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New Left Review 78, November-December 2012


jennifer pitts

A LIBERAL GEOCULTURE?

Immanuel Wallerstein’s series on The Modern World-System forms the centrepiece, over forty years in the making, of a provocative, wide-ranging and prolific career devoted to analysing the construction of the contemporary global order, from what he sees as its origins in the 16th century to its supposed unravelling over the last several decades. [1] Immanuel Wallerstein, The Modern World-System IV: Centrist Liberalism Triumphant, 1789–1914, University of California Press: Berkeley 2011, £19.95, paperback 378 pp, 978 0 520 26761 9 A long gap separates the latest volume—the fourth, in what is now envisioned as a six- or seven-part work—from its predecessors, which were first published in 1974, 1980 and 1989. The first three, with informative new prefaces in which Wallerstein replies, with characteristic assurance and good humour, to his many critics, have now been reissued by the University of California Press in a handsome set, along with Volume iv. Wallerstein’s radically original approach is once again helpfully summarized in its concluding chapter, where it is crisply counterposed to the ‘usual view’ of the long 19th century of 1789–1914 as the age of multiple revolutions—above all, perhaps, to Hobsbawm’s ‘dual’ French and Industrial Revolutions—whose outcomes would culminate in the Great War’s clash of rival imperial powers.

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