Immanuel Wallerstein was one of the most influential social theorists of recent decades. His approach to world history, which he called the “world-system perspective,” had a wide and deep impact throughout the social sciences and humanities.

Wallerstein was born in New York City on September 28, 1930.  He earned his B.A. (1951), M.A. (1954), and Ph.D. (1959) at Columbia University, where he taught until 1971. Columbia housed outstanding intellectuals such as Karl Polanyi, Lionel Trilling, Richard Hofstadter and C. Wright Mills. Wallerstein’s intellectual development reached from New York City to Paris, Ghana, and the Ivory Coast. While in Paris he became familiar with the work of the Annales School, a legacy of Fernand Braudel. He also worked with Georges Balandier, sociologist, anthropologist and ethnologist who focused on African colonialism. Though there have been many other contributors, Immanuel Wallerstein was the major founder of the world-system perspective. His outstanding work as a historical sociologist and a public intellectual demonstrate that social theory is not only for academics. His work is being carried on in several institutional contexts by younger generations of world-system scholars and global justice activists. The struggle continues.

Remembering Immanuel Wallerstein

We invite PEWS members to submit their remembrances or stories about Immanuel Wallerstein.

Further Readings

Arrighi, G. & Goldfrank W. L. (Eds.) (2000). Festschrift for Immanuel Wallerstein. Journal of World-Systems Research, VI, 150-945. 

Babones, S. & Chase-Dunn, C (Eds.) (2012). Routledge Handbook of World-Systems Analysis. London: Routledge.

Wallerstein, I. (Ed.) (2000). The Essential Wallerstein. New York: New Press.

Wallerstein, I. (2004). World-Systems Analysis: An Introduction. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Wallerstein, I. (2011). The Modern World-System I: Capitalist Agriculture and the Origins of the European World-Economy in the Sixteenth Century, with a new Prologue. Berkeley: University of California Press (reprint of 1974 original).

Wallerstein, I. (2011). The Modern World-System II: Mercantilism and the Consolidation of the European World-Economy, 1600-1750, with a new Prologue. Berkeley: University of California Press (reprint of 1980 original).

Wallerstein, I. (2011). The Modern World-System III: The Second Era of Great Expansion of the Capitalist World-Economy, 1730-1840s, with a new Prologue. Berkeley: University of California Press (reprint of 1989 original).

Wallerstein, I. (2011).  The Modern World-System IV: Centrist Liberalism Triumphant, 1789–1914. Berkeley: University of California Press.