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World-systems Analysis: An Introduction (A John Hope Franklin Center Book) [Paperback]

Immanuel Wallerstein
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
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Book Description

10 Dec 2004 A John Hope Franklin Center Book
In World-Systems Analysis, Immanuel Wallerstein provides a concise, accessible, and comprehensive introduction to the revolutionary approach to understanding the history and development of the modern world that he pioneered thirty years ago. Since Wallerstein first developed world-systems analysis, it has become a widely utilized methodology within the historical social sciences and a common point of reference within discussions of global processes. Now, for the first time in one volume, Wallerstein offers a succinct summary of world-systems analysis and a clear outline of the modern world-system, describing the structures of knowledge upon which it is based, its mechanisms, and its future. Intended for general readers, students, and experienced practitioners alike, this book presents the definitive overview of world-systems analysis by its original architect. Wallerstein explains the defining characteristics of world-systems analysis: its emphasis on world-systems rather than nation-states, insistence on the need to consider historical processes as they unfold over long periods of time, and demand that bodies of knowledge usually viewed as distinct from one another--such as history, political science, economics, and sociology--be combined and considered within a single analytical framework. He describes the world-system as a social reality comprised of interconnected nations, firms, households, classes, and identity groups of all kinds. He identifies and highlights the significance of the key moments in the evolution of the modern world-system: the development of a global capitalist economy in the sixteenth-century, the beginning of two centuries of liberal centrism in the French Revolution of 1789, and the undermining of that centrism in the global revolts of 1968, which triggered a terminal structural crisis within the modern world-system.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Duke University Press (10 Dec 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0822334429
  • ISBN-13: 978-0822334422
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 15.1 x 1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 150,876 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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"At a time when globalization is at the center of international debate from Davos to Porto Alegre, an introduction to 'world-systems analysis,' an original approach to world development since the sixteenth century, is timely and relevant. This is a lucidly written and comprehensive treatment of its origins, controversies, and development by Immanuel Wallerstein, its undoubted pioneer and most eminent practitioner."--Eric Hobsbawm, author of Interesting Times: A Twentieth-Century Life and The Age of Extremes: The Short Twentieth Century "Immanuel Wallerstein's mind can reach as far and encompass as much as anyone's in our time. The world, to him, is a vast, integrated system, and he makes the case for that vision with an elegant and almost relentless logic. But he also knows that to see as he does requires looking through a very different epistemological lens than the one most of us are in the habit of using. So his gift to us is not just a new understanding of how the world works but a new way of apprehending it. A brilliant work on both scores."--Kai Erikson, William R. Kenan Jr. Professor Emeritus of Sociology and American Studies, Yale University

About the Author

Immanuel Wallerstein is a Senior Research Scholar at Yale University and Director of the Fernand Braudel Center at Binghamton University. Among his many books are "The Modern World-System "(three volumes); "The End of the World as We Know It: Social Science for the Twenty-first Century";" Utopistics: Or, Historical Choices of the Twenty-first Century";" and Unthinking Social Science: The Limits of Nineteenth-Century Paradigms." He is the recipient of the American Sociological Association's Career of Distinguished Scholarship Award and is a former president of the International Sociological Association.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent short introduction 18 Jun 2007
By ldxar1
This excellent short introduction (around 100 pages long) also serves to present the interpretation of World-Systems analysis endorsed by its author at the time of writing. Its author, Immanuel Wallerstein, is the leading global World-Systems analyst following the death of the perspective's founder Andre Gunder Frank, and in many respects the ideal person to write a guide of this kind. Despite his theoretical importance, Wallerstein is more than able to write in an accessible, introductory way. The work also serves as a brief intellectual history of the social sciences, from the split between sciences and arts to the rise of World-Systems analysis itself.

The first chapter provides an intellectual history of the emergence of the perspective, a summary of the ideas it borrows from Braudel, and a brief summary of several critical perspectives on it. The second chapter sets out the theory and explains why it views the global South as exploited. It explores different kinds of household income and explains why capital might prefer semi-proletarianised labour, sets out the tension between universalist and discriminatory discourses in the world system, and explains the account of cycles and changes in the world economy, including the quasi-monopoly status of core production, its gradual outward diffusion, and Kondratieff cycles, as well as defining key concepts such as capitalism, oligopoly, class and status-group. The third chapter looks at the state and the state system, explaining the functions performed by the state on behalf of capital, as well as discussing relations between firms and states, the issue of "externalising" costs, and mobility of multinational firms.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Immanuel Wallerstein is certainly one of the most revolutionary and influential social sciences thinkers alive today, so when he writes a very accessible and informative introduction to the general theory he and his colleagues developed, it is worth paying attention. This book introduces that theory, world-systems analysis (with hyphen!), and gives a quick overview of the historical worldview that underpins it. Despite the easy writing style, it may require some prior knowledge of and familiarity with historiography and political science - world-systems analysis is somewhat notorious for being at least as generous in inventing neologisms in the field as Marxism, so it's easy to get lost without having a firm footing in the terminology. Nonetheless, it is impressive how much information Wallerstein manages to pack in a readable manner into about 90 pages of actual text.

This introduction shows very well the benefits and the drawbacks of the world-systems approach. Wallerstein spends little time defending his theory, but only makes it explicit, which is helpful for keeping an easy overview. The great strength of world-systems analysis is precisely the capability to keep this overview: it is highly insightful and incisive as a tool for understanding international relations, international trade, economic cycles, and their relation to the broad outline of 'systemic' and 'antisystemic' politics roughly since the French Revolution. Possibly even more than Marxism, from which it is in some ways an offshoot, it deals in the grand overviews and the broad sweeps, and it has the virtue over much Marxist work until recently of being strongly embedded in the enormous expansion of economic history as a serious and critical discipline in the last couple decades.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By Nasia
Wallerstein's introduction to world-systems analysis is a good way to get introduced to this theoretical framework and understand not only what a world system is, but also how academia was split into different "disciplines" and how world system analysis is bringing a different perspective into the study of societies, by looking into a different, wider, geografical and temporal zone.
It is an easy read and even if you are already familiar with world system analysis and Wallerstein's work you might still want to read this through to get some more clarity on some aspects.
Of course, it is only an introduction, so it doesn't go into much depth with most things. However I'm happy I own this book!
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting... 30 Dec 2006
Three stars on this site may come across as a snub - it's not meant to be, this is interesting enough, and a worthy (though opinionated) introduction to a vast subject.

World Systems theorists propose, first of all, that to study 'subjects' such as we do, in relative isolation (or at any rate, to only do this) is misleading and unhelpful, in an increasingly integrated world. They then develop particular theories and methodologies for approaching and analysing the world as a whole.

The first sections of the book are perhaps the most interesting; setting out the origins of the current divisions of subjects which we assume as the basis for intellectual work: the sciences, the humanities, the arts; and the particular divisions within them - history, sociology, political science, for example. If that sounds dry, there's actually a much more interesting story behind much of that than you'd think: the need of imperial powers for anthropology and the organisation of knowledge through monastic medieval universities being two topics touched upon. The case is made that these divisions, having arisen for particular functional reasons, are now unhelpful.

The remainder of the volume functions at such a level of abstraction as to be tantalising, though not particularly helpful in itself. It introduces and defines core concepts in world-systems theory: core and periphery, the 'world system' and so on; in the process hinting at the some of the ways we might begin to think about the world as an integrated system. But, as an introduction, it never really gets into the detail or grit of a theory, or allows room for empirical debates or analysis (there's almost no referencing in the volume, though there is a guide to further reading at the end).
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