Who is Immanuel Wallerstein, and why am I quoting him?



from Wikipedia:

Immanuel Wallerstein (/ˈwɔːlərstiːn/; born September 28, 1930) is an American sociologist, economic historian and world-systems analyst, arguably best known for his development of the general approach in sociology which led to the emergence of his world-systems approach.



He  gave this as an Address, “The End of What Modernity?” to the President’s Forum,  “The End of Modernity,” Bucknell University, Sept. 30, 1993.


This is just part of the address, but it really hit me.  He describes what’s happening now, in 2019,

especially the last two paragraphs, about the ecology and the migration issue:



At the very same time, the socioeconomic underpinnings of the world-system have been seriously weakening. Let me just mention four such trends, which do not exhaust the list of structural transformations.


First, there is a serious depletion of the world pool of available cheap labor. For four centuries now, urban wage laborers have been able repeatedly to use their bargaining power to raise the portion of surplus-value they can obtain for their labor. Capitalists have nonetheless been able to counter the negative effect this has on the rate of profit by expanding, just as repeatedly, the labor pool and thereby bringing into the wage labor market new groups of previously non-waged laborers who were initially ready to accept very low wages. The final geographical expansion of the capitalist world-economy in the late nineteenth century to include the entire globe has forced an acceleration of the process of deruralization of the world labor force, a process that is far advanced and may be substantially completed in the near future. This inevitably means a sharp increase in worldwide labor costs as a percentage of the total cost of worldwide production.


A second structural problem is the squeeze on the middle strata. They have been correctly perceived as a political pillar of the existing world-system. But their demands, on both employers and the states, have been expanding steadily, and the worldwide cost of sustaining a vastly expanded middle stratum at ever higher per personam levels is be-coming too much to bear for both enterprises and state treasuries. This is what is behind the multiple attempts of the last decade to roll back the welfare state. But of two things one. Either these costs are not rolled back, in which case both states and enterprises will be in grave trouble and frequent bankruptcy. Or they will be rolled back, in which case there will be significant political disaffection among precisely the strata that have provided the strongest support for the present world-system.


A third structural problem is the ecological crunch, which poses for the world-system an acute economic problem. The accumulation of capital has for five centuries now been based on the ability of enterprises to externalize costs. This has essentially meant the overutilization of world resources at great collective cost but at virtually no cost to the enterprises. But at a certain point the resources are used up, and the negative toxicity reaches a level that it is not possible to continue. Today we find we are required to invest heavily in cleanup, and we shall have to cut back in usage not to repeat the problem. But it is equally true, as enterprises have been shouting, that such actions will lower the global rate of profit.



Finally, the demographic gap doubling the economic gap between North and South is accelerating rather than diminishing. This is creating an incredibly strong pressure for South to North migratory movement, which in turn is generating an equally strong anti-liberal political reaction in the North. It is easy to predict what will happen. Despite increased barriers, illegal immigration will rise everywhere in the North, as will know-nothing movements. The internal demographic balances of states in the North will change radically and acute social conflict can be expected.




Published by ahiggins2013

poet, birder, senior citizen, cancer survivor, Catholic sister. Eight books of poetry published: At the Year’s Elbow, Mellen Poetry Press 2000; Scattered Showers in a Clear Sky, Plain View Press 2007; chapbooks: Pick It Up and Read, Finishing Line Press 2008, How the Hand Behaves, Finishing Line Press 2009, Digging for God, Wipf and Stock 2010, Vexed Questions, Aldrich Press 2013, Reconnaissance, Texture Press 2014, and Life List, Finishing Line Press, 2015.

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