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World-Systems Analysis: An Introduction

4.2 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0822334422
ISBN-10: 0822334429
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Editorial Reviews


“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: A History of the World, 1914–1991

“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.


Product Details

  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Duke University Press (August 27, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0822334429
  • ISBN-13: 978-0822334422
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 5.9 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #106,818 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
When Robert Strange McNamara became Secretary of Defense in 1961, one of the innovative ideas that he introduced was an analytic methodology called `Systems Analysis' which was then in vogue in private industry. The Pentagon then spent the next decade trying to figure out what Systems Analysis was and how it could apply to military issues. Systems Analysis in point of fact is a very useful analytic tool that recognizes that problems are best solved when viewed not in isolation, but as part of a larger integrated whole. While this is a perfectly valid analytic methodology, it fell out of favor as a management tool once it became apparent it was not a solution to bad management styles ( such as those of McNamara himself).

Yet while Systems Analysis was enjoying its moment in the Sun, academic scholars from every discipline tried to adapt Systems Analysis to their particular discipline. Which brings us to Immanuel Wallerstein and his book "World Systems Analysis." Wallerstein has postulated that a world wide system could be described as a "Capitalist World Economy" and that system could be analyzed in accordance with the principles of systems analysis. Several things need to be noted at this point. First, `Capitalist World Economy' is in itself not a pejorative term, but simply describes a very specific kind of economic system. Second this term which Wallerstein insists on using really is more widely known under the rubric of "Globalization" which indeed can be studied by means of systems analysis. To his great credit Wallerstein has spent the last thirty years studying and refining the application of systems analysis methodology to worldwide problems.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Do NOT buy the hard-copy. Amazon obscures the fact that the paperback is available, this is a very thin book, buy the paperbackWorld-Systems Analysis: An Introduction (A John Hope Franklin Center Book). I would have been furious had I bought the hard copy at the grotesquely inflated price for 100 pages at 1.5 line spacing.

The big eye-opener for me was that "World Systems" is NOT the same as Whole Systems. World Systems is entirely anthropomorphic and addresses the inter-relationships among forms of human organization, with the state and the marketplace/capitalism being the primary focus.

This is a 2004 work in its 5th printing, the author is a giant in his field that I am surprised to learn of so late (I am 57 years old with multiple graduate degrees), and therefore this overview is a most welcome work in my reading. The World Systems work originated in the 1970's concurrently with the Whole Systems work of Buckminster Fuller, the Meadows, and Robert Ackoff.

The heart of the book is found on page 88 after a very fine lead-up that explains the three competing human ideologies of conservativism, liberalism, and radicalism (anti-system).

QUOTE: "The key element of the debate is the degree to which any social system, in this case the future one we are constructing, will lean in one direction or the other on two long-standing central issues of social organization--liberty and equality--issues that are more closely intertwined than social though in the modern world-system has been willing to assert.
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Format: Paperback
This book, and the world-systems approach, is an antidote to learning about the world by following "current events" in "the news" - the kind of approach taken, for instance, by people who were surprised by the onset of the current financial crisis.

"Part of the problem is that we have studied these phenomena in separate boxes to which we have given special names - politics, economics, the social structure, culture - without seeing that these boxes are constructs more of our imagination than of reality. The phenomena dealt with in these separate boxes are so closely intermeshed that each presumes the other, each affects the other, each is incomprehensible without taking into account the other boxes.
World-systems analysis meant first of all the substitution of a unit of analysis called the 'world-system' for the standard unit of analysis, which was the national state. On the whole, historians had been analyzing national histories, economists national economies, political scientists national political structures, and sociologists national societies. World-systems analysts raised a skeptical eyebrow, questioning whether any of these objects of study really existed... they substituted 'historical systems' [for these objects].
[The] world-economy was said to be marked by an axial division of labor between core-like production processes and peripheral production processes, which resulted in an unequal exchange favoring those involved in core-like production processes. Since such processes tended to group together in particular countries, one could use a shorthand language by talking of core and peripheral zones" or of core, peripheral, and semiperipheral states depending on the types of production processes predominant in each particular state.
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