imc indymedia

Los Angeles Indymedia : Activist News

white themeblack themered themetheme help
About Us Contact Us Calendar Publish RSS
latest news
best of news




A-Infos Radio

Indymedia On Air

Dope-X-Resistance-LA List


IMC Network:

Original Cities africa: ambazonia canarias estrecho / madiaq kenya nigeria south africa canada: hamilton london, ontario maritimes montreal ontario ottawa quebec thunder bay vancouver victoria windsor winnipeg east asia: burma jakarta japan korea manila qc europe: abruzzo alacant andorra antwerpen armenia athens austria barcelona belarus belgium belgrade bristol brussels bulgaria calabria croatia cyprus emilia-romagna estrecho / madiaq euskal herria galiza germany grenoble hungary ireland istanbul italy la plana liege liguria lille linksunten lombardia london madrid malta marseille nantes napoli netherlands nice northern england norway oost-vlaanderen paris/Île-de-france patras piemonte poland portugal roma romania russia saint-petersburg scotland sverige switzerland thessaloniki torun toscana toulouse ukraine united kingdom valencia latin america: argentina bolivia chiapas chile chile sur cmi brasil colombia ecuador mexico peru puerto rico qollasuyu rosario santiago tijuana uruguay valparaiso venezuela venezuela oceania: adelaide aotearoa brisbane burma darwin jakarta manila melbourne perth qc sydney south asia: india mumbai united states: arizona arkansas asheville atlanta austin baltimore big muddy binghamton boston buffalo charlottesville chicago cleveland colorado columbus dc hawaii houston hudson mohawk kansas city la madison maine miami michigan milwaukee minneapolis/st. paul new hampshire new jersey new mexico new orleans north carolina north texas nyc oklahoma philadelphia pittsburgh portland richmond rochester rogue valley saint louis san diego san francisco san francisco bay area santa barbara santa cruz, ca sarasota seattle tampa bay tennessee urbana-champaign vermont western mass worcester west asia: armenia beirut israel palestine process: fbi/legal updates mailing lists process & imc docs tech volunteer projects: print radio satellite tv video regions: oceania united states topics: biotech

Surviving Cities africa: canada: quebec east asia: japan europe: athens barcelona belgium bristol brussels cyprus germany grenoble ireland istanbul lille linksunten nantes netherlands norway portugal united kingdom latin america: argentina cmi brasil rosario oceania: aotearoa united states: austin big muddy binghamton boston chicago columbus la michigan nyc portland rochester saint louis san diego san francisco bay area santa cruz, ca tennessee urbana-champaign worcester west asia: palestine process: fbi/legal updates process & imc docs projects: radio satellite tv
printable version - js reader version - view hidden posts - tags and related articles

Immanuel Wallerstein's Worldview

by Stephen Lendman Saturday, Oct. 23, 2010 at 12:28 PM

important views

Immanuel Wallerstein's Worldview - by Stephen Lendman

Wallerstein is a Yale University Senior Research Scholar, former President of the International Sociological Associatiion (1994 - 1998), and chair of the international Gulbenkian Commission on the Restructuring of the the Social Sciences (1993 - 1995). His writing focuses on three domains of world systems analysis, the historical development of the modern world system, the structures of knowledge, and the contemporary crisis of the capitalist world economy.

His many books include "The Capitalist World Economy," "After Liberalism," "The End of the World As We Know It," and "The Decline of American Power," in which he wrote:

America "has been a fading global power since the 1970s, and the US response to the (9/11) terrorist attacks has accelerated this decline....the economic, political and military factors that contributed to US hegemony are the same factors that will inexorably produce the coming US decline."

Chalmers Johnson shares that view, notably in his books, "Sorrows of Empire" and "Nemesis," saying America is plagued by the same dynamic that doomed past empires - "isolation, overstretch, the uniting of local and global forces opposed to imperialism, and in the end bankruptcy," combined with growing authoritarianism and loss of personal freedom.

Hence, the title "Nemesis," the goddess of vengeance and punisher of hubris and arrogance in Greek mythology. She's here among us, says Johnson, unseen and patiently stalking our way of life, awaiting her chosen moment to make her presence known. Johnson compares her to Wagner's Brunnhilde in Der Ring des Nibelungen, saying unlike Nemesis, she collects heros, not fools and hypocrites.

