Bob Cropf

End of capitalism?

In economics, public finance on February 13, 2009 at 8:32 PM

Fascinating interview with social thinker Immanuel Wallerstein to be found here. Wallerstein is not an economist but is a highly respected social thinker. This is the first time I’ve heard of Jae-Jung Suh, who is his interviewer.

Wallerstein makes several provocative statements during the course of the interview, such as the following:
“I think U.S. hegemony has been in decline ever since that time. I analyze these things in terms of what are called Kondratieff (Kondratiev) phases, and we entered a Kondratieff B phase at about that time. The world economy has been in relative stagnation for 30 years. ”

“The second thing that happens when you have a Kondratieff B phase is that people who want to make a lot of money shift to the financial sphere; basically, speculation through debt mechanisms of various kinds.”

“There is a crisis of the capitalist system, that is to say we have the conjuncture of normal downturn processes. What I think of as the fundamental crisis of the system is such that I don’t think the system will be here 20 or 30 years from now. It will have disappeared and been completely replaced by some other kind of world system.”

“We can have a system better than capitalism or we can have a system that is worse than capitalism. The only thing we can’t have is a capitalist system. Now, I have given you a short version of the whole argument.”

All in all, the interview makes for fascinating, if a little dense, reading. Note that Wallenstein is not stating that capitalism’s demise, as he sees it,will lead to a Marxist future. He does not predict what will happen. He simply says the world order will be different from the one that has dominated the world for the last 100 or so years.


  1. Wallerstien has an interesting world view of the decline of US influence, but I don’t see a departure from capitalism. Much of the world (Russia, China, Brazil, etc.) has been enjoying the fruits of economic growth, and will want more. I think it would require a far greater world crisis, such as ecological disaster, world famine, etc. to push us to toward a Jacoben world.

  2. Huh, Chris, you don´t seem to understand.
    Is not as if you WANT to, but you CAN´t to. Wallerstein implies that trying to maintain capitalism at all costs will lead to a worse situation, it will imply using weapons, maybe even nuclear ones. And your “Far greater world crisis” is already here. He wishes a better system would be put into place, but he implies NOTHING IS GUARANTEED. It could be a “Mad Max” world. Capitalism is exhausted, you can´t make any more profit off of the present model, if the USA can´t with al their might, BRIC countries are even less capable of it.

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