Immanuel Wallerstein

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Immanuel Wallerstein

Template:TOCnestleft Immanuel Wallerstein is currently a Senior Research Scholar at Yale University.


Wallerstein first became interested in world affairs as a teenager in New York City, and was particularly interested in the anti-colonial movement in India at the time. He attended Columbia University, where he received a B.A. in 1951, an M.A. in 1954 and a Ph.D. degree in 1959, and subsequently taught until 1971, when he became professor of sociology at McGill University. As of 1976, he served as distinguished professor of sociology at Binghamton University (SUNY) until his retirement in 1999, and as head of the Fernand Braudel Center for the Study of Economies, Historical Systems and Civilizations until 2005. Wallerstein held several positions as visiting professor at universities worldwide, was awarded multiple honorary degrees, intermittently served as Directeur d’études associé at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris, and was president of the International Sociological Association between 1994 and 1998. During the 1990s, he chaired the Gulbenkian Commission on the Restructuring of the Social Sciences. The object of the commission was to indicate a direction for social scientific inquiry for the next 50 years. In 2000 he joined the Yale Sociology department as Senior Research Scholar. In 2003 he received the Career of Distinguished Scholarship Award from the American Sociological Association.[1]


  • B.A. Columbia University, 1951
  • M.A. Columbia University, 1954
  • Ph.D., Columbia University, 1959[2]

Academic Posts

  • Senior Research Scholar, Yale University, 2000-present
  • Director, Fernand Braudel Center for the Study of Economies, Historical Systems, and Civilizations, 1976-2005
  • Distinguished Professor of Sociology, Binghamton University (SUNY), 1976-1999 [Emeritus]
  • Directeur d’études associé, Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (Paris), 1975-76, 80-81, 83-95
  • Professor of Sociology, McGill University, 1971-76
  • Department of Sociology, Columbia University, 1958-71
  • Visiting Professor at Alicante, Amsterdam, British Columbia, Chinese Univ. Hong Kong, Dar-es-Salaam, Illinois, Montpellier, UIMP-Menéndez Pelayo, Montreal, Napoli, Ottawa, Texas[3]

Professional Activities

Editorial Boards

IPS connection

Circa 1979 Wallerstein addressed an Institute for Policy Studies /TransNational Institute seminar in Amsterdam on “The World Capitalist System”.

MDS Board member

On February 17, 2007, the Movement for a Democratic Society held a well attended conference[5]at New York City’s New School University.

The business portion of the meeting followed with each board nominee introducing themselves to the conference. The board, a very diverse group, was voted in by acclamation... Board nominees where were not able to attend the conference were included in the appointment by acclamation. The list included Elliott Adams, Panama Vicente Alba, Tariq Ali, Stanley Aronowitz, David Barsamian, Rosalyn Baxandall, John Bracey, Jr., John Brittain, Robb Burlage, Noam Chomsky, Jayne Cortez, Carl Davidson, Angela Davis, Bernardine Dohrn, Barbara Epstein, Gustavo Esteva, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Stephen Fleischman, Bill Fletcher Jr, Tom Hayden, Gerald Horne, Florence Howe, Mike James, Robin D G Kelley, Alice Kessler Harris, Rashid Khalidi, Mike Klonsky, Betita Martinez, Ethelbert Miller, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Barbara Ransby, Patricia Rose, Michael Rossman, Studs Terkel, Charlene Teters, Jerry Tucker, Immanuel Wallerstein, Cornel West, Leonard Weinglass and Howard Zinn.

Open letter to Andy Stern

On May 1 2008, Immanuel Wallerstein, Professor of Sociology, Yale University signed an open letter to SEIU president Andy Stern in protest at SEIU moves force its local United Healthcare Workers into trusteeship.

"We are writing to express our deep concern about SEIU's threatened trusteeship over its third largest local, United Healthcare Workers (UHW). We believe that there must always be room within organized labor for legitimate and principled dissent, if our movement is to survive and grow. Putting UHW under trusteeship would send a very troubling message and be viewed, by many, as a sign that internal democracy is not valued or tolerated within SEIU. In our view, this would have negative consequences for the workers directly affected, the SEIU itself, and the labor movement as a whole. We strongly urge you to avoid such a tragedy."