They both, however, announce themselves the same way, saying "Only the doomed see me," even though Nemesis' presence will have a profound real world effect.

Destructive policies aren't sustainable. Former Nixon Council of Economic Advisors chairman Herb Stein meant it by his "Herbert Stein's Law", saying "if something cannot go on forever, it will stop," or simply put, things that can't go on forever won't, especially ill-conceived overreaching ones.

America's chaotic "capitalist world system" is one, says Wallerstein. A different future lies ahead in one of two forms - more progressive or hard line opposite, what neither Wallerstein nor anyone can know or time precisely. However, disruptive change is coming, ending America's global dominance. One or more other powers will supplant it under a new system, not today's.

Wallerstein believes the Soviet Union sustained US hegemony for a quarter century post-WW II by scaring Western Europe and other countries to America's side, and during the war diluting Hitler's power by his futile invasion. Afterwards, both countries struck a deal for sustainable world order, America controlling two-thirds, Moscow the rest, besides the specter of mutually assured destruction (MAD) deterring either side from declaring war on the other.

Plans often don't turn out as intended, the US/Soviet pact breaking down in East Asia with Mao's independence and Vietnam resisting colonial occupation. It bogged America down in an unwinnable war, much like Iraq and Afghanistan today, accelerating America's decline by thinking otherwise.

In the 1970s, it began, says Wallerstein, at first slowly, faster after the Soviet Union's dissolution, then further accelerated by post-9/11 events. Hard line neo-cons were empowered, believing brute force could solidify US dominance, when, in fact, it's done the opposite. Alliances opposed to US belligerence formed, including China and other rising powers strengthening their economies over America stressing military strength as a fist to maintain global hegemony whether or not other nations concur.

Still the world's dominant economic power, Wallerstein believes capitalism's demise will doom it, citing three negative long term trends weakening the ability to accumulate profits:

(1) Rising wages that began declining around 1970, then accelerated during the current economic crisis, a trend likely to continue, not reverse quickly, but will longer term. It's anyone's guess when, but for now, lower pay, fewer benefits and high unemployment are deeply embedded in a sick global economy.

(2) Rising taxes that always squeeze profits, though again in today's economy, they're fixed or declining until conditions improve, besides not knowing the full impact of America's healthcare reform cost, an indirect tax. Most likely, workers will bear the main burden, not employers easily able to offload most of it.

(3) Higher input costs are ahead. Externalizing them by environmental contamination continues, but that ecological limit approaches, perhaps destructively enough to endanger human life.

Overall, governments aren't improving conditions, especially in America and Europe with growing numbers suffering through hard times because bad public policies help business at the expense of workers, an unsustainable secular trend.

A better world is possible, and Wallerstein proposes one through:

-- public demands for long term change;

-- defensive electoral strategies backing a left-leaning coalition;

-- holding it accountable if empowered;

-- making anti-racism the defining measure of democracy;

-- creating a decommodified society favoring non-profits stressing performance over corporate conglomerates based on profits; and

-- recognizing that today's condition is transition toward a better or worse world system.

"The Imminent End of Capitalism"

In an April 2008 talk on "World-Systems, The Imminent End of Capitalism and Unifying Social Science," Wallerstein argued that we're "in a chaotic situation, which we will be in for twenty to forty years to come. This crisis has to do with the lack of sufficient surplus-value available and thus with the possible profit one can make."

Long term it's shrinking. A new world-system lies ahead that will "replicate certain basic features of the existing" one, but it won't be capitalism as we know it. It'll be one of two alternatives - either still "hierarchical and exploitative" or "relatively democratic and relatively egalitarian." No knows which one. The only sure thing is that today's system won't survive. In its place, we'll create "order out of chaos" if we haven't self-destructed altogether, a real possibility militarily and/or environmentally.

Wallerstein also argues that "neoliberalism is absolutely at an end, (and) globalization as a term and a concept will be forgotten ten years from now because it no longer has the impact it was meant to have...." Margaret Thatcher and Reaganomics were wrong. There IS an alternative. It's coming and won't be like today's system. It'll either be better or worse. What can't go on forever, won't "because no system goes on forever."

