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12 June 2015

Wallerstein: 3 conclusions about protest

The Blog


Protest politicians and parties rarely fulfill their promises, Immanuel Wallerstein noted in a recent analysis.


Immanuel Wallerstein is the creator of world-systems theory, an International Relations theory that sees the world as a complete social system with a historically limited lifespan, and nations as ideological vessels used to encourage disparity and arbitrary rule in that system.

In his analysis, Wallerstein made the following three conclusions about protest politics, using the Scottish National Party (SNP) as one example of such a movement:
  • "The first is that national governments do not have unlimited power to do what they want. They are extremely constrained by the operation of the world-system as a whole."
  • "The second conclusion is that, nonetheless, they can do something to alleviate the distress of ordinary persons. They can do this precisely by pursuing reallocations of income via taxation and other mechanisms. Such measures will “minimize the pain” of those who are the beneficiaries. The results may only be temporary. But once again I remind you that we all live in the short run and any help we can get in the short run is a plus, not a minus."
  • "The third conclusion is that, if a protest movement is going to be a serious participant in changing the world-system, it must not limit itself to short-run populism but engage in middle-run organization to affect the worldwide struggle in this period of systemic crisis and transition to an alternative world-system, one that has already begun and is ongoing."

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