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I am breaking  out of the series "Reading Ramblings" in the Readers and Book Lovers Group with this diary because it needs wider exposure.  Whether it will get it or not is another question.  Those who have followed my series know that I have focused on systems ideas in a series of diaries building on a number of people's work, especially George Lakoff and Robert Rosen. Much of what I have been doing has been airing ideas that will come out in book form co-authored by Jim Coffman.  Jim just alerted me to these two links to Wallerstein and I went bonkers!  Immanuel Wallerstein and World-systems theory This man has so much of what we have been talking about and more.  It will be hard to give a short overview and tie it in to what I have been doing, but I will try.  Here's a start:  

Wallerstein rejects the notion of a "Third World", claiming there is only one world connected by a complex network of economic exchange relationships — i.e., a "world-economy" or "world-system" in which the "dichotomy of capital and labor" and the endless "accumulation of capital" by competing agents (historically including but not limited to nation-states) account for frictions. This approach is known as the World Systems Theory.
Wallerstein locates the origin of the "modern world-system" in 16th-century Western Europe and the Americas. An initially only slight advance in capital accumulation in Britain, the Dutch Republic and France, due to specific political circumstances at the end of the period of feudalism, set in motion a process of gradual expansion. As a result only one global network or system of economic exchange exists. By the 19th century, virtually every area on earth was incorporated into the capitalist world-economy.
The capitalist world-system is far from homogeneous in cultural, political and economic terms — instead characterized by fundamental differences in social development, accumulation of political power and capital. Contrary to affirmative theories of modernization and capitalism, Wallerstein does not conceive of these differences as mere residues or irregularities that can and will be overcome as the system evolves.
A lasting division of the world in core, semi-periphery and periphery is an inherent feature of the world-system. Areas which have so far remained outside the reach of the world-system enter it at the stage of 'periphery'. There is a fundamental and institutionally stabilized 'division of labor' between core and periphery: while the core has a high level of technological development and manufactures complex products, the role of the periphery is to supply raw materials, agricultural products and cheap labor for the expanding agents of the core. Economic exchange between core and periphery takes place on unequal terms: the periphery is forced to sell its products at low prices but has to buy the core's products at comparatively high prices. This unequal state which once established tends to stabilize itself due to inherent, quasi-deterministic constraints. The statuses of core and periphery are not exclusive and fixed geographically; instead they are relative to each other: there is a zone called 'semi-periphery' which acts as a periphery to the core and a core to the periphery. At the end of the 20th century, this zone would comprise, Eastern Europe, China, Brazil or Mexico. Peripheral and core zones can also co-exist in the same place.
One effect of the expansion of the world-system is the commodification of things, including human labor. Natural resources, land, labor and human relationships are gradually being stripped of their "intrinsic" value and turned into commodities in a market which dictates their exchange value.
In the last two decades, Wallerstein has increasingly focused on the intellectual foundations of the modern world system, the 'structures of knowledge' defined by the disciplinary division between sociology, anthropology, political science, economics and the humanities and the pursuit of universal theories of human behavior. Wallerstein regards the structures of knowledge as Eurocentric. In analysing them, he has been highly influenced by the 'new sciences' of theorists like Ilya Prigogine.
Read on  below for more.

It is hard to imagine that so much of what we have concluded has already been so well thought out by this man.  His background is very interesting:

