Tag Archives: the international

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.



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