Why the world needs Immanuel Wallerstein’s radical vision more than ever

Lea Ypi in The New Statesman:

Shortly before his death last month, the radical intellectual Immanuel Wallerstein wrote a tentative prognosis of our current predicament. There is, he said, a “50-50 chance that we’ll make it to transformatory change, but only 50-50.”

“What those who will be alive in the future can do is to struggle with themselves so this change may be a real one,” he added in the commentary that was published on his personal blog.

Wallerstein died a few weeks later at the age of 88, in New York, the same city where he was born. The social theorist was perhaps best known for his account of society known as “world systems analysis”, a vision for how economic relations shape the development of legal, political and social institutions over time.

“I have indicated in the past that I thought the crucial struggle was a class struggle, using class in a very broadly defined sense,” he explained in the commentary. Wallerstein dedicated his life to this idea of “class struggle”, both in theory – he taught sociology at Columbia University, then SUNY Binghamton and finally Yale – but also in practice. During his travels in Ghana, Nigeria and Tanzania, Wallerstein witnessed first-hand peoples’ struggles for decolonisation, and anticipated how these political events would shape the development of African countries long after they were granted formal independence.

More here.