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Justin Rosenberg
Professor of International Relations (International Relations)
T: +44 (0)1273 877452 or +44 (0)1273 678892


My research is focused on the intersection of International Relations, History and Social Theory.

Initially this research took the form of using historical materialism to critique realist and liberal approaches in IR (in The Empire of Civil Society, and The Follies of Globalisation Theory respectively). However, in recent years, the emphasis has been reversed: my work now analyses the significance of ‘the international’ for social theory and historical change. At a deep theoretical level, I believe, the international dimension was neglected by classical social theory – a neglect with major intellectual and political consequences for progressive thought, and whose effects can still be seen today in the prevalence of unlinear, Eurocentric, and ‘methodologically nationalist’ understandings of social change.

Leon Trotsky’s idea of ‘uneven and combined development’ (U&CD) comprises a uniquely rich solution to this problem: it involves not just a claim about the impact of the international on social change but also, and much more radically, a social theory of the international itself.

I first tried to tackle this theme in the 1995 Deutscher Memorial Lecture (1996 - see my Publications List) and have returned to it in a series of articles since 2005. These articles have:

• Used U&CD to analyse the ‘globalisation’ moment of world politics in the 1990s (2005);

• Extended the theory from an insight about capitalist development in particular into a claim about world history in general (2006);

• Explored how U&CD provides the sociological formula of ‘the international’ as a general abstraction (and hence the ‘higher bullshit’ of IR as a discipline) (2007);

• Debated its implications for Marxist thought (2008)

• Explored the significance of unevenness and combination for the original prehistoric emergence of an ‘international’ dimension in human development (2010);

• Used U&CD to take up Kenneth Waltz’s famous challenge to non-realist IR theories, including an application to the debate on the origins of the First World War (2013);

• Analysed its relation to Marxist dialectics in order to pin-point its original contribution to social theory (2013).


As of the end of 2014, my current work on U&CD includes:

• A longer-term project to write a monograph on the subject

• Two papers for a collaborative project between Sussex and Cornell Universities on ‘The Current Conjuncture in World Affairs’ (one on the changing shape of the world economy, and the other on the current moment in world politics)

• A contribution to an edited volume on the potential of U&CD for literary studies.

At Sussex I co-convene a working group on U&CD, whose website provides numerous resources for thinking about the idea. See: 


Areas of research supervision:

International Theory; World History; Uneven and Combined Development; General Social Theories of Modernity, especially Marx and Weber; the Historical Development of the International System, Marxism and International Relations.

For information about the Sussex Working Group on Uneven and Combined Development, please see