They're all historical, starting at a certain point, surviving by established rules, then veering from equilibrium and dying. "Our system has moved far from equilibrium" over the past 500 years. Now chaotic, it won't last more than 40 or 50 more, unpleasant ones Wallerstein believes. So stay tuned, or at least understand that tomorrow's world won't be your grandfather's, but it may be worse.

More Recent Articles

On February 15, Wallerstein headlined, "Chaos as an Everyday Thing," saying:

You know conditions are chaotic when media pundits "are constantly surprised, short-term predictions....go in radically different directions, establishment figures say previously taboo things," and ordinary people are scared and "very unsure what to do."

As a result, governments face impossible choices, individuals even tougher ones when no one's sure what's right or coming. Are other parts of the world more stable than America? Some yes, others no, "but there are no guarantees" at a time of uncertainty and instability. "When the giant teeters, many things can (and nearly always) come down with it." It's a situation "in which the economic, political, and cultural fluctuations are large and rapid. And that is frightening for most people," especially the most vulnerable.

On May 15, he headlined "The Anatomy of Fear," calling it "the most pervasive public emotion in most of the world today," following the May 6 1,000 point intraday "flash crash," Greece's vulnerability to bankruptcy, and its disruptive street riots, a combination creating global angst that could erupt anywhere unexpectedly any time, given the fragility of world economies.

As a result, government responses have been "to buy time with paper money that is borrowed or printed," hoping "renewed economic growth (will) restore confidence," and ease fears of more panic. However, short-term fixes can't heal systemic problems, ones exacerbated by band-aid economics, putting off a greater problem for tomorrow that should be addressed today, pain and all.

On June 15, he headlined, "Impossible Choices in a World Depression, saying:

"The financial speculators have created a disastrous fall in the world-economy." Solutions proposed amount to "damned if you do, and damned if you don't," damning ordinary people most. Moreover, imposed austerity measures are counterproductive, excluding military ones, the most obvious place to reduce, especially the bloated US budget, untouched and growing.

"The way out of this is not some small adjustment here or there - whether of the monetarist or the Keynesian variety," says Wallerstein. Extraction from the economic box "requires a fundamental overhaul of the world-system." It's coming, "but how soon?"

On August 1, he headlined "Ponzi Solitaire," asking:

Have "US industries (and ones elsewhere in the world) found the magic expand (future) profits?" So far, it's working by selling less, firing workers, making others work harder for less pay, raising productivity, and bottom line performance with it. But for how long? With fewer customers and less demand, "very soon the profits will dry up," and serious deflation may follow, the specter all economies face, "then they'll crash."

Do they know it? Sure they do, but "they are operating on the hedonistic principle of eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we may die." It might be called "Ponzi solitaire (PS)." Conventional ones bilk customers built on an unsustainable house of cards. In PS, "you bilk yourself until you crash," hoping to keep gains and get out before the whole economy collapses, sinking all boats with it.

On September 1, he headlined "Xenophobia All Over the Place?" saying:

Today's global crisis is defined by "fear or hatred of strangers or foreigners or of anything that is strange or foreign. (It) infects large numbers of people only sometimes. This is one of those times," xenophobic nationalism erupting because people feel or fear state decline, a malady present in tough, everyone for themselves, economic times.

In America, Tea Party protests reflect it, wanting to "take back the country (and) restore America and....her honor." It's erupted elsewhere as well. In Japan, the Zaitokukai (a new group) surrounded a Kyoto elementary school, saying "expel the barbarians."

Throughout Europe also, nearly all countries have parties wanting foreigners evicted, returning them to their "rightful citizens," whatever that's supposed to mean given how many have had roots elsewhere at one time or other.

Even Latin America, Africa, and other parts of Asia are affected. It's everywhere, the "real question" being "what, if anything can be done to counter its pernicious consequences." Fascist party histories are "replete with numbers of 'left' leaders" who turned right, Benito Mussolini, in fact, the man who "invented the word, fascism" and practiced it destructively with his Axis partners.

When world economies are in turmoil, embracing egalitarian values are politically hard "to define (and) sustain. But it is probably the only (way) that offers any long-term hope for humanity's survival," no matter how hard that is to understand when everything around us is chaotic and uncertain.

