Intervention has just been informed that this compilation left out Thomas Picketty, the French economist, whose book, Capital in the Twenty First Century has not only sold more than a million copies but is also the one big influential author in the study of Western capitalism today. According to our source, the drawback in his own case is that he didn’t have much to say on developing countries.
Beyond having little to say on the developing world, his book has attracted a counter text in Anti-Picketty: Capital for the 21st Century. Tragically, however, a reviewer has dismissed the counter published in 2017, saying it is no more than 24 points by 24 economists that didn’t go beyond nitpicking and lacking in data that compares with Picketty’s own trove. This is a quick journalistic read and there is, perhaps, no final word yet!
Our source does not think there are really influential, big system thinkers in the academy today. Coming from a product of a big league UK university and an African academic himself, it is food for thought. Might Eclectic Analyticism and middle range theorizing not cheated the world?
Intervention welcomes more such interventions and will keep updating this story! The original story remains:
First to go from that unique constituency of scholars who sustained radical imagination of the global capitalist system was Andre Gunder Frank. He died in 2005. That is quite a long time ago but for the fact that, strictly speaking, there has not been another Andre Gunder Frank. It is in much fewer places such as the London School of Economics that the broad radicalism the constituency pushed is being studied but in a substantially reconfigured form as International Historical Sociology, no less a powerful analytical lens on global character of capitalism.
In November 1996, Prof Claude Ake took his turn in a very tragic manner. His Revolutionary Pressures in Africa and boldness generally marks his belongingness in this club. Of course, Walter Rodney died much, much younger than Ake and equally a tragic manner. He was killed before he could reach 40.
On August 12th, 2018, it was the turn of another of them, Samir Amin. He was no less a powerful framer of the global order from the point of view of the disastrous consequences for its victims. And now, it is Immanuel Wallerstein taking his turn on August 31st, 2019. Professor Immanuel Wallerstein emerged and remained a Sociologist with a global voice. His death marks further depletion of the tribe.
Each of these scholar-activists coined a phrase, an idiom or a metaphor as etched either in the title of the essays, books and polemics they wrote, the profundity of which will remain after them. In other words, the power they exercised and still exercise lies in their imaginative geographies of global capitalism although they did not all stand on one position in doing this even as many of them were students of structuralist theorizing of the system.
Ake, for instance, argued that if Africa didn’t become Socialist, it would become a case study in barbarism. Few would argue that such is not exactly what is happening across much of Africa today. Similarly, few would disagree that Gunder Frank’s application of lumpen bourgeoisie hasn’t said everything, much less in Latin America and more in Africa, if we take Professor Segun Osoba’s elaboration in his “The Deepening Crisis of the Nigerian National Bourgeoisie” published the same year that Ake published his. Today, at least in much of the university system in Nigeria, these texts are not part of the reading lists in any systematic sense. Tragically, it is not out of ideologically informed preference for the alternative texts but just a manifestation of the confusion enveloping the system. Neither the key actors in the system nor the students are aware of these texts and the benefits they embody in terms of even their own ability to cope with the modern world.
The lines of argument that each of these thinkers pushed are being developed by other thinkers after them, either in agreement or in disagreement but from the radical imagination. So, they are not leaving without their own replacement. Whether the successors will develop frames with mobilizing appeals as theirs is what remains to be seen. David Harvey, the Marxist geographer is doing very well on all counts, with his focus on neoliberalism. Robert Cox is quite old now but Professor Ken Booth is offering his notion of Emancipation although, a lot will depend on how the objections of his critics such as Prof Mohammed Ayoob will be settled. Ayoob has struck a chord in arguing that ‘Third World’ states cannot give up the state because they do not have alternative structures that can negotiate any concessions from global capitalism for them if they do that. That is, unlike the United States, for instance, whose multinational corporations can play the role of the American State, no ‘Third World’ countries have that capability. Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri and their theory of Empire which is also the title of their book has not struck that chord yet. Unless something drastic happens that will provide such a powerful empirical evidence, many people are uncomfortable with the notion that traditional imperialism has passed away in favour of deterritorialised apparatuses of rule. A Latin American reviewer of the 2000 book calls the idea of deterritorialised apparatuses of rule ‘imperialism without home address”.
What the world is witnessing is the passing away of members of that generation and constituency who were born in the 1930s. Andre Gunder Frank was born in 1929, Wallerstein in 1930 and Amin in 1931. Ake was born in 1939 and would be 80 this year if he did not die in an air crash. It is only Rodney who did not belong in generational terms. At 77, Ayoob is still teaching, a tenured professor in the US system.