Immanuel Wallerstein and the Problem of the World

System, Scale, Culture

Immanuel Wallerstein and the Problem of the World

Book Pages: 272 Illustrations: 16 photographs, 2 tables, 2 figures Published: February 2011

Literature and Literary Studies > Literary Theory, Postcolonial and Colonial Studies, Sociology > Social Theory

In this collection of essays, leading cultural theorists consider the meaning and implications of world-scale humanist scholarship by engaging with Immanuel Wallerstein’s world-systems analysis. The renowned sociologist developed his influential critical framework to explain the historical and continuing exploitation of the rest of the world by the West. World-systems analysis reflects Wallerstein’s conviction that understanding global inequality requires thinking on a global scale. Humanists have often criticized his theory as insufficiently attentive to values and objects of knowledge such as culture, agency, difference, subjectivity, and the local. The editors of this collection do not deny the validity of those criticisms; instead, they offer Wallerstein’s world-systems analysis as a well-developed vision of the world scale for humanists to think with and against. Scholars of comparative literature, gender, geography, history, law, race, and sociology consider what thinking on the world scale might mean for particular disciplinary practices, knowledge formations, and objects of study. Several essays offer broader reflections on what is at stake for the study of culture in decisions to adopt or reject world-scale thinking. In a brief essay, Immanuel Wallerstein situates world-systems analysis vis-à-vis the humanities.

Contributors. Gopal Balakrishnan, Tani E. Barlow, Neil Brenner, Richard E. Lee, Franco Moretti, David Palumbo-Liu, Bruce Robbins, Helen Stacy, Nirvana Tanoukhi, Immanuel Wallerstein, Kären Wigen


“One… indication of such promise is the collection Immanuel Wallerstein and the Problem of the World: System, Scale,Culture... As the collection stages a conversation between world-systems and literary and cultural studies, it brings Wallerstein into the optics of the known for colleagues who are neither in sociology nor history departments.” — Stephen Shapiro, Year's Work in Critical and Cultural Theory

“The collection of essays in this compilation ... should be of interest to scholars both in the humanities and the social sciences, as well as those in the growing number of global studies programs.” — Okori Uneke, International Social Science Review

"The breadth and scope of the volume make it a valuable reference resource for anyone interested in the contribution and implications of world-systems analysis to the humanities. The cogent analyses provided by the contributors offer a much-needed indication of the ongoing transformations in the field. At the same time, the thoughtful account of the impact and consequences of Wallerstein’s approach will benefit students and scholars alike—especially, those interested in developing a holistic approach for the explanation and understanding of the increasingly complex world system.” — Emilian Kavalski, Itinerario

“As the current crisis of financial markets displays both its high level of economic uncertainty and its devastating geopolitical consequences—with East and West, North and South progressively trading their places—the prescience of Wallerstein’s world-systems analysis appears admirable. But the authors of this book also demonstrate that it potentially affects the basic time-space determinants of every cultural critique. A timely and fruitful contribution.” — Étienne Balibar, author of We, the People of Europe?

“This is a very compelling collection, one that is sure to be of interest to humanists and social scientists and to the growing number of programs in ‘global studies.’ It turns to Immanuel Wallerstein’s ‘large-scale vision’ as a means of countering the historical damage done by large-scale capitalism and acquiring a sharper understanding of the notion of ‘system’ and of the contingencies of ‘culture’ within it.” — Françoise Lionnet, co-editor of The Creolization of Theory


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

David Palumbo-Liu is Professor of Comparative Literature at Stanford University.

Bruce Robbins is the Old Dominion Foundation Professor in the Humanities at Columbia University.

Nirvana Tanoukhi received her doctorate in Modern Thought and Literature from Stanford University. She has held fellowships at the Humanities Center and the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research, both at Harvard University.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments vii

Introduction: The Most Important Thing Happening 1

Part 1. System and Responsibility

The Modern World-System: Its Structures, Its Geoculture, Its Crisis and Transformation / Richard Lee 27

Blaming the System / Bruce Robbins 41

Part 2. Literature: Restructured, Re-historicized, Re-scaled

World-Systems Analysis, Evolutionary Theory, Weltliteratur / Franco Moretti 67

The Scale of World Literature / Nivrana Tanoukhi 78

Part 3. Respatializing, Remapping, Recognizing

The Space of the World: Beyond State-Centricism? / Neil Brenner 101

Cartographies of Connection: Ocean Maps as Metaphors for Inter-Area History / Kären Wigen 138

What Is a Poem?: The Event of Women and the Modern Girl as Problems in Global or World History / Tani E. Barlow 155

Part 4. Ethics, Otherness, System

Legal System of International Rights / Helen Stacy 187

Rationality and World-Systems Analysis: Fanon and the Impact of the Ethico-Historical / David Palumbo-Liu 202

Thinking about the Humanities / Immanuel Wallerstein 223

The Twilight of Capital? / Gopal Balakrishnan 227

Bibliography 233

Contributors 249

Index 251
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-4848-1 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-4834-4
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