[Marxism] Fwd: Crafting Passages from Marxism to Postcolonialism | Progress in Political Economy (PPE)

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Dec 7 08:28:24 MST 2015

(In Alf Nilsen's critique of Vivek Chibber, he refers to Trotsky's 
theory of combined and uneven development. As it turns out, this is 
exactly the same approach found in Alex Anievas and Kerem Nisancioglu's 
"How the West Came to Rule". For that matter, this was the same thing 
that struck me when I first looked into the Brenner thesis that seemed 
rooted in the CP-dominated British historians school that rested on 
"stagism" to one degree or another, particularly in Eric Hobsbawm. 
Unfortunately, Nilsen shares Anievas and Nisancioglu's tendency to use 
the word "ontology", a category that belongs to metaphysics rather than 
history in my view.)

One of the most important resources for the construction of a relational 
ontology for the study of the historical development of capitalism is 
arguably to be found in Justin Rosenberg’s reconstruction of Trotsky’s 
theory of uneven and combined development. Rosenberg starts from the 
assertion that unevenness and combination have to be thought of as 
intrinsic properties of sociohistorical development in general, rather 
than just a distinctive characteristic of capitalist development. This 
provides us with a grounding for thinking about how development in one 
social entity enters into the conditions of development of others in a 
way that is always already inextricably intertwined. This in turn rules 
out the idea that a given trajectory of development simply represents 
the unfolding of characteristics that are immanent and endogenous to a 
specific society and pushes us in the direction of an ontology that 
recognises the generative role played by interlocking relations that 
stretch across global space.


My own take written about 20 years ago:

All in all, Brenner's problem seems to be one of understanding 
transition. His schema seems to owe much to the sort of "stagism" that 
characterizes the intellectual milieu of the Analytical Marxism school, 
to which he has had a loose affiliation. Although Brenner, who is around 
sixty years old, has been involved with the American socialist formation 
Solidarity, it appears that he was not part of the Draperite current 
that helped to initiate it. Hal Draper, who broke with Max Shachtman, 
retained many ideas from the Trotskyist movement that Shachtman once 
belonged to. A key element of Trotskyist thought is combined and uneven 
development, which first appeared in Trotsky's analysis of the coming 
Russian Revolution.

As opposed to the narrow "stagist" conceptions of much of the Russian 
social democracy, Trotsky believed that Russian capitalism and 
precapitalist forms had a dialectical relationship to each other. Rather 
than seeing a revolutionary bourgeoisie in a life-and-death struggle 
against Czarist absolutism, Trotsky regarded the two as mutually 
reinforcing elements of a total system. That is why it would be a 
mistake to search for elements in the bourgeois parties that could 
reproduce the 1789 revolution Russian-style. It would be up to the 
peasants and workers to break with the feudal and capitalist past and 
create the only conditions for modernization and progress--the socialist 

full: http://www.columbia.edu/~lnp3/mydocs/origins/brenner_thesis.htm

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