Reconciliation Committee Report

Reconciliation Committee Report

The Reconciliation Committee is pleased to present its work to the PEWS membership for feedback. This report outlines procedural recommendations as well as recommendations for substantive changes to the bylaws. The Committee invites the membership to provide comments on these recommendations by Oct. 19 on the listserv, on the blog, or via email to any of the Committee members (see email addresses below). The Committee will consider revisions based on membership feedback, and then forward its recommendations to the Council by Nov. 1. After receiving the Committee’s Report, the Council will consider the recommendations and vote on whether to put them on the spring ballot. The deadline for submitting bylaws changes to ASA for a membership vote in the spring is Nov. 10.

Procedural Recommendations

The Reconciliation Committee recognizes the Council’s multi-year effort to develop proposals to address declining membership numbers based on multiple rounds of feedback from the membership (i.e. membership survey, blog/listserv discussion, ASA workshop). At the same time, the Committee’s interpretation of the bylaws recognizes the right of Section members to submit referenda for a vote by the full membership by means of a petition containing the signatures of ten percent of the Section members or of 25 members of the Section, whichever is less. Since the Petition submitted by Bill Robinson, Wilma Dunaway, Chris Chase-Dunn, and Immanuel Wallerstein has met these criteria, the Committee recommends that its recommendations be voted on by the full membership.

Under its charge from Council, the Reconciliation Committee has considered both sets of proposals—those from Council and those from the petitioners—and has developed its own alternative bylaws changes that, pending membership feedback, it plans to recommend to the Council for a full membership vote. Given these multiple, alternative proposals, the Committee has generated procedural recommendations outlining how both the Petition proposals and any Committee proposals approved by Council could be presented to the membership for a vote.

The Petitioners proposed three changes to Section bylaws. We will outline procedural recommendations for handling each of these changes alongside the Committee’s proposed bylaws changes. To be clear, the Committee encourages the Council to continue their consideration of other proposed changes to the bylaws (i.e. Distinguished Teaching Award, Committee on Diversity and Inclusion, etc.), which are not discussed here and were not under the purview of this Committee.

1) The Reconciliation Committee and the Petitioners have each proposed a change to the Section’s mission statement. Assuming the Council approves the Committee’s proposal for a membership vote, the Committee recommends that the Committee mission statement and the Petition mission statement be proposed as alternatives on the ballot; the membership will be asked to choose between them.

2) The Reconciliation Committee recognizes that the Council’s and the Petitioners’ recommendations for changes to the Publications committee pursued a shared goal: strengthening institutional memory on the committee. As well, the two proposals were very similar. Thus, the Committee has adopted the Petition’s proposal with some minor wording changes and recommends presenting it to the membership for an up or down vote.

3) The Petitioners’ final proposal would establish an Annual Conferences committee to oversee the spring conference. Since the petition was circulated, Immanuel Wallerstein has informed the Council that he no longer wishes to pass this responsibility onto the Council. As such, this proposal is no longer on the table.

On a final procedural note, it is important to recognize that all potential bylaws changes must be approved by the ASA Committee on Sections and the ASA Council prior to a membership vote. Consultations with officers within ASA suggest that the approach recommended by the Committee will likely be deemed acceptable.

Substantive Recommendations

After considering Council’s proposals, the Petitioners’ proposals, and feedback from the ASA workshop, the Reconciliation Committee proposes two changes to the bylaws: 1) revisions to the Mission Statement and 2) changes to the composition of the Publications Committee.

1) Mission Statement:

The Committee considered both sets of proposed revisions to the Mission Statement, and drafted an alternative text (see below). As noted above, we recommend to Council that the Committee’s statement and the petitioners’ proposed statement be submitted to the membership for a vote.

“The Section on Political Economy of the World-System (PEWS) brings together scholars committed to the critical study of the capitalist world-economy and other historical social systems. The PEWS Section seeks to foster an intellectual tradition that finds its roots in the anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist analyses forged during struggles for decolonization by scholars in the Global South. With a focus on world-systemic dynamics, PEWS members are united by the use of political economy as an analytical frame, while exploring the intersection of political economic change with race, gender, class, imperialism, neo-colonialism, and the environment. This Section maintains PEWS’ legacy as a radical critique of disciplinary boundaries and thus embraces diverse disciplinary, epistemological, theoretical, and methodological approaches. We seek to provide a forum for intellectual exchange and debate among kindred sociologists, scholars, activist-practitioners, and teachers in both the Global North and the Global South. We welcome members with wide-ranging substantive interests in world historical perspectives and are strongly committed to promoting a diverse membership.”

