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Scholarly Activities

Research Working Groups

Active Research Working Groups

Recent Research Working Groups

For information on previous RWGs, see INTELLECTUAL REPORT

Structures of Knowledge RWG

This group was organized to take forward the intellectual work of the Gulbenkian Commission by doing research on the "two cultures" - the origins of the split between science and philosophy, its consequences for the social sciences, and the recent challenges to the division that may indicate modes of "overcoming the two cultures."

This group, presently with 16 members, and coordinated by Immanuel Wallerstein and Richard Lee, has developed a structure for its work which takes the following provisional form:

The Historical Construction and Institutionalization of the "Two Cultures"

First Arena - From Natural Philosophy to Science as a Separated, Demarcated Domain: The Secular Trend, 1450-1960's

Second Arena - The Consolidation of the Humanities and the Defense of Values: French Revolution to the 1960's

Third Arena - The Contradictory Pulls of the "Two Cultures": Mid-Nineteenth Century to the 1960's

Contemporary Challenges In and To the Structures of Knowledge Complexity Studies
Social Studies of Science
Diversity I: Feminisms
Diversity II: Race and Ethnicity in the West
Diversity III: Non-Western Civilizations
Popular Culture/Cultural Studies

Conclusions and Prognostics

East Asia in World Historical Perspective RWG

The group conducted a small international planning meeting in Binghamton on Dec. 6-7, 1996, with support from the ACLS. The conference centered around discussion of a paper jointly authored by Giovanni Arrighi, Takeshi Hamashita, and Mark Selden, entitled "The Rise of East Asia in Historical Perspective." Participants included: Mitchell Bernard (York Univ.), Bruce Cumings (Northwestern Univ.), Gary Hamilton (Univ. of Washington), Peter Katzenstein (Cornell), Caglar Keyder (Binghamton Univ.), Philip McMichael (Cornell), Takashi Shiraishi (Kyoto), Robert Wade (Brown), Wang Zhengyi (Nankai Univ., China), Ramon Grosfoguel (Binghamton Univ.), Beverly Silver (Johns Hopkins Univ.) and Immanuel Wallerstein (Fernand Braudel Center).

This was followed by a workshop in Hong Kong in June 1998. This workshop was entitled "The Rise of East Asia: 500, 150, and 50 Year Perspectives."

The workshop proposed an analysis of the emerging East Asian regional political economy along three distinct temporal dimensions, embedded within one another in Russian-doll fashion. The shortest dimension was defined by the reorganization of East Asia in the era of U.S.-Soviet hegemonic rivalry and the resurgence of Asia as a power center in the world-economy; the intermediate perspective was defined by the response of East Asian countries to the devastating nineteenth-century challenge of Western power including colonialism and the rise of Japan; and the long perspective was defined by the legacy of the East Asia tribute-trade system in the intergovernmental and interenterprise relations from the sixteenth century.

The following papers were prepared:

Economic Development in the Americas

The Fernand Braudel Center has been invited to participate in a research program coordinated by the Institute of Economics at the University of Campinas, Brazil, to investigate five centuries of economic development in the Americas. The project will include the Colegio de Mexico and an Argentine group as well and will be broadly comparative in purpose. The object is to "rethink development" in the light of a comparison of divergent historical paths in the Americas since 1500. Our responsibility is to examine economic development in North America and the United States for the entire period from three different chronological perspectives, the long term of five centuries since European colonization of the Americas; the two centuries since the beginning of decolonization and creation of independent nation-states in the Americas; and the last fifty years. The work of the research working group and workshop will result in a paper of approximately 75 pages that examines and analyzes those three periods of North American and U.S. economic, political, and perhaps social development, with the emphasis most heavily on the first.

For further information, contact Prof. Melvyn Dubofsky, Dept. of History, Phone: 777-4416; Fax: 777-2896; e-mail:

Comparative Hegemonies RWG

The work of this group was meant to parallel and complement the work of the Trajectory RWG (see below).

We seek, one, to identify analogies between the current and previous hegemonic transitions and to suggest what is anomalous in the current transition in comparison with previous transitions; and, two, to frame the implications for the future of the world-system over the next 50 years or so of the analogies/anomalies we can identify.

