Political Groundhog Day
BSSB.BE Marcelo Javier Neira Navarro 24.09.2018
* Wallerstein suggests as strategic measures along the way to the latter an updated emancipatory socialist alternative
Immanuel Wallerstein, speaking in the video at the Progress Paradox Conference, is a founder of the ‘world-systems analysis’ school of thought. World-systems analysis is an attempt to offer a historical materialist summary of the 20th century and highlight potential possibilities for future revolutionary struggle. Wallerstein’s recent text, World-Systems Analysis: An Introduction, will be part of the curriculum of the Marxist Political Economy 3200 course at People’s Liberation University. As always, posting here does not imply endorsement or affiliation but is for critical discussion.
Outside of the four volumes comprising his major contribution to historical sociology, Wallerstein has focused particular attention on the changes within the world-system since the 1960s and the prospects that might lie ahead, and I will spend a moment here outlining, again, in broad brushstrokes, his major theses.
- First, Wallerstein (2000c) charges that the world-economy has, since the late 1960s, entered into another B-phase of stagnation and chaos, an ‘age of transition’. A central part of this is that, from around this point, we have been witnessing the unstoppable demise of America as world hegemon, and the jockeying for position of a number of core and semiperipheral countries – ours, then, is a time of relative destructuring and multipolarity within the world-system (Wallerstein, 2002b, 2003a, 2003b, 2006a).
- Even the demise of America’s Cold War rival is viewed by Wallerstein (2006a) as only hastening this decline. In this period, we have also seen the demise of the anti-systemic movements, especially after a period of their remarkable success (construction of welfare states, decolonization and indigenization of personnel, and socialization of the means of production and planned economies) from 1945–68 (Arrighi et al., 1989).
- In particular, the world-revolution of 1968 offered these movements a number of fundamental challenges from which they have not recovered: charges that they had not transformed life as they had promised, that they had been co-opted and themselves become agents of oppression and exploitation, and that they had left certain crucial people out (Amin et al., 1990; Arrighi et al., 1989; Wallerstein, 1991a, 1991b, 2002a, 2010a).
In a similar vein, from that second world-revolution, we have also seen the steady decline of liberalism as governing geoculture – the end of developmentalism, the rise of neo-liberalism and the Washington Consensus, a loss of faith in the state and, for the first time since the arrival of the world-economy, a decline in state power (Wallerstein, 1995, 2005a).
Alongside and connected to this, we see fundamental shifts in the realm of knowledge structures, with a number of crucial challenges to science in general and to the social sciences in particular, a veritable ‘crisis in the sciences’ (Wallerstein, 1991a: 113): complexity analyses, cultural studies, post-modern thought, feminism; questioning of the ideas of ‘laws’ of science, linearity, rationality, progress, inevitability, and Eurocentrism; interrogations of our common assumptions about time (Wallerstein, 1991a, 1991b, 1995, 1997, 1998, 1999b, 2000b, 2004b).
Here, for some time, Wallerstein (1999b, 2000a, 2000b) has been calling for a re-organization of the sciences, and urging an acknowledgement of and commitment to the ineradicable intertwining of reflections on the good, the true, and the beautiful. In terms of the future prospects of the world-system, Wallerstein has tended to be, as Chase-Dunn and Inoue (2011: 407) suggest, ‘apocalyptic and … millenarian’, boldly predicting that a number of secular trends are reaching asymptotes that are exacerbating the crisis tendencies of the system.
These include the deruralization of the world, and the impossibility Downloaded from crs.sagepub.com at Koc University on December 24, 2014 el-Ojeili 7 of running away from growing workers’ power; the growing cost of inputs – for instance, ecological exhaustion, with Wallerstein (2011c) emphasizing present environmental chaos and the possibility of future ‘supercalamities’; the rising infrastructure bill; and the burdensome costs associated with growing democratization (health, education, and guaranteed life-time income) (Wallerstein, 2000a, 2005a).
In a number of articles, Wallerstein (2000c) has suggested that a bifurcation out of our transitional age is likely in the next 25–50 years, demanding a species of reflection he designates ‘utopistics’.6 The likely paths into the future are designated ‘the spirit of Davos’ or ‘the spirit of Porto Alegre’.
Wallerstein suggests as strategic measures along the way to the latter an updated emancipatory socialist alternative, the establishment of de-commodified economic structures, defensive electoral tactics, a move beyond the old two-step strategy and democratic centralism as modes of oppositional organization, towards open debate, anti-racism, and ‘forcing the pace of liberalism’ (1998, 2000c, 2002a, 2002b: 20, 2004a).
- The publication is not an editorial. It reflects solely the point of view and argumentation of the author. The publication is presented in the presentation. Start in the previous issue. The original is available at: Marcelo Javier Neira Navarro: Marcelo Javier Neira Navarro