2) Publications Committee:

The Committee recommends adopting the petitioners’ proposal with minor changes (see below).

“There shall be a Publications Committee to oversee the publication of the Journal of World-Systems Research (JWSR), the section newsletter, and the section website, and to maintain the social media presence of the section. The Publications Committee will consist of up to eight members which will include the current editor of the JWSR, the section newsletter editor(s), the section webmaster, two Council members, and up to two volunteers from the membership, which should include past JWSR editors when possible. Each year following the annual ASA meeting, the committee will elect its chair from its members and announce that election to the section via the section listserv. The editor of the JWSR shall be appointed by the Council on the recommendation of the Publications Committee.  The current editor of the JWSR shall serve as a non-voting, Ex-Officio member of the section Council. The newsletter editor(s) and the webmaster shall be appointed to three-year terms by the Council on the recommendation of the Publications Committee, and they may be reappointed to a second term by the Council.”

Respectfully submitted,

Reconciliation Committee

Amy Quark (chair),

Jennifer Bair,

Chris Chase-Dunn,

Rob Clark,

Albert Fu,

Jackie Smith,

Lu Zhang (council),

Revised Intellectual Identity Statement

The Section on Political Economy of the World-System (PEWS) brings together scholars animated by the critical study of global capitalism and other historical social systems. The Section seeks to foster analyses that accommodate multiple scales of political economy and are attentive to long-term world-system dynamics. These include, for example, macro-historical analyses such as the comparative study of world-systems over time, as well as studies that situate contemporary phenomena within their global and historical contexts. Building from this shared commitment to the use of political economy as a core analytical frame, PEWS members also explore the intersection of political economic dynamics with the historical development of inequalities including race and ethnicity; sex, gender, and sexuality; and empire and (neo)colonialism. PEWS scholarship is thus wide-ranging but marked by attention to understanding change across space and time as both patterned and historically contingent. As a section of ASA, PEWS is an inclusive community of sociologists interested in the political economy of the world-system broadly conceived. At the same time, PEWS maintains its legacy of radical critique of disciplinary boundaries, and thus embraces diverse disciplinary, epistemological, theoretical, and methodological approaches. We welcome members with wide-ranging substantive interests in world historical perspectives and are strongly committed to promoting a diverse membership.

Reimagining PEWS: A Proposal from the PEWS Council

This proposal addresses issues raised by our survey in 2016, and the subsequent discussion of the survey at the 2017 ASA meeting (see ). The survey explored ways to strengthen PEWS in the context of declining membership. Several newer ASA sections emerged in the last 10 years (e.g. Development, Global and Transnational, Poverty, Inequality and Mobility) that overlap substantively with PEWS in important ways. The growth of these sections corresponds in time with declining PEWS membership. Thus, the council and larger membership agreed the section should act now to remain vibrant and viable.

The survey results point to three key opportunities to strengthen the section. First, the survey suggested that current and former members value the section to the extent that it promotes their career success, and that research excellence was one important determinant of that success. Second, many members and former members perceived a lack of diversity in the section. Finally, current and former members perceived that the section could be more epistemologically, theoretically and methodologically heterodox.

The Council has developed a three-pronged proposal to leverage these opportunities.  We propose:
1) a reimagined statement of intellectual identity designed to reflect the work actually done in the section;
2) programmatic changes to help members advance their career and promote research excellence, and to enhance demographic, theoretical and methodological diversity.
3) structural changes to the PEWS governing body to make the programmatic changes viable, spread the workload more evenly among council members, and increase the number of opportunities for members to participate in section governance on an ad-hoc basis.

The Council feels that our current organizational structure, where elected officers do most of the work of the section, may have given the section the appearance of an exclusive club, as some members commented in the survey, where a small core of officers makes all of the decisions and a large periphery of members feels somewhat marginalized. The aim of this proposal is to dispel that appearance by involving many more members in the work of the section. If a large and diverse cross-section of the membership gets involved, the section should begin to feel more inclusive. At the same time, this will allow the section to offer more to its members: more opportunities to win awards for research, teaching, and contributions to diversity and more opportunities to provide service to the discipline, all of which tend to be rewarded within academic institutions.