Progressives for Obama

In 2009 Immanuel Wallerstein Yale University was listed as a signer of the Progressives for Obama website.[6]

World Social Forum

Wallerstein, was one of 60-100,000 people attending the the World Social Forum in Dakar, Senegal from Feb. 6-11, 2011.

Wallerstein wrote "The World Social Forum, Egypt, and Transformation", for Commentary No. 299 15 February 2011;[7]

By unforeseen coincidence, this was the week of the Egyptian people's successful dethroning of Hosni Mubarak, which finally succeeded just as the WSF was in its closing session. The WSF spent the week cheering the Egyptians on - and discussing the meaning of the Tunisian/Egyptian revolutions for their program of transformation, for achieving another world that is possible - possible, not certain.
To hold such an event, the WSF requires strong local social movements (which exist in Senegal) and a government that at least tolerates the holding of the Forum. The Senegalese government of Abdoulaye Wade was ready to "tolerate" the holding of the WSF, although already a few months ago it reneged on its promised financial assistance by three-quarters.
But then came the Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings, and the government got cold feet. What if the presence of the WSF inspired a similar uprising in Senegal? The government couldn't cancel the affair, not with Lula of Brazil, Morales of Bolivia, and numerous African presidents coming. So it did the next best thing. It tried to sabotage the Forum. It did this by firing the Rector of the principal university where the Forum was being held, four days before the opening, and installing a new Rector, who promptly reversed the decision of the previous Rector to suspend classes during the WSF so that meeting rooms be available.
The result was organizational chaos for at least the first two days. In the end, the new Rector permitted the use of 40 of the more than 170 rooms needed. The organizers imaginatively set up tents across the campus, and the meeting proceeded despite the sabotage.
Was the Senegalese government right to be so frightened of the WSF? The WSF itself debated how relevant it was to popular uprisings in the Arab world and elsewhere, undertaken by people who had probably never heard of the WSF? The answer given by those in attendance reflected the long-standing division in its ranks. There were those who felt that ten years of WSF meetings had contributed significantly to the undermining of the legitimacy of neoliberal globalization, and that the message had seeped down everywhere. And there were those who felt that the uprisings showed that transformational politics lay elsewhere than in the WSF...
There was nonetheless one underlying complaint among those in attendance. People said correctly we all know what we're against, but we should be laying out more clearly what it is we are for. This is what we can contribute to the Egyptian revolution and to the others that are going to come everywhere...
For the moment, all eyes are on the Arab world and the degree to which the heroic efforts of the Egyptian people will transform politics throughout the Arab world. But the tinder for such uprisings exists everywhere, even in the wealthier regions of the world. As of the moment, we are justified in being semi-optimistic.

Bamako Appeal: the "campaign against capitalism"

In an article titled "The World Social Forum: From Defense to Offense,"[8] Immanuel Wallerstein of Agence Global wrote in part:

"The key idea is the creation of networks, which the WSF is singularly equipped to construct at a global level. There is now an effective network of feminists. For the first time, at Nairobi, there was instituted a network of labor struggles (defining the concept of "worker" quite broadly). There is now an ongoing network of activist intellectuals. The network of rural/peasant movements has been reinforced. There is a budding network of those defending alternative sexualities (which permitted Kenyan gay and lesbian movements to affirm a public presence that had been difficult before). There is an anti-war network (immediately concerned with Iraq and the Middle East in general). And there are functional networks on specific arenas of struggle - water rights, the struggle against HIV/AIDS, human rights.

The WSF is also spawning manifestos: the so-called Bamako Appeal, which expounds a whole campaign against capitalism; a feminist manifesto, now in its second draft and continuing to evolve; a labor manifesto which is just being born. There will no doubt be other such manifestos as the WSF continues. The fourth day of the meeting was devoted essentially to meetings of these networks, each of which was deciding what kinds of joint actions it could undertake - in its own name, but within the umbrella of the WSF.

Finally, there was the attention turned to what it means to say "another world." There were serious discussions and debates about what we mean by democracy, who is a worker, what is civil society, what is the role of political parties in the future construction of the world. These discussions define the objectives, and the networks are a large part of the means by which these objectives are to be realized. The discussions, the manifestos, and the networks constitute the offensive posture."