Historical materialism and late capitalist development
Ben Selwyn: Trotsky, Gerschenkron and the Political Economy of Late Capitalist Development / Mike Haynes: Rationality, Gerschenkron and the Soviet Model
Trotsky, Gerschenkron and the Political Economy of Late Capitalist Developmentby Ben Selwyn
The analysis of late capitalist development is often characterised as a battle between protagonists of market-led vs state-led development. For the latter position, the figure of Alexander Gerschenkron looms large, as one of the most significant theorists of state-led development under conditions of relative backwardness. The similarity between Gerschenkron’s analysis and that of Trotsky’s concept of uneven and combined development has often been commented upon, but rarely subject to closer comparison and scrutiny. This paper attempts to do so by focussing on, and comparing the following in the two author’s work: The nature of the world economy, imperialism and geo-politics; the role of the state in attempting catch-up development in the context of relative international backwardness; The role of domestic social classes in ‘shaping’ trajectories of late development; the disruptive effects of late development, and the potential for social upheavals and further, non-capitalist, transformations. In its comparison, this paper suggests how both authors, in many ways complement and strengthen each other’s work, but that ultimately, they represent very different trajectories of thinking about late development.
Rationality, Gerschenkron and the Soviet Modelby Mike Haynes
For several decades the Soviet model was deemed to be a rational model for development. However when growth rates declined in the 1970s the USSR ceased to be a model and with the collapse of the USSR the view developed that there was little to commend the growth process which had been based on what Alec Nove once called the 'law of comparative disadvantage'. This paper revisits that argument through a return to the work of Alexander Gerschenkron who, while not doubting the brutality or illogic in the system, nevertheless argued that given its aims there was a basic rationality. It argues that Gerschenkon's insights can be better incorporated into a radical critique than those accounts that argument that here was a socialist or a sui generis mode of production characterised by a lack of rationality. However the strengths of his account have to be offset against weaknesses both in his economic history and in the implications that may be mistakenly drawn for the development state today.