Immanuel Wallerstein, a great contemporary sociologist and former head of International Sociological Association, Traveled to Iran to appear and do a speech on the seminar of “An Overview of Wallerstein’s Ideas” from Feb, 28th to March, 7th. He has been a compatible scholar in the field of sociology and marked himself as a universal theorizer with publication of his great research on “New World System” and he won the “Sorokin Award” of American Sociological Association in 1975 for his publication. His widespread research about new world system was a new and innovative rendition of modern world development from 16th to 20th centuries which has been one of the most influential and greatest works of contemporary sociology.
For many thinkers of the development studies, world system theory works better than modernization approach and the concept of dependency can very well explain the economic development of central countries versus semi developed or under developed marginal countries in economic structure of capitalization context. This framework explains appearance and decline of super-powers and powers in modern era from Holland to England and USA and even new powers such as China and new industrial countries in East-Asia and Latin America. In this theory in new world system the hegemonic power of economy is more important than of the political and military powers. Today’s super-powers of the world must be studied through new dimension of their economy and its capabilities.
Wallerstein talks of “three dimensional world” rather than two dimensional world and pictures a plural and divers world in which there is no hegemonic power. In such a world the geo-political map of the countries is an ever-changing one that permits shift of powers. This multi-layer, ever-changing and transitional world which allows transfer of capital among different regions, discontinues the world from shaping a two dimensional world. As oppose to the dependency theory, Wallerstein suggests that capital can have a two-way transformation which might lead to shift in development status of different countries.
Eighty four years old Wallerstein still follows up on world’s ups and downs and on 2011 he published his fourth major work on new world system: “The Modern World-System, vol. IV: Centrist Liberalism Triumphant, 1789–1914”. In this work he examines the hegemonic status of political tendencies from French revolution to World War One in the context of capitalism. The French revolution legitimized the rule of the people and in reaction to this universal cultural change, three approaches of conservatism, liberalism and radicalism aroused. And the capitalism after a period of revolutions generated a relative order in the world and liberalism won as the leading and dominating ideology.
Wallerstein also discusses about current world issues and challenges. In recent years he has been writing about and analyzing Iran’s socio-political post-election events since 2010, Arab Spring in Middle East region, crisis in Surya and recent protests in Ukraine in his blog.
He is a theorist that advocates unification of social sciences for proper understanding of conditions of social life in contemporary world system and opposes extreme specialization of social sciences into separated fields such as history, sociology, politics, economics and considers this to be the most important factor in malfunctioning of theories, explanations and guidelines of universal problems and the challenges of marginal countries. In such a way he belongs to traditions of great classical sociological thinkers such as Marx, Durkheim, Simmel and Weber.
Social science in its tradition of history and epistemology looks for interactions and dialectical relationships in cultural structures of everyday life and Iranian Sociological Association, establishing a space for dialogue in sociology and beyond as its main objective, finds Wallerstein’s presence an opportunity for indecision in thoughts and theories of one of the best social thinkers of our time.
Head of Iranian Sociological Association
Mohammad Amin GhaneiRad