On September 15, he headlined "Democracy - Everywhere? Nowhere?" saying:

Despite most countries claiming democratic credentials, few agree on what they mean. In fact, "The idea that the 'people' might actually 'rule' " horrified "respectable people as a political nightmare...." Authority had to be "left in the hands of people who had interests in preserving" the status quo, or how they want it.

In other words, those with wealth and power wish to keep it, undeterred by popular interests harming them. Perhaps another way to think of democracy is as an unrealized hope anywhere. Some nations are more democratic than others, but "are any," in fact, "demonstrably more democratic than others?" Perhaps not enough to matter when even the best show disturbing erosion.

On October 1, he headlined, "Does Social-Democracy Have a Future,?" saying:

In September, Sweden's social-democratic party lost badly, its worst showing since 1914. A center-right party won, and a far right, anti-immigrant one won seats for the first time. It matters because Sweden's "virtuous middle way (straddled) the two extremes" of capitalist America and Soviet Union communism. It was, but is no longer, "a country that effectively combined egalitarian redistribution with internal democratic politics."

Until now, it's been "the world poster child of Social-Democracy, its true success story." No longer. Meanwhile in Britain, Blair/Brown extremists rebranded the left "the new Labour." They argued for a middle way, mimicking America's Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), the Democrat party's far-to-the-right-of center organization Ralph Nader calls "corporatist (and soulless." Ideologically they're like Republicans and just as belligerent, favoring anti-populism, anti-labor, anti-welfare, pro-business, pro-war for world dominance, and let-em-eat-cake social policies.

In other words, Britain's "middle way" favored "unbridled dominance of the market" allied with America's global hegemony project. So what do Sweden and the UK "tell us about the future of social-democracy?"

Post-1970, neoliberal globalization prevailed, eroding social democratic notions, sinking all boats together, some faster than others, market primacy overriding popular interests. "This was what (Blair/Brown's) 'new Labour' was all about." Sweden resisted longer, "but it, too, finally succumbed."

As a result, social democracy as a movement eroded. "It became an electoral machine that lacked the passion of yesteryear." Even so, it's "a cultural preference." Voters still want "the fading benefits of a welfare state," and protest vigorously when they're taken, a common happening today most everywhere. So, "Does social-democracy have a future?" For now, only as a cultural preference, not a movement, barring a reversal nowhere in sight.

On October 15, he headlined, "Afghanistan: Does Anyone Want the Burden," saying:

History has shown Afghans less than hospitable to invaders. Sooner or later they discovered the imbalance between rewards and burdens so left, wishing they never came in the first place. In the 1980s, the Soviets learned painfully. Now it's America's turn and its "coalition" allies. "The question 'should we continue to be involved?' is on the agenda everywhere."

For America, "withdrawal presents an internal political question," the considered equation whether staying or leaving draws more support. Public opinion "see(s) an unwinnable war in a faraway country. My prediction is that the isolationist thrust is winning over the interventionist thrust in US politics."

Pakistan and India also have interests in the outcome, Islamabad backing the Taliban as "a bulwark against India," while New Delhi favors the Karzai regime "as a way to defang Pakistani influence in the country, and, over the long run, help create the infrastructure needed to obtain energy resources from Iran and Russia."

Other factors also matter, getting both countries to rethink their options, some in India believing a Taliban government "feed(s) Pakistan a poison pill." Pakistan, in turn, worries about a homegrown Taliban.

"So, one possible (conflict) outcome (is that eventually) everyone may (tire) of the burden....and just leave the Afghans alone...."

What then? "It's very hard to know. It could look ugly (or) may surprise....with (a) relative live-and-let-live ambiance" that's existed there before. Moreover, with years more economic and political turmoil everywhere, "There may be no time or energy to worry about Afghanistan." Perhaps no money either.

A Final Comment

As explained above, Wallerstein sees change ahead in one of two forms, either more progressive or repressively hard right. So far, the latter's prevailing despite voters culturally against lost social benefits.

Where to now is the question? How will things look when we get there, and what can be done to avoid the worst outcome? It's always the same, centered on grassroots activism erupting to stop bad things from happening or change direction when they do.

