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Theory

Immanuel Wallerstein: An Obituary

The death of Immanuel Wallerstein is an irreparable loss for the social sciences. He was unquestionably the most remarkable American sociologist of the twentieth century, and the one with greater international projection. His major accomplishment was to inspire successive generations of sociologists to discard the unit of analysis in which they had been trained (national societies) and rather focus on the world system (world economy and the sovereign state system).

Popular Power In A Time Of Reaction: Strategy For Social Struggle

Last year in “Below and Beyond Trump: Power and Counterpower,” we argued that the U.S. ruling class is in the midst of a destabilizing political crisis, leading to increasing politicization and polarization across the country, and that the Trump regime is both a symptom and a cause of the current divisions playing out at the top of the political food chain. In response to the rise of Trump...

Intersectional Black Power: CLR James On Capitalism And Race

By Lawrence Ware and Paul Buhle in Portside - James was first and foremost a Marxist. In 1969 he said, "I do not know, as a Marxist, black studies as such . this is the history of Western Civilization, the history that black people and white people and all serious students of modern history have to know." James, much like Du Bois, saw the question of race through the lens of class. He fully understood that slavery in the Americas was fundamentally a capitalist enterprise. For him, if you dig deep enough, capitalism is at the root of all systems of oppression. Yet, unlike many white progressives, James was never blind to the reality of race. Acknowledging this, he said, "It is over one hundred years since the abolition of slavery. The Negro people in the United States have taken plenty and they have reached a stage where they have decided that they are not going to take any more." James understood very clearly that racism plays a unique role that fighting class alone would not remedy.

Have Reports Of Capitalism’s Death Been Greatly Exaggerated?

By Kate Aronoff in Waging Nonviolence - Late last week, economic journalist Paul Mason, whose Channel 4 blog has been one of the best English-language sources for making sense of the ongoing Greek crisis,published an excerpt from his forthcoming book in The Guardian. It announces that the end of capitalism has begun and that (spoiler) it doesn’t look how we thought it might. The 20th century old/new leftist dream of some crisis-sparked proletarian revolt, he argues, has been battered by neoliberalism and, now, is being replaced by a steady trickle of viable, largely technology-fuelled alternatives to the current economy. “Capitalism, it turns out, will not be abolished by forced-march techniques,” Mason writes. “It will be abolished by creating something more dynamic that exists, at first, almost unseen within the old system, but which will break through, reshaping the economy around new values and behaviors.”

Fomenting The Radical Imagination With Movements

Our book, The Radical Imagination: Social Movement Research in the Age of Austerity (Zed Books, 2014), is a set of reflections on an experiment. Our experiment began, as most do, with questions. What if researchers studying social movements understood their role as less about gathering reliable data to share with other scholars and more about catalyzing and convoking the radical imagination? What if, instead of distanced observers, researchers understood themselves to be integral, generative and critical parts of how movements reproduced themselves? What if researchers — and here we don’t just mean gainfully employed academics but something far broader — were committed to enlivening and empowering those most important forces for social transformation: the social movements which, though sidelined and belittled in mainstream history, are and have always been the motors of historical change? What if we saw ourselves and our work as borrowed from a future that we must, in turn, help usher into being? We began The Radical Imagination Project in 2010 with two key theoretical assumptions. The first is that social movements are, at their hearts, animated by the radical imagination. The radical imagination is not a thing one can possess, no matter how “outside the box” one’s own personal thinking is or how many clever books one has read (or written). The radical imagination is a collective process, it’s something we do together. It is a shared landscape of political refusal, a mutually reinforcing agreement to question the social order and the roots of exploitation, inequality and oppression. Beyond merely a feel-good slogan, the radical imagination emerges out of questions, conflicts, friction and debate.
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