The design of our research is in part derived from the definition of "world hegemony" as the leadership/governance, exercised by a particular group/community/organization (historically by the ruling groups of one [or more] particular state[s]) of a system of sovereign states. In all instances of world hegemony, this leadership/governance has been exercised through some control over: one, the use of violence in the interstate system; two, the supply of accepted means of payment to the governmental and business institutions of the world-economy; and, three, the principles, norms and rules that regulate the behavior of governments in their mutual relations and in their relations to subjects. When all three kinds of control are present to some degree and strengthen one another, we speak of a rising or stable state of hegemony. In contrast, when control in one or more of these spheres weakens (there are persistent competitors) and this weakening undermines control in the other spheres, we speak of a declining state of hegemony, which, given our conception of the capitalist world-economy, means a crisis of hegemony (i.e., of the system).

Hegemonic transitions are defined as the "conjunction" of a rising and of a declining hegemony. They are periods of dualism/pluralism of power in the world-system. The rising power of the would-be hegemon(s) tends to further undermine the already declining relational capabilities of the former hegemonic state to enforce established principles, norms and rules of (inter)governmental behavior, and "anarchy" in the interstate system (absence of a hegemonic center) tends to turn into "systemic chaos" (total and apparently irremediable lack of organization). The transition is completed when a new hegemon has acquired the strategic, financial and ideological capabilities necessary to establish and enforce a new set of principles, norms and rules of (inter)governmental behavior ("world order").

The processes through which a declining hegemony is undermined by the rise of new powers and a new state of hegemony is established by a new center after a more or less long period of systemic chaos, constitute the common subject-matter. What differentiates the individual activities from one another is not the object of analysis but the particular angle of vision from which the same processes of hegemonic transition(s) are examined. The research considers finance, trade and production, reproduction of everyday life, social conflict/cohesion, and incorporation and its limits. All the individual investigations have to ask the same four questions.

1. How was the world-system of accumulation and rule instituted at the beginning of the transition, as seen from the angle of geopolitics, high finance, etc.? This is the same as asking how world hegemony was operating before being challenged and disrupted. It is of course possible that in some particular sphere no leadership/governance was being exercised. If properly documented, this would in itself be an important point.

2. How did competing structures/regimes of accumulation and rule emerge within the hegemonic system? This question concerns the development of credible challenges to the established hegemony. There may be, and normally there have been, more than one credible challenger developing more or less simultaneously (historically speaking) in each hegemonic crisis/transition: at least France, besides England, in challenging Dutch centrality; at least Germany, besides the U.S., in challenging Britain's preminence. The bearer of a challenge in one sphere (e.g., geopolitics) may not be the bearer of a challenge in another sphere (e.g., trade and production).

3. How did the emergence of competing structures/regimes of rule and accumulation deepen the contradictions of the hegemonic system and transform system order towards systemic chaos? This question concern the destruction of the preceding order under the impact of (hegemonic) rivalry(ies). The previous question concerned the development of (hegemonic) rivalries in the form of alternative and competing projects of reorganizing the world- system of accumulation and rule--a system which, however, continued to operate by the old "rules of the game." This question, in contrast, concerns the apparently irremediable disorganization of the system brought about by the escalation of intra- and inter-state hegemonic struggles. Once again, struggle and chaos take different forms in different spheres, and in some spheres neither may be all that visible.

4. How did the new hegemony emerge out of the struggles and systemic chaos of the transition? If the previous question concerned the destruction of the old order, this question concerns the creation of the new order. Here one must examine both the configuration of forces that favored the victory of the new hegemon and the transformations in the strategies and organization of the latter that were brought about by the struggles and the chaos and had a bearing on the establishment of the new order. It is entirely possible that in some spheres the new hegemonic power "won no victory" or that its strategies and organization were not affected by the decline of the old order.

This group has now finished its work. It will be published as Giovanni Arrighi, Terence K. Hopkins, Beverly J. Silver, and Associates, Chaos and Governance in the Modern World System: Comparing Hegemonic Transitions by Univ. of Minnesota Press, May 1999. The table of contents are as follows:

Trajectory RWG

The work of this group centered around the construction of vectors of transformation between 1945 and 1990 in a series of specific fields, listed in alphabetical order: antisystemic movements, ecology, education, finance, food and nutrition, health, interstate organizations, interstate relationships (geopolitics), labor force, military, peasantries, religious institutions, science, state cohesion, transnational enterprises, women, world production loci.

