
1569-206X
D.O.I.
10.1163/156920607X171627
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Th e ‘Law’ of Uneven and Combined Development: Some Underdeveloped Th oughts Marcel van der Linden Research Director, International Institute of Social History, and Professor of Social Movement History, University of Amsterdam. mvl@iisg.nl Abstract Th is paper presents a critical reconstruction of the main Marxist debates about the idea of ‘leaps forward’ in historical development. Th ere have been two important approaches: the so-called ‘law of uneven and combined development’, as developed by Leon Trotsky, George Novack and Ernest Mandel, and Jan Romein’s ‘handicap of a head start’. Although Romein’s approach is Stalinist in origin, elements of it are compatible with Trotsky’s interpretation. But, even an expanded version of the ‘law’ of uneven and combined development lacks predictive value, although one can say with certainty in hindsight whether a combined development has taken place. It is argued that the ‘law’ is, in fact, an underspecified social mechanism and that its explanatory power can be increased by identifying a number of recurrent patterns. Keywords uneven development, combined development, diffusion, Trotsky, Novack, Romein One feels a little foolish in proclaiming a scientific law inasmuch as it is done so frequently as a form of humor. Elman Service 1 Th e

Journal

Historical MaterialismBrill

Published: Jan 1, 2007

Keywords: COMBINED DEVELOPMENT; DIFFUSION; NOVACK; UNEVEN DEVELOPMENT; ROMEIN; TROTSKY

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