School of Global Studies

Research Projects

The Current Conjuncture in World Affairs

This is a joint research project, involving faculty from multiple departments on both sides of the partnership.  Its primary purpose is to re-assess the intellectual method of ‘conjunctural analysis’ so long associated with modern radical thought: can it still make sense of the deeply changed world we see around us today?

Project members are writing a series of articles designed to be published together as a journal special issue. These articles range across a wide variety of issue-areas including: the new shape of the world economy today, the changing rationale for austerity politics in the Eurozone, the role of gender ideologies in the 21st century development industry, the sources of conflict in the contemporary Middle East, the politics of Uneven and Combined Development and arguments for and against the continuing utility of ‘conjunctural analysis’. For more details, see the Project Rationale below.

Project Members

  • Justin Rosenberg, (Sussex, International Relations)
  • Fouad Makki, (Cornell, Development Sociology)
  • Andrea Cornwall, (Sussex, Anthropology)
  • Natalie Melas (Cornell, Comparative Literature)
  • Kamran Matin (Sussex, International Relations)
  • Enzo Traversi, (Cornell, Romance Studies)
  • Julian Germann, (Sussex, International Relations)
  • Phil McMichael, (Cornell, Development Sociology)
  • Chris Boyle, (UCL, International Political Economy)
  • Andrew Davenport, (Aberystwyth, International Politics)
  • Conall Cash, (Cornell, Romance Studies)

Project Rationale

How should we understand the current conjuncture in world affairs? At least since the 1970s, an old shape of the world has been relentlessly decomposing under the sign of ‘neoliberalism’. The general contours of this process are well known: the collapse of ‘communism’, the surge of industrialization in East Asia, deindustrialization and privatization in the West, the advent of the digital age, ‘financialization’, the Revolution in Military Affairs, and so on. This epochal change has surely scrambled much of the narrative that once framed radical accounts of modern history; but can we now move beyond visions of disintegration in order to discern the new shape of the world that is emerging? If capitalism is the prime mover of this transformation, then the world coming into being ought still to be explicable through the lens of Marx’s critical theory, and to be so across all its dimensions – economic, political and cultural. But does that lens itself need refocusing? Can the tradition of critical theory be supplemented and updated for changed times? Or are we now in a world in which fundamental political and social change, a post-capitalist future, has become unthinkable?

Jointly funded by the Polson Institute (Cornell) and the School of Global Studies (Sussex), this working group brings together like-minded scholars to plumb the current conjuncture from a variety of disciplinary perspectives. The purpose is to take the measure of the current moment: what exactly is the new combination of economic, political and cultural developments in which world affairs are now unfolding? What terms are needed in order to make sense of this moment and its defining dynamics? Ultimately, what are the demands – and contradictions – of thinking ‘the current conjuncture’ today?

Papers in Preparation Include:

Julian German:
Conjunctural Paralysis: Advanced Capitalist Unevenness and the Anatomy of German Austerity

Chris Boyle and Justin Rosenberg:
The Hieroglyphic of the World Economy

Fouad Makki and Justin Rosenberg:
The Politics of Uneven and Combined Development Today

Andrew Davenport:
A Critique of Conjunctural Analysis

Andrea Cornwall:
Beyond “Empowerment Lite”: Women’s Empowerment, Neoliberal Development and Global Justice

Kamran Matin:
The Middle Eastern Question: Conjunctural Lineages of the Current Crisis