For each vector, the group analyzed the pattern in two successive periods: 1945-1967/73, and 1967/73-1990, and compared the two patterns. Each vector was being treated worldwide with a particular eye to differences between core, semiperipheral, and peripheral zones of the world-system.

The group then attempted to "put the vectors together" in order first, to delineate the overall picture of the trends between 1945-1990 and, secondly, to delineate the realistic alternative projections for the period 1990-2025.

A particular focus of the entire analysis was to seek to determine the degree to which 1967/73 marked a triple conjuncture of breakpoints (turn from A to B phases) in the world-system: (a) the breakpoint in a Kondratieff long wave (1945-1995?); (b) the breakpoint in U.S. hegemony in the world- system; (1873-2025?); (c) the breakpoint in the modern world-system (1450-2100?). It is clear that the evidence is easier to assess for (a) than for (b) and for (b) than for (c), in part because the putative endpoints of each cycle is successively further into the future.

The work of this group complements the work of the Comparative Hegemonies RWG in a very specific way. The Comparative Hegemonies Group traced the transitions from Dutch to British hegemony, and from British to U.S. hegemony. The Trajectory RWG assessed the degree to which it is likely there will be a third such transition, from U.S. to ? hegemony, or not.

The final product of this group has been published: Terence K. Hopkins and Immanuel Wallerstein, coordinators, The Age of Transition: Trajectory of the World-System, 1945-2025. The publisher is Zed Books (London and New Jersey), and Pluto Press Australia. Editions are expected in Japanese, Korean, and Turkish.

The Table of Contents of the book:


1. The World-System: Is There a Crisis?
Terence K. Hopkins and Immanuel Wallerstein

Part I: The Institutional Vectors, 1945-90

2. The Interstate System

Thomas Reifer and Jamie Sudler

From 1945 to 1967/73: The Creation of the Cold War Structure
From 1967/73 to 1990: Changes in the Interstate System

3. World Production
Satoshi Ikeda

Expansion, Integration and Polarization
The Expanding Role of Transnational Corporations
The Industrial Sector
The Service Sector
US Hegemony and the World-Economy

4. The World Labour Force
Faruk Tabak

Pax Americana and the Global Spread of Taylorism
The Global Reach of Taylorism
Changing Modes of Expansion of Capital and Labour Control
The Expanding Dominion of Semiproletarian Households

5. World Human Welfare
Sheila Pelizzon and John Casparis

From 1945 to 1967/73: The Apogee of the Welfare State
From 1967/73 to 1990: The Welfare State under Attack

6. The Social Cohesion of the States
Georgi M. Derlugian

From 1945 to 1967/73: The Time of Universal Deliverance
From 1967/73 to 1990: The Time of Undoing

7. Structures of Knowledge
Richard Lee

From 1945 to 1967/73: The Construction of Consensus
From 1967/73 to 1990: Contradiction and Transformation
A World in Transition

Part II: Overview

8. The Global Picture, 1945-90
Immanuel Wallerstein

9. The Global Possibilities, 1990-2025
Immanuel Wallerstein


World Labor RWG

The work of the World Labor RWG has been published as a Special issue of Review, XVIII, 1, 1995.


Beverly J. Silver, Giovanni Arrighi & Melvyn Dubofsky
Special Editors
Beverly J. Silver, Giovanni Arrighi & Melvyn Dubofsky, "Introduction"


Beverly J. Silver, " Labor Unrest and World-Systems Analysis: Premises, Concepts and Measurement"
Jamie F. Dangler, " The Times (London) and New York Times as Sources on World Labor Unrest"


Giovanni Arrighi, " Labor Unrest in Italy"
Mark Selden, " Labor Unrest in China"
Mark Beittel, " Labor Unrest in South Africa"
Roberto P. Korzeniewicz, " Labor Unrest in Argentina"
Donald Quataert, "Labor Unrest in Egypt"
Melvyn Dubofsky, " Labor Unrest in the United States"
John Casparis& Giovanni Arrighi, " Labor Unrest in Germany"


Beverly J. Silver, " World-Scale Patterns of Labor-Capital Conflict: Labor Unrest, Long Waves and Cycles of Hegemony"


World Labor Group, "Data Collection Instructions"
World Labor Group, "The Geographical Spread of Mentions of Labor Unrest, 1906-1990"
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Last Updated: 5/3/11