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