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Capitalism, Jacobinism and International Relations: Rethinking ‘Modernity’ in the Middle East

Monday 29 April 2019
Cleveringaplaats 1
2311 BD Leiden
Lipsius 148

Debates over ‘modernity’ have been central to the development of historical-sociology and political-economy approaches to IR. These humanities-based approaches to IR (HBIR) have come a long way in undermining ‘unilinear’ conceptions of the origins and expansion of the modern international order.  Yet, this paper argues that HBIR has not proceeded far enough in successfully remedying the problem of unilinearism. The problem remains that historical narratives, informed by HBIR, tend to transhistoricise capitalism, which, in turn, obscures the fundamental heterogeneity of diverging paths to modernity both within and beyond western Europe. Departing from such transhistorical conceptions, the paper first advances a radical re-interpretation of the French Revolution as a non-capitalist (and non-socialist) path to modernity. My argument is that the revolutionary/Napoleonic years in France not only introduced novelties associated with the so called ‘political modernity’ such as the Bureaucratic State, Nationalism and exclusive territoriality, but also entailed a regime of political-economy and property-relations radically different from capitalism. I call this new political economy as Jacobinism. Then I utilise this reinterpretation to provide a new reading of the Ottoman/Turkish path to modernity (1839–1945). Such a historical critique and reconstruction will not only highlight the significance of Jacobinism for a more accurate theorisation of the origin and development of the modern international order, but also provide new insights into the nature of state formation, nation building and economic development in the Middle East.


Eren Duzgun (PhD, York) is a lecturer of International Relations at the Institute of History. His work has been published in the European Journal of International Relations, the Review of International Studies, the Journal of International Relations and Development, the Review of Radical Political Economy and the European Journal of Sociology, among other scholarly outlets. Also, he is in the process of turning his doctoral dissertation into a book.

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