Antisystemic Movements is an eloquent and concise history of popular resistance and class struggle by the leading exponents of the “world-systems” perspective on capitalism. Basing itself on an analysis of resistance movements since the emergence of capitalism, it shows that while some early forms were successful in their own terms, ultimately they did not impede the consolidation of the modern capitalist world-system.
The authors argue that although capitalism generated resistance right from the beginning as it displaced populations, despoiled resources and established global exploitation, until about 1848 the capitalist world-system could crush or outflank an opposition which was dispersed, localized and lacking in organization and continuity. From the mid-nineteenth century down to recent times, more adequately organized social and national movements set some limits on capital accumulation, but generally remained confined in their effectiveness to the terrain of the nation-state. Indeed, paradoxically, the successes of the “old” social movements helped to boost the power and legitimacy of states while failing to remove the sources of class conflict or to grapple with the consequences of interstate competition.
Taking the year 1968 as a symbolic turning-point, the authors argue that “new” antisystemic movements have arisen which challenge the logic of the capitalist world-system more centrally than ever before. These new movements have a different ethnic and gender composition and different ways of organizing, while their key inspirations show an increasing ability to cross national boundaries. The authors suggest that the new assertiveness of the south, the development of class struggle in the east and the emergence of rainbow coalitions in different world zones might hold out the promise of a future socialist world-system.
Paperback, 136 pages
$19.95 / £12.99
Immanuel Wallerstein, writing for Al Jazeera, argues that the spirit of 1968 flows through Arab Spring and Occupy movement, but warns that its counter-current is attempting to suppress real change.
Wallerstein, co-author of Anti-Systemic Movements, argues that the Arab Spring is composed of "two quite different currents" that are "going in radically different directions," - something that has not be been fully analysed. Understanding this division is key to negotiating a sustainable resistance.
Wallerstein identifies one of these currents as "the 1968 current", or the "second Arab revolt" which aims to "achieve the global autonomy of the Arab world" that was prevented by Franco-British measure during the "first Arab revolt". Arguing that the Arab Spring is the heir of the "world revolution of 1968," Wallerstein points out that both movements are rooted in anti-authoritarianism and rejection of corrupt power systems. He writes that, like the rebels in the Arab world,
the revolutionaries of 1968 were protesting against the inherently undemocratic behaviour of those in authority. This was a revolt against such use (or misuse) of authority at all levels: the level of the world-system as a whole; the level of the national and local governments; the level of the multiple non-governmental institutions in which people take part or to which they are subordinated (from workplaces to educational structures to political parties and trade-unions).