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Parturiunt montes

By Owen Paine on Thursday November 12, 2009 01:27 PM

Over at one of Father Smith's mailing-list lurkeries, I just found a mighty lucubration from the powerful intellect of Professor Immanuel Wallerstein:
Where to after capitalism?

Immanuel Wallerstein

"FIRST, how did we get to where we are today? Let's retrace our steps several decades backwards.

The period 1945 to 1970 saw the height of US power in the world system and also the moment of the most expansive economic upturn that the capitalist world economy had known.

The next sixty years are discussed at some length, and Professor W finally concludes with this ringing call to arms:
So what are practical steps that we can and should take? I would put at the head of the list actions that can minimise the pain that arises from the breakdown of the existing system.

The second thing that we can do is engage in serious debate about the kind of world system we want, and the strategy of transition.

The third thing we can do is to construct alternative decommodified modes of production.

Comments (14)


What kind of alternative universe do these academic solons live in? Always, always, the perorations emit as if from the holder of the scepter of the throne.
Does Prof. Wallerstein have the very levers of global supersystem power in his hands, or he is he, like all the would-be reformers and liberals and academics and bloggos and journalists and writers and dogcatchers and working stiffs and backyard punjabs a - nonentity?
Who gives a damn about his list, or my list, or the list of any rational human? Let's count up all the academic "solutions" and action plans and recommendations and calls for revolution and permaculture conferences, and stack that up against the Wal-Mart distribution system of Chinese-made toy dolls. Which one has a both and practical and effective value of 0, and which one is employing slaves by the village load to make next year's stocking stuffers?
2. Here's to more "serious debate" - it's given us a modern world we can be so damn proud of. More mike-hogging by windbags!

And as for the third, I'll try to pay my bills with an "alternative decommodified modes of production" bank-note.
Could we get on some good old-fashioned futility-noticing here?


thank you uncle josef
u saved me a rant on 2

and anyone can guess my reaction to 1
pain relievers
and imagine we have a war on
unprescribed narcotic use

on 3
"construct alternative decommodified modes of production" much remains to be discussed

Well, op-san, seems to me that if you're going to give pillows to Michael Moore, this is a bit unfair. This cat is, after all, the most macro of all macro theorists, but world-accounting is important. So, in his terms, what he says might not be as bad as it sounds.

Not saying he couldn't sharpen the blade a bit...

Mike Hunt:

"The second thing that we can do is engage in serious debate about the kind of world system we want, and the strategy of transition."

Other than a few hippy communes whane has that ever happened? Even the Paris Commune was an organic drifting and not an organized discussion forum.

"The third thing we can do is to construct alternative decommodified modes of production."

Wait a minute, someone has been reading Looking Backward. Shades of Edward Bellamy.



closed macro systems ie
now the globe are where to start
moore called for fight back on foreclosure
not decommodified modes of production

but hey ...i see your point
why do i hate world historical thinkers ???

i don't but i do laugh at em on occasion

but in the end
i say
go ahead knock yourself out
"construct alternative decommodified modes of production" if that's what
ticklles your struggle bone

Michael Hureaux:

I'm trying to figure out why people seem to think Wallerstein would be doing anything else. Or what is he doing that's anymore annoying than what any of the rest of us do?

As for the futility of the moment, granted, mjosef. I thought the old story was pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will, or something to that effect. Otherwise, why bother with any of this?

I must be missing something here, but it wouldn't be the first time.


you spoil the fun

epater the walruses


Millions of Economically Active Persons
1980 960 370 590 ---
2000 Before 1,460 460 1,000 ---
2000 After 2,930 460 1,000 1,470*
• China, 760; India, 440; Ex-Soviet, 260
Source: tabulated from ILO, laborsta.ilo.org/

1990 Before 1,080 403 680 ---
1990 After 2,315 403 680 1,232*

2000 Before 1,389 438 851 ---
2000 After 2,930 438 851 1,383**
• * China, 687; India, 332; Ex-Soviet, 213
• ** China, 764; India, 405; Ex-Soviet, 214
Source: tabulated from Penn World Tables, using data on GDP per capita,
GDP per employee and population. Ex-Soviet data are sparse; most
1990 based on population extrapolations.

So many new blades
a sharpening

for a time
'gan one o' nother

only a time

We need world government, global economic redistribution, free and lavishly-funded medical care and schools, massive energy and agriculture reforms, an end to automotive commuting, UN-imposed disarmament, and public enterprise that intentionally competes against private industry, and separation of all churches from all states.

Doesn't seem like specificity of statement makes much difference. Without the upheaval, it's all a river of verbiage.


MH, I think the Wallerstein pontification is indeed "worse" than nothing, because it posits some sort of leftist power that does not exist, did not exist. What's wrong with calling out the insanity of those adorning themselves with imperial robes to make ridiculous pronouncements, even if they are certified Big-Top macro-thinkers?
The proud and sainted left has been at this for over 40 years now, intoning as if the world is just waiting for our beatific directions, but in the meantime the globe has become girdled with criss-crossing supertankers, laptop drone laser missiles, and more global corporate communications wires and shiny SUVS than there are new downloads of fraudulent dinosaur rockstars, and that's saying a lot.
What's the point of any of this? How about we start telling the truth? How about we stop the lies of "resistance" and Seattle and greenwashing and anti-war coalitions and "education" and health-care "reform" and CNN - they should have been serious about this on-rushing calamity 40 years ago, and they were not. What about this supersystem gives any indication of an opening towards the beauty of "sustainable" permaculture? Do we appreciate how far down the road of devastation we've traveled? Can we finally burn all the specious slogans - "optimism" of what "will" gets us precisely how much further back this road?


beautiful, mjoseph, beautiful!

Mjosef, what are you suggesting as an alternative? No doubt this order is quite total, not least because it has television, but are you saying we should stop expressing any kind of optimism because of that? Or stop talking and start shooting? If there's no point to optimism of the will, then why read SMBIVA or do anything but enjoy your substance of choice?


MD, pessimism is much more fun than optimism, and it should pay to be correct. What signs of cracks in the supersystem point to any valid oppositional force that will be sufficient to knock down the tall edifices that rule our lives? I know that's a hard way to live our days, as encircled doubters of the reigning rhetoric, but that's one version of the eternal predicament of us humans that has been our lot since the cave days.
I am incapable of shooting, and don't think mass murder is the answer to redesigning a better, more egalitarian supersystem, but the elite have certainly done well to garner more power through that very means. So if we accept that all of us are and will be surrounded by social systems that we did not design, we can stop being so hard on our ourselves for our lack of consequence. We can enjoy the great absurdities of our political system so brilliantly understood by the eminent proprietors of SMBIVA. I do understand, however, that my suburban nihilism is very hard to take, and is not officially endorsed nor sanctioned by the proprietors, their subsidiaries, or their spouses, and can clear a room in just a few notes.
I stand ready to be the change, to make a better world, to we shall overcome, to act globally and think locally - but I reserve the right to think it all futile, based on the evidence. I advocate no drug escapism, though - it's hard on your loved ones, to get all pissy drunk and nasty just because the world is going to hell in a handbasket.


nihilism is too pale a romantic for me

i like
mr g's mephistopheles
not mr t's bazarov

i'm still brewing my flaming punch
to celebrate
alternative decommodified modes of production

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