Wallerstein first became interested in world affairs as a teenager in New York City, and was particularly interested in the Indian independence movement at the time. He attended Columbia University, where he received a B.A. in 1951, an M.A. in 1954 and a PhD degree in 1959. He subsequently taught there until 1971, when he became professor of sociology at McGill University. In 1973 he was president of the African Studies Association. As of 1976, he served as distinguished professor of sociology at Binghamton University until his retirement in 1999, and as head of the Fernand Braudel Center for the Study of Economies, Historical Systems and Civilization at Binghamton University until 2005.
Wallerstein held several positions as visiting professor at universities worldwide, was awarded multiple honorary titles, intermittently served as Directeur d'études associé at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris, and was president of the International Sociological Association between 1994 and 1998.
During the 1990s he chaired the Gulbenkian Commission on the Restructuring of the Social Sciences. The object of the commission was to indicate a direction for social scientific inquiry for the next 50 years.
In 2000 he joined the Yale sociology department as Senior Research Scholar. He is also a member of the Advisory Editors Council of the Social Evolution & History journal. In 2003 he received the Career of Distinguished Scholarship Award from the American Sociological Association.
 One of the points I have been stressing in my series is the way knowledge has been fragmented by the complete domination of the Cartesian reductionist way of thought that is actually a world view and an epistemology that has limited us severely.  If you needed more evidence, the fact that this man's work is so well hidden is it.
World-systems theory stresses that the world-system (and not nation states) should be the basic unit of social analysis. World-system refers to the international division of labor, which divides the world into core countries, semi-periphery countries and the periphery countries. Core countries focus on higher skill, capital-intensive production, and the rest of the world focuses on low-skill, labor-intensive production and extraction of raw materials.This constantly reinforces the dominance of the core countries. Nonetheless, the system is dynamic, and individual states can gain or lose the core (semi-periphery, periphery) status over time. For a time, some countries become the world hegemon; throughout last few centuries, this status has passed from the Netherlands, to the United Kingdom and most recently, the United States.
The most well-known version of the world-system approach has been developed by Immanuel Wallerstein in 1970s and 1980s. Wallerstein traces the rise of the world system from the 15th century, when European feudal economy suffered a crisis and was transformed into a capitalist one. Europe (the West) utilized its advantages and gained control over most of the world economy, presiding over the development and spread of industrialization and capitalist economy, indirectly resulting in unequal development.
Wallerstein's project is frequently misunderstood as world-systems "theory," a term that he consistently rejects. For Wallerstein, world-systems analysis is above all a mode of analysis that aims to transcend the structures of knowledge inherited from the 19th century. This includes, especially, the divisions within the social sciences, and between the social sciences and history. For Wallerstein, then, world-systems analysis is a “knowledge movement” that seeks to discern the “totality of what has been paraded under the labels of the… human sciences and indeed well beyond." “We must invent new language,” Wallerstein insists, to transcend the illusions of the “three supposedly distinctive arenas” of society/economy/politics. This trinitarian structure of knowledge is grounded in another, even grander, modernist architecture – the alienation of biophysical worlds (including those within bodies) from social ones. “One question, therefore, is whether we will be able to justify something called social science in the twenty-first century as a separate sphere of knowledge.”
Significant work by many other scholars has been done since then.
I will hope that this material gets some attention.  I think it is an amazing dovetail with our work and indeed a revolutionary way of seeing today's world.  Please let me hear from you!

Originally posted to don mikulecky on Sat Apr 07, 2012 at 02:44 PM PDT.

Also republished by Systems Thinking, Anti-Capitalist Chat, and Postcapitalism.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (22+ / 0-)

    An idea is not responsible for who happens to be carrying it at the moment. It stands or falls on its own merits.

    by don mikulecky on Sat Apr 07, 2012 at 02:44:05 PM PDT

  •  This: (12+ / 0-)
    'One effect of the expansion of the world-system is the commodification of things, including human labor. Natural resources, land, labor and human relationships are gradually being stripped of their "intrinsic" value and turned into commodities in a market which dictates their exchange value.'
    . . . resonates with me. I'm dismayed by this trend in our society. Every private or government action is defined as "job creating" or "job killing." This commodification permeates our discourse.

    "The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now do you begin to understand me?" ~Orwell, "1984"

    by Lily O Lady on Sat Apr 07, 2012 at 04:01:56 PM PDT

  •  Interesting approach, (10+ / 0-)

    it's not exactly the informal scheme I've been using, but it's not incompatible with mine. For sure the system is global. It makes no sense to talk about the Wall St. Meltdown and the Euro Debt Crisis as separate issues. They're not. I've been thinking of it as Anglo-American financial hegemony.
    I'll ponder this awhile, the systems approach. Thanks for the diary.

    The GOP ... Government of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%

    by Azazello on Sat Apr 07, 2012 at 04:11:20 PM PDT

    •  Let us hear abour your approach please....n/t (7+ / 0-)

      An idea is not responsible for who happens to be carrying it at the moment. It stands or falls on its own merits.

      by don mikulecky on Sat Apr 07, 2012 at 04:31:22 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Check back here tomorrow. (5+ / 0-)

        I'm still reading, trying to figure things out. I'll share my thoughts, but it's Sat. night and I'm logging off soon.

        The GOP ... Government of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%

        by Azazello on Sat Apr 07, 2012 at 05:51:42 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  ty....................................n/t (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          AaronInSanDiego, Azazello

          An idea is not responsible for who happens to be carrying it at the moment. It stands or falls on its own merits.

          by don mikulecky on Sat Apr 07, 2012 at 07:37:58 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  OK then, here's where I'm at now. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            don mikulecky

            I'm not sure how much this will help because, as I said, I'm still trying to wrap my mind around things.

            1) We're in uncharted waters. We can look back and see antecedents, we can trace the development of the current state of affairs, the people and politics that made it possible etc. but deregulated, globalized finance is a product of the first decade of this century.

