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China Brexit Trump JHS submission - 27.10.18 SRO.pdf (525.66 kB)

Understanding 2016: China, Brexit and Trump in the history of uneven and combined development

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-06-09, 15:42 authored by Justin Rosenberg, Chris Boyle
This article uses the theory of uneven and combined development (U&CD) to produce a novel explanation of ‘Brexit and Trump’ – the two shock political events of 2016. The argument proceeds in three steps. First, we identify the global conjuncture of historical unevenness in which the votes occurred: how the neoliberal transformation of the advanced capitalist countries was synchronized with the radically different process of primitive accumulation in China. Second, we apply the theory of U&CD to this peculiar ‘simultaneity of the non-simultaneous’: the ‘big country’ effects of China's industrialization, we find, were thrice multiplied by its combination with the advanced sectors of the world economy, which accelerated China's take-off, brought forward its export phase, and widened its export profile at a moment of maximum openness in international trade. Finally, this produced the pattern of development that led to the events of 2016: the resultant trade shocks intensified the internal inequalities of British and American societies in ways that match the geography of the Leave and Trump votes. The analysis has a wider intellectual implication too, for the phenomena of historical unevenness and combination are intrinsic to the history of the global political economy; and the theory of U&CD therefore has a unique contribution to make to the field of International Political Economy.


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This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Rosenberg, Justin and Boyle, Chris (2019) Understanding 2016: China, Brexit and Trump in the history of uneven and combined development. Journal of Historical Sociology, 32 (1). pp. 32-58. ISSN 0952-1909, which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Use of Self-Archived Versions.

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