Immanuel Wallerstein

American sociologist and economic historian

Immanuel Wallerstein (September 28, 1930August 31, 2019) was an American sociologist, historical social scientist, and world-systems analyst.

Immanuel Wallerstein, 2008.

Quotes edit

  • In the sixteenth century, Europe was like a bucking bronco. The attempt of some groups to establish a world-economy based on a particular division of labor, to create national states in the core areas as politico-economic guarantors of this system, and to get the workers to pay not only the profits but the costs of maintaining the system was not easy. It was to Europe's credit that it was done, since without the thrust of the sixteenth century the modern world would not have been born and, for all its cruelties, it is better that it was born than that it had not been.
    It is also to Europe's credit that it was not easy, and particularly that it was not easy because the people who paid the short-run costs screamed lustily at the unfairness of it all. The peasants and workers in Poland and England and Brazil and Mexico were all rambunctious in their various ways. As R. H. Tawney says of the agrarian disturbances of sixteenth-century England: 'Such movements are a proof of blood and sinew and of a high and gallant spirit... Happy the nation whose people has not forgotten how to rebel.'
    The mark of the modern world is the imagination of its profiteers and the counter-assertiveness of the oppressed. Exploitation and the refusal to accept exploitation as either inevitable or just constitute the continuing antinomy of the modern era, joined together in a dialectic which has far from reached its climax in the twentieth century.
    • Wallerstein (1974) The Modern World-System, vol. I, p. 233.
  • And in the present we are all irremediably the products of our background, our training, our personality and social role, and the structured pressures within which we operate.
    • Wallerstein (1974) The modern world system capitalist agriculture and the origins of the European world economy in the sixteenth century. New York: Academic Press.
  • The past can be told as it truly is, not was. For recounting the past is a social act of the present done by men of the present and affecting the social system of the present.
    • Wallerstein (1974) The modern world system capitalist agriculture and the origins of the European world economy in the sixteenth century. New York: Academic Press.
  • The essential feature of a capitalist world-economy... is production for sale in a market in which the object is to realize the maximum profit is the essential feature of a capitalist world-economy. In such a system production is constantly expanded as long as further production is profitable, and men constantly innovate new ways of producing things that will expand the profit margin.
    • Wallerstein (1979) The Capitalist World-Economy. p. 15.
  • It is simply not true that capitalism as a historical system has represented progress over the various previous historical systems that it destroyed or transformed. Even as I write this, I feel the tremour that accompanies the sense of blasphemy. I fear the wrath of the gods, for I have been moulded in the same ideological forge as all my compeers and have worshipped at the same shrines.
    • Wallerstein (1995) Historical Capitalism, with Capitalist Civilization. London: Verso. p. 98.
  • [A world-system is] a system that is a world and which can be, most often has been, located in an area less than the entire globe. World-systems analysis argues that the units of social reality within which we operate, whose rules constrain us, are for the most part such world-systems (other than the now extinct, small mini-systems that once existed on the earth). World-system analysis argues that there have been thus far only two varieties of world-systems: world-economies and world empires. A world-empire (examples, the Roman Empire, Han China) are large bureaucratic structures with a single political center and an axial division of labor, but multiple cultures. A world-economy is a large axial division of labor with multiple political centers and multiple cultures.
    • Immanuel Wallerstein (2004, p. 98), as cited in: Graham Scambler. Contemporary Theorists for Medical Sociology, 2012. p. 255

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