            2) Free money. I'm not a Paultard, I don't think we can eliminate the Federal Reserve, but much of what has gone wrong is due to the Fed flooding the world with money. The fed funds rate was dropped to zero at the beginning of the decade and left there, giving birth to huge pools of capital that now move around the planet without any accountability.

            3) Everything is a monopoly now. That sentence overstates the problem of monopoly only slightly. See Cornered: The New Monopoly Capitalism and the Economics of Destruction by Barry C. Lynn, John Wiley & Sons, 2010. Monopoly makes a mockery of anything claiming to be "free-market economics" and allows interconnected global elites to wage vicious class warfare on the rest of us.

            4) It's people. Mitt was right, sort of. Corporations and financial institutions are legal fictions but they operate to benefit people, a very small set of people. This is not a conspiracy theory. I'm not talking about some Bilderberg Group of Trilateral Commission. See Superclass: The Global Power Elite and the World They Are Making by David Rothkopf, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008. Consider the top .0001%, that's 1-in-a-million, roughly 7 thousand people worldwide. Only a thousand or so of these are billionaires, but they are all very powerful and they know each other. They eat at the same restaurants and see each other at Davos and other conferences. If a world ruled by 7 thousand people is not scary enough, consider that in any particular sector, oil for example, or finance, or military affairs, the major "players" may be as few as 30 or 40 people.

            5) The global elite thinks our standard-of-living is too high. They've seen the slums of Mumbai, Rio, Mexico City. What makes us, in the US or Western Europe think we deserve to live so well ? This article was in my Sunday paper this morning. In 2007, when asked by PBS lickspittle Carlie Rose about how Americans will fare under globalization, Bill Gates replied that, " the top 20% will be alright, the rest I'm not so sure about." I'll leave you with this quote from an article in The Atlantic entitled The Rise of the New Global Elite:

              I heard a similar sentiment from the Taiwanese-born, 30-something CFO of a U.S. Internet company. A gentle, unpretentious man who went from public school to Harvard, he's nonetheless not terribly sympathetic to the complaints of the American middle class. "We demand a higher paycheck than the rest of the world," he told me. "So if you're going to demand 10 times the paycheck, you need to deliver 10 times the value. It sounds harsh, but maybe people in the middle class need to decide to take a pay cut."
            Hope this helps.

            The GOP ... Government of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%

            by Azazello on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 01:30:09 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  Much food for thought. My appreciation. (5+ / 0-)
  •  I'd like to see a more detailed examination (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    don mikulecky, WarrenS, Unduna, linkage

    of modern China and Brazil in this frame.  And also Canada, perhaps.

    Where are we, now that we need us most?

    by Frank Knarf on Sat Apr 07, 2012 at 05:27:02 PM PDT

  •  The only reservation I have concerns "stability" (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    don mikulecky, WarrenS, linkage

    Conditions are always changing.  Societies have to evolve, or perish.  But, yes, the world is ever more interconnected.  A "sneeze" in the USA means a "cold" in South America, as they say south of the border.

  •  Very interesting. Thank you! nt (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    don mikulecky, Old Lefty

    "In all chaos there is a cosmos, in all disorder, a secret order." Carl Jung

    by Unduna on Sat Apr 07, 2012 at 06:46:23 PM PDT

  •  The ecosystem as an entity lives in the periphery (4+ / 0-)

    of the World System Wallerstein is conceptualizing. Thinking of our current system having developed into a world system matches up with what I am seeing. Our power relative to our living world has been growing so rapidly that a human system can develop globally and become one of the dominant process of the living world. The system however behaves as if it does not emerge from, is independent of and is not constrained by the ecosystem as a whole. This blind spot is a threat to the stability of the system. We see this in the human social sphere by the devaluing of local interests (union busting, austerity programs in response to the financial melt down and many more). The local is real and it is the foundation of the current world system.

    One effect of the expansion of the world-system is the commodification of things, including human labor. Natural resources, land, labor and human relationships are gradually being stripped of their "intrinsic" value and turned into commodities in a market which dictates their exchange value.
    This goes even deeper into a devaluation of the biological that does not result from a commercial process, our bodies and the living world as a whole.
    This trinitarian structure of knowledge is grounded in another, even grander, modernist architecture – the alienation of biophysical worlds (including those within bodies) from social ones.
    Thanks for bringing this to my attention, I had no idea this avenue of insight existed. When I first became interested in trying to figure out what was going wrong in my world I was desperate because I didn't see anyone dealing with the deep problems that I thought were so obvious. As I have kept at this I have indeed found a lot of people, you included, who are seeing the need to radically critique and then re-imagine our way of living in the world and with each other. Thanks again Don.

