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Passive revolution: a universal concept with geographical seats

  • Chris Hesketh (a1)

In this article, I argue that Antonio Gramsci’s concept of passive revolution makes a foundational contribution to International Relations (IR), yet has been relatively under appreciated by the broader discipline. Within the Historical Sociology of International Relations, uneven and combined development has recently been postulated as a key trans-historical law that provides a social theory of the ‘international’. Drawing from, but moving beyond these debates, I will argue that passive revolution is a key conditioning factor of capitalist modernity. I will demonstrate how the concept of passive revolution is the element that explains the connection between the universal process of uneven development and the manner in which specific combinations occur within the capitalist era as geopolitical pressures, in tandem with domestic social forces become internalised into geographically specific state forms. It therefore offers a corrective to the frequently aspatial view that is found in much of the literature in IR regarding uneven and combined development. Additionally, passive revolution provides a more politicised understanding of the present as well as an important theoretical lesson in relation to what needs to be done to affect alternative trajectories of development.

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* Correspondence to: Chris Hesketh, Oxford Brookes University, Department of Social Sciences, 422a Gibbs Building, Gipsy Lane, Oxford, OX3 0BP. Author’s email:
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Review of International Studies
  • ISSN: 0260-2105
  • EISSN: 1469-9044
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