Freeing uneven and combined development from the whip of external necessity: toward a synthesis with Dussel’s liberation philosophy

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This article argues that while uneven and combined development (U&CD) scholars have made great contributions to theorising the causal implications of societal multiplicity, the overtly normative contributions of U&CD scholarship remain thin. To address this gap, I propose a synthesis between U&CD and Enrique Dussel’s normatively oriented liberation philosophy. To enable this, U&CD must be stripped of its more causally oriented concepts, like the ‘whip of external necessity', which constrains the scope of normative analysis by confining it to sovereign states. Incorporating Dussel’s liberation philosophy and its concept of exteriority into U&CD’s social ontology enables seeing beyond the states-system and allows for the inclusion of stateless peoples as entities and agents of global politics. This is demonstrated by applying the combined conceptual framework to the Chiapas Zapatista movement’s relation to the Mexican state.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages20
JournalCambridge Review of International Affairs
Publication statusPublished - 18 Dec 2020


  • Enrique Dussel
  • Leon Trosky
  • liberation philosophy
  • uneven and combined development
  • Zapatista
  • indigenous peoples
  • decolonial IR

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