    Love = Awareness of mutually beneficial exchange across semi-permeable boundaries. Political and economic systems either amplify or inhibit Love.

    by Bob Guyer on Sat Apr 07, 2012 at 07:42:21 PM PDT

  •  The Cartesian problem (3+ / 0-)

    IMHO is the root of the issue. Three axes were sufficient to describe the then current Newtonian paradigm but are clearly inadequate now. This is a syncretic rather than reductive age, or it will be reduced to rubble, one or the other.

    Just getting a handle on the knobs and dials.... Hey, don't touch that!

    by Old Lefty on Sat Apr 07, 2012 at 07:46:32 PM PDT

  •  If reductionist division is overcome then what (4+ / 0-)

    On the mind body dualism level we can all do our own experiments and see how bridging that divide goes. Wallerstein is trying to overcome the destructive divisions he sees in the world of knowledge and I can imagine some things about how discussions, books and ideas of all kinds would change.

    I wonder how things would look if the center, semi-periphery and periphery became unstable and reorganized in a new system or set of interrelated systems? I don't think the periphery wouldn't just replace the center and invert the structure.

    Maybe the revenge of the periphery, in the form of Gaia, would reduce human power to the point that a world system would not exist and local systems would fill the human systems void left and use lower levels of power to meet human needs.

    Maybe the Center will contract and abandon the semi-periphery and the periphery  (seems sort of like a possible result of U.S. style capitalism) will become very large in numbers and weak in industrial power.

    Could there be a Center that abandons their position in favor of a radical re-visioning (moving beyond mind body dualism, reduction-ism etc.) of the relationship between  center, semi-periphery and periphery? What would change? In that case the power of the current center of the system would be used toward a different purpose that was not simply the replacement of the center by the periphery or semi-periphery. The purpose of human industrial power would then be directed toward the healthy functioning of the whole as best that could be understood. Accumulation for enlarging the power of the center would be abandoned for use of that same power to heal the damage of applying our power without regard to our overall health. This would take up most of the time and resources of a mind set conversion system change and give it focus for a couple of 100 years. What would come after that?

    Love = Awareness of mutually beneficial exchange across semi-permeable boundaries. Political and economic systems either amplify or inhibit Love.

    by Bob Guyer on Sat Apr 07, 2012 at 09:01:26 PM PDT

  •  don, you're a treasure (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    don mikulecky

    thanks for alerting us to this

    it's the understanding those of us who think have been reaching yet there's little enough written/disseminated about it

    now i know where to look, i'll be reading reading reading in this vein

  •  As always, more questions. Is there a need for (0+ / 0-)

    skepticism in approaching yet another quasi-neo-Maxist analytical framework?  Are technology, communications and cultural factors properly integrated with economics in this scheme?  What happens to the capital-labor dichotomy as labor share of output continues the historic decline?

    Much inspiring content to be sure, but Don started all this with a caution about models vs worlds.  We have been treated to the funeral notices of modern liberalism since shortly after its birth.  Is this time different?

    Where are we, now that we need us most?

    by Frank Knarf on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 08:34:01 AM PDT

    •  You seem to think in boxes! (0+ / 0-)
      another quasi-neo-Maxist analytical framework
      Your question is meaningless to me.  Why don't you deal with what he writes rather than your boxing of it?

      I have made what I think of what he wrote very clear.  What is it that you disagree with?

      An idea is not responsible for who happens to be carrying it at the moment. It stands or falls on its own merits.

      by don mikulecky on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 10:05:44 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I've been thinking about how to respond. (0+ / 0-)

        Your enthusiasm for Wallerstein's model is surprising to me, considering the content of your earlier diaries.  I see insight but also dogmatic constraints concerning concepts like surplus value.  He should give his lecture about the inabillty of modern capitalists to realize yield to the shareholders of Apple and Facebook.

        Of course I have prejudices, having spent far too much time slogging through Adorno, Marcuse and Althusser.  My idea of utopia is a world in which the last critique of liberalism is ancient history.

        Maybe this time really is the real crisis of late capitalism.  We'll see.

        Where are we, now that we need us most?

        by Frank Knarf on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 07:11:24 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  What you fail to see is that no one has it all (0+ / 0-)

          All of the people I have been citing have broken with the old paradigm and each brings something different to the new one.  Your boxes are meaningless in that context.

          An idea is not responsible for who happens to be carrying it at the moment. It stands or falls on its own merits.

          by don mikulecky on Fri Apr 13, 2012 at 01:08:20 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

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