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The Globalization and Development Reader: Perspectives on Development and Global Change, 2nd Edition by Nitsan Chorev, Amy Bellone Hite, J. Timmons Roberts

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9 The Rise and Future Demise of the World Capitalist System: Concepts for Comparative Analysis (1979)

Immanuel Wallerstein

The growth within the capitalist world-economy of the industrial sector of production, the so-called “industrial revolution”, was accompanied by a very strong current of thought which defined this change as both a process of organic development and of progress. There were those who considered these economic developments and the concomitant changes in social organization to be some penultimate stage of world development whose final working out was but a matter of time. These included such diverse thinkers as Saint-Simon, Comte, Hegel, Weber, Durkheim. And then there were the critics, most notably Marx, who argued, if you will, that the nineteenth-century present was only an antepenultimate stage of development, that the capitalist world was to know a cataclysmic political revolution which would then lead in the fullness of time to a final societal form, in this case the classless society.

One of the great strengths of Marxism was that, being an oppositional and hence critical doctrine, it called attention not merely to the contradictions of the system but to those of its ideologists, by appealing to the empirical evidence of historical reality which unmasked the irrelevancy of the models proposed for the explanation of the social world. The Marxist critics saw in abstracted models concrete rationalization, and they argued their case fundamentally by ...

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