Immanuel Wallerstein and World-systems theory

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

Wallerstein lived a deep commitment to justice, scholarship and change. He has written dozens of remarkable and award-winning books, and hundreds of influential papers and shrewd commentaries. His superb, eye-opening and powerful World‑Systems Analysis has transformed the way we understand history, capitalism, colonialism, liberalism, social sciences, and the present turbulent times.

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Read also: World-systems analysis: an introduction

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Posted in Wallerstein, World economy | Tagged ,

Elements of a political economy of the postgrowth era

Planetary boundaries are either being approached or already crossed, and there is no evidence for an absolute decoupling of GDP growth, resource use and greenhouse gas emissions. How economic and social systems may be reembedded into environmental limits in the absence of growth is a crucial issue within and beyond economics. This paper outlines some of the elements and analytical steps that may turn out useful for formulating a political economy of the post-growth era. The point of departure of the paper is the ecological critique of neoclassic economics. Subsequently, it revisits Marx’s Critique of Political Economy and its potential capability of unifying the monetary (or exchange value) with the matter and energy (or use value) aspects of production and consumption patterns. The following section considers the regulation approach that was originally tabled for the institutional analysis of different growth strategies within the historical development of capitalism. However, the notion of “institutional forms”, in particular, may also give hints of how the social structures of an economy without growth may be understood. Using the analytical toolbox developed in the previous sections, the last section outlines some of the general features of a “global steady-state” economy highlighting the centrality of the provision of sustainable needs satisfiers and the role of one particular institutional form in the transition from a growth to a post-growth economy: that of the state.

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Posted in Political economy, postgrowth | Tagged ,

Capitalism and Mental Health

A mental-health crisis is sweeping the globe. Recent estimates by the World Health Organization suggest that more than three hundred million people suffer from depression worldwide. Furthermore, twenty-three million are said to experience symptoms of schizophrenia, while approximately eight hundred thousand individuals commit suicide each year. Within the monopoly-capitalist nations, mental-health disorders are the leading cause of life expectancy decline behind cardiovascular disease and cancer. In the European Union, 27.0 percent of the adult population between the ages of eighteen and sixty-five are said to have experienced mental-health complications. Moreover, in England alone, the predominance of poor mental health has gradually increased over the last two decades. The most recent National Health Service Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey illustrates that in 2014, 17.5 percent of the population over the age of sixteen suffered from varying forms of depression or anxiety, compared to 14.1 percent in 1993. Additionally, the number of individuals whose experiences were severe enough to warrant intervention rose from 6.9 percent to 9.3 percent.

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Posted in Capitalism, Mental Health | Tagged ,

Shifting the economic system onto a sustainable path

For most of the last 30 years there has been strong economic growth in the rich world and yet unemployment has remained stubbornly high while the gap between rich and poor has widened. According to traditional economic thinking, this should not have happened. High rates of growth should have created lots of new jobs, for a largely stable population, and spread the wealth around more evenly, especially as it was supplemented by more open trade and less market regulation, two other economic foundations praised by traditional economists for their beneficial impacts. Instead, average standards of living have stagnated or declined in much of the OECD and only the rich have become richer.

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Posted in sustainable development | Tagged

The Fascist Nature of Neoliberalism

Capitalism is based on a false logic in which all facts and ideas are reduced to a consideration of their ‘feasibility’ within the capitalist system. Thus, all mainstream economic and political theories, including those such as Marxism which are supposed to offer an alternative vision, have been stunted and utopian ideas are completely sidelined. In order to constantly work out the feasible, you have to hang on to pseudo-factual concepts: nationalism; a constant drive for efficiency; the idea of nation/state; corporatism; managed markets; business ethics; governance; and so on. Capitalism is reduced to the management of the economy by states that fight each other and marvel at the independence of finance.