The Council invites the PEWS membership, as well as non-members, to comment on the statement of intellectual identity and the concrete proposals, over the next few months on this blog. We welcome suggestions for additional or alternative programmatic/governance changes, as well as revisions to the intellectual identity statement. At the 2018 ASA meeting, we plan to have a longer than usual business meeting at which we hope to vote on whether to informally implement these changes in 2018-2019, put them up for a formal vote as changes to our bylaws in the spring of 2019, and discuss any additional issues that may remain.

The three parts of the proposal–the intellectual identity statement, the programmatic changes, and the governance changes–are outlined below in 3 consecutive blog posts. Permalinks to each of these posts can also be found at the top of the screen for easy access. Please comment on each part of the proposal on their respective threads.

Intellectual Identity Statement

“The Section on Political Economy of The World-System (PEWS) seeks to understand political, economic, social, cultural, and ecological processes as fundamentally entwined and constituted by their global and historical context. This means understanding the dynamic relationship between “local” and “global” processes, whether historical or contemporary, as both patterned and historically contingent. A strength of PEWS research is its diverse epistemological, theoretical, and methodological approaches to understanding how inequalities of various kinds (e.g. class, race, gender, sexuality, citizenship, etc.) and at various levels are shaped by power relations within and between societies. The section seeks to facilitate communication, expand networks, and provide a forum for intellectual exchange and debate among kindred sociologists, scholars, and teachers. We welcome members with wide-ranging substantive interests in world historical perspectives, and are strongly committed to promoting a diverse membership.”

Programmatic Changes

  1. A new “works in progress” section of the newsletter allowing PEWS members to post and receive feedback about ongoing research. This would be modeled after successful examples in other sections (e.g.
  2. Expand the mentoring program to link junior with senior faculty.
  3. Add a teaching award, alternating each year between a faculty teaching award and a graduate student teaching award (introduced this year).
  4. Add an award, given every two to three years, to the member doing the most to advance the scholarship of members from underrepresented groups.

Governance Changes

Divide member duties as follows:

  • Chair:
    • Current Duties
  • Chair-Elect:
    • Current Duties
  • Past Chair:
    • Current Duties, includes chairing Nominations committee and finding two non-council members to serve.
  • Secretary Treasurer:
    • Current Duties; Chair a Membership committee and find at least two non-council members to serve.
  • Council position #1:
    • Chair Article Awards (regular and student) Committee, and find at least two non-council members to serve.
  • Council position #2:
    • Chair Book Award Committee, and find at least two non-council members to serve.
  • Council position #3:
    • Chair Teaching Award Committee, and find at least two non-council members to serve.
  • Council position #4:
    • Chair Publication Committee, and work with Student position 1 and one or two PEWS members to ensure newsletter with ‘works in progress’ or research spotlight section is published quarterly.
  • Council position #5:
    • Chair Mentoring Program and, along with the 2nd student position, identify one to two PEWS members to serve on this committee and develop new strategy to link junior with senior faculty. Maintain updated list of grants and journals relevant to PEWS.
  • Council position #6:
    • Chair Diversity Committee, identity at least two PEWS members to serve. Duties to include awarding the “Advancing Underrepresented Scholars Award” every 2-3 years. In off years, duties would include generating tangible strategies for promoting diversity. For example, these could include diversity and need based travel grants, the organization of panel discussions at ASA or section annual meetings, etc.
  • Student position #1:
    • Mentoring Program
  • Student position #2:
    • Newsletter editor (part of the publication committee). The PEWS newsletter is currently published biannually, once in the fall and once in the spring. Regular features include “Words from the Chair,” section announcements, publications from section members, “PEWS in the News”, graduate student issues, and a report from the Journal of World-Systems Research. The editor, in consultation with the publications committee and/or additional volunteers, will be in charge of coordinating these regular features and generating original content for the newsletter.

We will continue to elect two new Council members each year. During their three year council terms, three council members will rotate through positions 1 (article award), 3 (teaching award), and 5 (publication committee), and three members will rotate through positions 2 (book award), 4 (mentoring program), and 6 (diversity committee).

Engagement opportunities for PEWS membership:

  • 2 positions on Nominations committee
  • 2 positions on Membership committee
  • 2 positions on Article Awards committee
  • 2 positions on Book Award committee
  • 2 positions on Teaching Award committee
  • 1-2 positions on Publications committee
  • 1-2 positions on Mentoring Program committee
  •  2 positions on Diversity committee