Paperback, 288 pages
Publisher: The New Press (1995-11-01)
Price: $16.95Buy from Amazon
The intellectual left has been largely adrift since the fall of communism. Some illusions having collapsed with the Berlin Wall, many liberals have sought vainly for some substantial support for their instinctive beliefs.
Wallerstein, a distinguished historian and sociologist who teaches in Paris and New York and a champion of the left in the Marxist tradition, seeks to provide some of that intellectual buttressing. He calls for the rejection by the left of liberalism, which he sees as a failed centrist tactic. Rational reform on the basis of liberal assumptions of continued economic growth is no longer sustainable, he argues. This collection of his articles between 1991 and 1995 details his ideas for a radically decentralized and democratized approach to replace liberalism.
Wallerstein started out as a specialist in African politics, but since the 1970s he has been known for his books on the "modern capitalist world-system." His latest work is a collection of recent essays examining the rise and fall of liberalism as the organizing principle of the modern world-system.
According to Wallerstein, the period from 1789 to 1989 represents the era of economic and political liberalism. From this perspective, the collapse of communism and the Soviet bloc marks not only the end of Marxism-Leninism but also the unraveling of liberal ideology, which is incapable of responding effectively to the antistatism of contemporary political movements. Wallerstein argues that we are now entering a period of transition that "will be a time of systemic disorder, disintegration, and acute political struggle about what kind of world system(s) we shall construct." If he is correct, then even the most stable of societies should brace themselves for a period of social turbulence and economic uncertainty. Wallerstein's provocative and far-ranging thesis will undoubtedly generate heated debates among scholars and graduate students.
Kent Worcester, Social Science Research Council, New York