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The U.S. in a Chaotic World

by Immanuel Wallerstein

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 2003
ISBN: 1-56584-799-7
Publisher: New Press

Some folks worry that America is embarking on a new course of world domination. Noted social scientist Wallerstein argues that our day in the imperial sun is already over.

It seems counterintuitive to suggest, as the ashes of Baghdad cool, that US military power is waning, its political and economic might fizzling. But Wallerstein (Ecole des Hautes Etudes/Binghamton Univ.), known among academics for his “world-system” approach to history, maintains that the events of September 11, 2001, hold a fivefold lesson for America: its military power has severe limitations (else the terrorists would not have been able to launch such a devastating attack on the homeland); anti-American feeling is on the rise throughout the world; the “economic binge of the 1990s” was an aberration in a larger cycle of global impoverishment; civil liberties are ever fragile and steadily being whittled away; and American nationalism, with its twin strains of isolationism and “macho militarism,” is responsible for more than a few of the world’s troubles. These essays, many drawn from journal articles, advance these arguments capably, though some of Wallerstein’s lines of thought turn on assumptions that not all readers will share—among them the Marxian notion that capitalism necessarily sows the seeds of its own demise, and Wallerstein’s apparently self-evident premise that state structures are declining across the planet, which will ipso facto increase the level of quotidian violence and global instability. To these assumptions Wallerstein adds the cheerful prediction that capitalism as we now know it will disappear in the coming century, once the world left stops affording it survival “on the basis of the nonfulfillment of liberal rhetoric.” What might replace it, of course, is anyone’s guess, though Wallerstein holds out much hope for a “relatively democratic, relatively egalitarian world.”

Provocative, if wholly arguable, and likely to enjoy wide circulation among the antiglobalism contingent.