Friday, July 25, 2008

Immanuel Wallerstein Reflects on the Future

by Gregory Esteven
Immanuel Wallerstein is a scholar whom I respect for his deep understanding of the capitalist world system. His never-wavering commitment to a better future and his realistic optimism are characteristics we should admire, too.
In his recent article in Monthly Review Magazine, entitled Remembering Andre Gunder Frank While Thinking About the Future (part eulogy and part analysis), Wallerstein makes some interesting statements. Most startlingly, he suggests that capitalism is in a systemic crisis, and that within 25-50 years, we will have an altogether different system! He argues, therefore, that it is of utmost importance for the Left to fight hard today, pushing a well-considered agenda, because it is not inevitable that the system which finally replaces capitalism will be better. Without our activism and guidance, it could very well be worse.
He also lays out time-frames for thinking about a Left agenda. These are short-term, medium-term and long-term. That sounds evident enough, but his explanation of these has greatly aided me in thinking about what a Left agenda should be.
I'd like to know what you out there in Internet Land think about Wallerstein's ideas here. Are we really so close to the end of capitalism? And what do you think about his time frames for a Left-wing politics?