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RIP Immanuel Wallerstein — “This is the end ; this is the beginning”

A towering intellectual, pathbreaking and inspiring thinker, and preeminent sociologist Immanuel Wallerstein passed away.

This article originally appeared on Economic Sociology and Political Economy blog

Wallerstein lived a deep commitment to justice, scholarship and change. He has written dozens of remarkable and award-winning books, hundreds of influential papers, thousands of shrewd commentaries. His superb, eye-opening and powerful World‑Systems Analysis (culminated in four-volume masterpiece : 1974, 1980, 1989 and 2011) has transformed the way we understand history, capitalism, colonialism, liberalism, social sciences, and the present turbulent times. Wallerstein’s interdisciplinary approach generated a unique body of original knowledge interconnecting nations, ideologies, markets, classes, firms, households, labor, and identity groups of all kinds. Wallerstein was one of those rare academics whose research has been essentially revealing and paradigm shifting.
But there was more to it than that.

World-systems analysis“, he once stated, “is not a theory but a protest against neglected issues and deceptive epistemologies… It is an intellectual task that is and has to be a political task as well, because — I insist –the search for the true and the search for the good is but a single quest. If we are to move forward to a world that is substantively rational, in Max Weber’s usage of this term, we can neglect neither the intellectual nor the political challenges. And neither can we separate these from each other. We can only struggle uneasily with both challenges simultaneously, and push forward as best we can.” (2000 : xxii)

Immanuel Wallerstein’s life and work symbolize an imprinting journey of a genuine and committed Global Public Intellectual.
On July 1st Professor Wallerstein deliberately wrote his ultimate commentary “This is the end ; this is the beginning“, concluding it and leaving us with his final reflection :

“The world might go down further by-paths. Or it may not. I have indicated in the past that I thought the crucial struggle was a class struggle, using class in a very broadly defined sense. What those who will be alive in the future can do is to struggle with themselves so this change may be a real one. I still think that and therefore I think there is a 50-50 chance that we’ll make it to transformatory change, but only 50-50.

Immanuel Wallerstein’s tremendous erudition, breadth of vision and depth of insight have been constantly enlightening our minds ; and his legacy will have been accompanying us in (intellectual) struggles towards that transformatory change.

Recommended reading :
— Wallerstein, Immanuel. 2004. World-systems Analysis : An Introduction. Duke Univer.
— Wallerstein, Immanuel. 1979. The Capitalist World-Economy. Cambridge University
— Wallerstein, Immanuel. 2000. The Essential Wallerstein. New York : The New Press

This article is a reduced version of the original text.

Les opinions exprimées et les arguments avancés dans cet article demeurent l'entière responsabilité de l'auteur-e et ne reflètent pas nécessairement ceux du CETRI.