Combination, Unevenness, and the Riddle of the International

Thanks to a tip, I’m directed to a new paper by Justin Rosenberg proposing “combined and uneven development” as the solution to the riddle of … well the riddle of history, to be sure, but not just that. Also the riddle of the international, or the

question of why ‘the international’ exists in the first place – why there are multiple societies (191)

The answer is “C&UD” (the initiates acronym), or

the intrinsically uneven character of socio-historical development per se. (193)

This encapsulates his idea:

multiplicity itself is seen as an expression of the intrinsic unevenness of historical development and change. (225)

I applaud Rosenberg’s willingness to raise basic questions. But, I am not convinced by his answer.

You can find “combined and uneven development” among ant colonies. If one colony’s population grows greater than the next’s (uneven development), it is then able to kill the smaller colony and take over its territory (combined).

Maybe C&UD could serve as a shorthand description of this, but it does not explain what is going on. It does not explain why there is “multiplicity” or “the international” ie many separate ant colonies that cooperate within the colony but compete with, and sometimes fight with, others.

Logically, unevenness could lead not to multiplicity but to unity: if one society got such an advantage that it took over all the rest. (Arguably the peculiar uneven and combined development of China and the steppe led to unity, not multiplicity, there.)

I have a better theory of “the international.” It’s a product of two ultimate factors: human evolution (especially group selection) and the peculiar social evolution of Europe. But I’ll save it for another time.


Rosenberg, Justin (2013) Kenneth Waltz and Leon Trotsky: Anarchy in the mirror of ‘uneven and combined development’. International Politics, 50 (2). pp. 183-230. doi:10.1057/ip.2013.6 I cannot see an ungated version. Gated version here.



Filed under Uncategorized

2 responses to “Combination, Unevenness, and the Riddle of the International

  1. I once read about an invasive ant species somewhere in California. I believe it was originally from Southern Cone in S. America, but I do not remember for sure. In its original environment the colonies engaged in intense competition with each other – each was slightly different ‘lineage’, and one could never get too big without encroaching on the territory of the others and getting killed for it. Because of this their impact on the environments around them was not too great – even other less aggressive ant species could survive in good measure, because these ants could never reach a size capable of dominating all the insect life around them.

    This seems to have changed in California. The invasive colony is all descended from one group, and as such, the various colonies do not attack each other. They have “super colonies” that did not exist back in S. America. An of course, because the super colonies were so much larger than anything else other ants in the area could form, these invasive ants aggressively destroyed other colonies it came in contact with.

    I suppose one could make an analogy with human societies.

    • One could make an analogy, but I would be the first to admit there are big differences. My ant analogy came from a short story by EO Wilson about a clash between two colonies: the Streamside and Trailhead.

Leave a Reply

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