“Uneven and Combined Cultures: The Temporal Ideologies of Modes of Production”

David Zeglen

Advisor: Paul Smith, PhD, Cultural Studies Program

Committee Members: Alison Landsberg, Peter Mandaville

Enterprise Hall, #400
July 08, 2022, 12:00 PM to 02:00 PM


The latest phase of capitalism has inaugurated a significant moment in human history: the entire world is now capitalist. Consequently, the primary way that capitalist societies have historically interacted with other societies – via economic exploitation such as the ongoing underdevelopment of Africa, and political domination such as America’s geopolitical escalation with China - is now virtually unchallenged. Determining whether these forms of intersocietal interaction are contemporary phenomena or universal throughout history has become central to social struggles for more egalitarian international relations between modern societies in recent years. My research considers how modern societies gradually developed cultural norms about how to interact with other societies as capitalism spread across the globe. Specifically, I examine the rise of the modern idea of history as “development” - the notion that history progressively unfolds as “backward” societies advance into higher and more “advanced” socio-economic stages, while receiving external assistance from other societies to develop through these stages, before culminating into a capitalist society. Through my historical investigations, I conclude that the idea of history as development only first emerges in Western Europe as capitalism gradually spread in the aftermath of the bourgeois revolutions in the Dutch Republic, England, Scotland, and France. I argue that contemporary international relations between societies is driven by this cultural conceptualization of time as “development” within nationalist discourses. This finding suggests that economic exploitation and imperialist domination is determined by a historically contingent cultural conceptualization of time that is implicated in this exploitative world system. Consequently, we can consider temporal alternatives to find more peaceful and socially just ways of negotiating interaction between different societies in the global community.