So far, they're unfolding in real time. Perhaps little of it remains to reverse things. If it comes, the harsh world-system Wallerstein fears won't be pleasant, so coalescing to prevent it is crucial. Otherwise, we've only got ourselves to blame.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at Also visit his blog site at and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

Report this post as:

Local News

Marshall Tuck’s racist dog whistle O27 5:01AM

Marshall Tuck’s ethnocentrism contradicts Californian values O27 4:32AM

Contra Costa-Hawkins O25 3:48AM

Debunking Some Anti-Prop 10 Propaganda O12 6:56AM

Why Should California Choose De Leon Over Feinstein? O10 9:55PM

Change Links September 2018 posted S02 10:22PM

More Scandals Rock Southern California Nuke Plant San Onofre A30 11:09PM

Site Outage Friday A30 3:49PM

Change Links August 2018 A14 1:56AM

Setback for Developer of SC Farm Land A12 11:09PM

More problems at Shutdown San Onofre Nuke J29 10:40PM

Change Links 2018 July posted J09 8:27PM

More Pix: "Families Belong Together," Pasadena J02 7:16PM

"Families Belong Together" March, Pasadena J02 7:08PM

Short Report on the Families Belong Together Protest in Los Angeles J30 11:26PM

Summer 2018 National Immigrant Solidarity Network News Alert! J11 6:58AM

Watch the Debate: Excluded Candidates for Governor of California M31 5:20AM

Change Links June 2018 posted M28 7:41AM

The Montrose Peace Vigil at 12 Years M22 8:01PM

Unity Archive Project M21 9:42AM

Dianne Feinstein's Promotion of War, Secret Animal Abuse, Military Profiteering, Censorshi M17 10:22PM

More Local News...

Other/Breaking News

“Animaniacs in Concert!” Starring Voice Legend Rob Paulsen Heads to Portland, Oregon N20 8:39PM

Socialism in American English N20 12:04PM

Noske, noskisme réactualisé N20 11:29AM

Oprah Please Stop Selling Dead Animal Pieces N20 3:32AM

Down In Smoke SF N20 12:03AM

Credit Mr. Richard Enos with outstanding penmanship N19 6:08AM

Master list=====47 million american on foodstamp List State plus Federal N18 8:21PM

Cholesterol Medicine Causes Alzheimers N18 7:40PM

Lucifers Banker N18 7:38PM

Paraphysique du scientisme N18 9:19AM

USDA Withholds Names Of Turkey Companies Spreading Salmonella N17 7:51PM

Hebron, Ben-Gurion, and UNESCO N17 6:00PM

What Can Destroy Enclosure? N17 1:47PM

Please Help Mississippians Vote For Mike Espy On Nov 27th N17 7:42AM

The Incredible & Brilliant Work of Dr TOMO SHIBATA N17 5:19AM

October 2018 Honduras Coup update N16 9:22PM

Profit de guerre, guerre de profit N16 11:58AM

“Animaniacs in Concert!” Starring Voice Legend Rob Paulsen Heads to Seattle N15 7:22PM

Paraphysique du prodrome oukase N15 12:39PM

President Trump: Hurricane Relief Should not Pay Puerto Rico Debt N14 8:54PM

94 Of Rick Scott's, Brian Kemp's, the Mississippi GOP's & Other Republican Campaign Crime N13 9:42PM

30 Of Brian Kemp's Felonious Racist Vote Suppression Crimes N13 8:42PM

Help translation of From Islam To Womanism book on IndieGoGo N13 12:04PM

COP 21, 25, 32, de l'écocide organisé N11 11:45PM

fbi & fmj are ' Lord of the Flies ' N11 8:26PM

Parangon d'une grande infestation N11 12:03AM

Video: Beautiful Country Burn Again, 39 min N10 10:19PM


More Breaking News...
© 2000-2018 Los Angeles Independent Media Center. Unless otherwise stated by the author, all content is free for non-commercial reuse, reprint, and rebroadcast, on the net and elsewhere. Opinions are those of the contributors and are not necessarily endorsed by the Los Angeles Independent Media Center. Running sf-active v0.9.4 Disclaimer | Privacy