Heterogeneities: Race, Gender, Class, Nation, and State

By Robert Ackermann John | Go to book overview

WORLD SYSTEM

War, disease, and starvation are the other side of a world system that produces tremendous wealth for a lucky few. The concept of the world system is that local social and economic conditions are variations on deeper systematic structures. These variations are the resolutions of changes in the economic and political linkages between nation-states and the detail of local cultural and material life. The rough picture of a world system is one whose structure is determined by a powerful core and a much weaker periphery, the two mediated through semi-peripheral states and economies. This picture has been proposed over and over again. Its repeated postulation shows that it has some obvious purchase on reality, but generalizations in world-system theory run aground against detailed heterogeneities in local social, political, and economic interactions. If world-system theory were a scientific theory, its various claims would appear to contradict the facts. Making world-system theory more complex so as to make it consistent with all the known facts would threaten to make it an unintelligible summary of a myriad of local observations. By suggesting that theory must wait for consistency with all the available facts, a displaced epistemological idealization of science automatically supports social conservatism. It is useful instead to think of world-system theory as providing a crude picture of constrained channels of influence within which local systems are produced as variants that cannot be anticipated in all of their detail. Indeed, the alternative is to accept that the world picture is not analytically manageable and that one can best anticipate what's coming by studying only one's local environment. That can't be right. Multinational corporations are at work constructing models for future global performance based on their versions of world-system theory. To understand the interfusions of nation-states with greater detachment, wilder theoretical posits must be embraced.

As canvassed two chapters ago, the current capitalist world system formed as a consequence of the european surge into scientific and

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Heterogeneities: Race, Gender, Class, Nation, and State
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents ix
  • Preface xi
  • Starting Point 1
  • Racism 9
  • Benign Racism 31
  • Gender 53
  • Class 79
  • Nation 103
  • State 131
  • World System 153
  • What to Do 179
  • FURTHER READING 205
  • Index 209
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