The Fascist Nature of Neoliberalism offers a brief, provocative analysis of this issue with special reference to the most visible executioners of its will: the much-misunderstood managerial class. This group simply happens to hold power, and hence visibility, but they do what everybody else does, and would do, all the time. This is because capitalism is an intellectual outlook that thoroughly directs individual actions through fascist and non-fascist repression. This book argues that the only way to escape capitalism is to recover individual intellectual and sentimental emancipation from capitalism itself in order to produce radical solutions. This volume is of great importance to those who study and are interested in political economy, economic theory, and philosophy, as well as fascism and neoliberalism.

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Posted in Fascism, Neoliberalism | Tagged ,

Complexity in Economics

The understanding of the evolution of real-world markets through time – that is irreversible – requires a shift to Complexity in economic thinking that might favor the adoption of

  • A non-anthropocentric approach to economics
  • A social ontology that is rooted in actual experience in the markets
  • A new approach to the rationality of economic agents
  • An evolutionary approach based on the coexistence of laws and change
  • An ontological indeterminism that rejects a necessitarian approach to real-world economies
  • An epistemological fallibilism that rejects absolute truths
  • An endogenous approach to norms and ethics

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Posted in Complexity, Economics | Tagged ,

Economics becomes more precise and rigorous — and totally useless

Nowadays there is almost no place whatsoever in economics education for courses in the history of economic thought and economic methodology. The standard view among mainstream economists is that students shouldn’t think about what they are doing, but just do it. This is deeply worrying.

A science that doesn’t self-reflect and asks important methodological and science-theoretical questions about the own activity, is a science in dire straits. The main reason why mainstream economics has increasingly become more and more useless as a public policy instrument is to be found in its perverted view on the value of methodology. How did we end up in this sad state?

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Read also: The Methodology of Polanyi’s Great Transformation

Posted in Economics | Tagged

Toward sustainable development: from neoclassical monopoly to democracy-oriented economics

Will mainstream neoclassical economics be helpful and enough in dealing with present unsustainable development? Or, should we try alternative schools of thought in the sense of conceptual framework and language? In this essay, the latter option is chosen. It is argued that new views of individuals, organizations, markets, etc. are needed. A new definition of economics is even suggested where the multidimensional nature of sustainability issues is emphasized together with a democracy-oriented view of the discipline. Assessment of investment alternatives in a democratic society is outlined as well as elements of a politics for sustainable development. Considering the seriousness of the problems faced, there is no good excuse for avoiding the more fundamental issues of paradigm and ideology with its influence on the functioning of our political-economic system.

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Posted in neoclassical economics, Political economy, sustainable development | Tagged , ,

Social Inequality, Economic Decline, and Plutocracy

This book aims to further an understanding of present-day America by exploring counter-hegemony to the rule of capital and offering guidelines for strategizing change proceeding from the dialectic of What Is and What Ought to Be. The author analyzes neoliberal global order and its political expressions through discussions of the dominance of finance capital in the late twentieth century, the triumph of ideology, the closing off avenues to reform, the problem of the captive state, and a sociological analysis of rule by “divide and conquer.” The book concludes with a look at the history of movement politics in culture, arts, economics, and politics. It resounds with a hope that challenges to hegemony can use many paths to change, of which the electoral path is but one of many fronts, in the long-term struggle for radical reform.

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Posted in American capitalism, Social Inequality | Tagged ,

The Globalization of Capital and Its Ideologically Framed Policies

Emerging victorious from the war in 1945, the Americans went to cold war against the Soviets and hot wars against revolutionary forces in Korea and, later, Vietnam. By the 1960s in Latin America, efforts from mercenary invasion to terrorism and embargo crippled but failed to destroy the Cuban revolution; however, they were successful in efforts to instill reactionary military regimes in South America and turn back insurgent forces in Central America.

Lest we forget, the new world order sought by America Inc. was enforced by the dictatorship. In Latin America during the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, neo-liberal policies of the new scheme of globalization were ruthlessly implemented by military regimes, as in Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, and Uruguay, and by right-wing Central American governments, supported by the United States, employing death squads and military massacres in counter-insurgency operations. The rule of capital by the 1980s became consolidated through the imposition of policies, identified as “neo-liberalism”, and a strategy for expansion and consolidation: “globalization.”

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Posted in Capitalism, Globalization, Neoliberalism | Tagged , ,