The Post-Soviet Space and Uzbekistan in the International Division of Labour: From Transition to Capital Accumulation

The Post-Soviet Space and Uzbekistan in the International Division of Labour: From Transition to Capital Accumulation
This dissertation analyses the transformation in the political-economy of the post-Soviet space and Uzbekistan since 1991 as diverse national forms of the essential unity of global capital accumulation. Due to their integration into the International Division of Labour (IDL) as primary commodity producers, in line with other 'resource rich' countries of the Global South, the states of the former Soviet Union (FSU) exhibited the same qualitative forms of raw material export orientation and 'backward' capital accumulation, whereby small manufacturing capitals by international standards produce relatively expensive and substandard goods largely for the domestic market. Within this qualitative unity, the quantitative diversity between and within these states in the past three decades has resulted from the varying magnitude of ground-rent available on their territories, as encapsulated in the fluctuating international prices of their resource endowments. Ground-rent is the value incorporated in the price of primary commodities due to the need to pay a rent to the landlord for the use of land in their production. As such, land use changes following independence led to the expulsion of the mass of the people from said land in order to put it to use for capitalist production, turning this population into relative surplus for the requirements of accumulation, as extractive and 'backward' industries could only absorb a fraction thereof. All these dynamics have been evident in Uzbekistan, too, as it integrated into the IDL as a raw material exporter in line with the FSU and other 'resource rich' states of the Global South. Given the centrality and specificity of cotton production, the 'Uzbek model' mediated this form of incorporation with the state maintaining a relative 'centralisation' of economic activity to secure the input production, irrigation coordination, and labour mobilisation necessary to produce cotton for export. Changing material conditions in the country and the global market in the following decades, particularly cotton ceding pride of place to gold and natural gas as the key primary commodities for export, set the stage for the current series of 'liberalising' reforms. Throughout its independent history, however, Uzbekistan has exhibited the same qualitative forms of raw material export orientation and 'backward' capital accumulation as the FSU, as its balance of trade and developments in the country's car industry clearly demonstrate. In parallel, the majority of the population has been expelled from the land to shift its use from social reproduction to production for capital accumulation, turning this vast mass of people into relative surplus for the requirements of capital and giving rise to informality, poverty, and rural outmigration in the country. The ensuing splintering of the working class along in/formal, geographic, skill, and gender lines explain the largely localised and spontaneous forms of labour mobilisation to resist precarisation, with the authoritarian state using a host of repressive tools to diffuse protests and, at times of a perceived threat to the process of accumulation, crush them. In this context, while women have borne the brunt of informalisation and pauperisation, their work has become even more central to the reproduction of this relative surplus population; in turn, the escalating climate crisis on the back of growing raw material extraction/production has placed women at the centre of everyday resistance to capital, as land and resource use for accumulation risks precipitating a full-blown reproduction crisis specifically for the relative surplus population. Thus, as the foundational divide in capitalist society, class defines women's worsening material conditions as well as their, and the surplus population's, heightened vulnerability to climate change. The dissertation contributes to the scholarly literature in two ways. First, it explains the post-1991 transformation in the FSU and Uzbekistan beyond the transition literature's exceptionalisation of the region, accounting for these states' qualitative unity and quantitative diversity as national forms mediating the essential unity of global capital accumulation. Second, it builds on the rich empirical evidence from the FSU to contribute to a theorisation of 'uneven development' in the Global South, particularly in terms of the gender- and climate-related effects of capitalist transformation in relation to class. As such, the dissertation hopes to promote a new research agenda that studies the FSU region within the broader dynamics of uneven development in the global political economy.


Franco Galdini

Defended in

1 Jan 2021 – 31 Dec 2021

PhD defended at

The University of Manchester, School of Social Sciences, Department of Politics


Social Sciences


Global Asia (Asia and other parts of the World)
Central Asia


International Relations and Politics
Diasporas and Migration