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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Immanuel Wallerstein : Le capitalisme en « crise structurelle »

Pierre Chaillan

Immanuel Wallerstein: Capitalism in ”structural crisis”

Translated Wednesday 13 May 2015, by Adrian Jordan

In the collective work “Does Capitalism Have a Future?” the US author states that the “modern world-system” finds itself in “a structural crisis”.

In the collective work Does Capitalism Have a Future? (Oxford University Press), you state that the “modern world-system” finds itself in “a structural crisis”. On what grounds do you base this theory?

Immanuel Wallerstein We must be wary of the word “crisis”. People use it every time there is a drop in growth. For me, there can only be one crisis in the life of a world-system, one which marks the transition to another system. We have reached that point.

The right, in new forms, is hegemonic, would that not go against a post-capitalist future?

Immanuel Wallerstein The world right is very powerful, certainly. However, I have tried to show the reasons why it would also find that capitalism no longer serves its interests because it is no longer possible to accumulate capital.

According to you, a historic period has begun, that of chaos. What do you mean by this?

Immanuel Wallerstein Chaos is a situation in which there are nothing but wild and unpredictable fluctuations, the fear of which constrains people and makes it difficult to act positively. Communications technology greatly augments unemployment, this worsens the situation and amplifies the crisis.

In this context, unknown political entities emerge. Are they portent of alternative social and political systems?

Immanuel Wallerstein If you are talking of bodies like the caliphate of the “Islamic State” or ultra right-wing movements like the FN, I consider them to be direct reactions to the structural crisis. They are in no way stable bodies which will last.

With the increase of profoundly inegalitarian fundamentalism, source of conflicts and wars, are we not at risk of entering a primitive phase of supercapitalism?

Immanuel Wallerstein That’s a typical capitalist reaction. One never stops doing that which one has always done. But again, in a chaotic situation, these conflicts do not remedy the underlying problem, the impossibility of accumulating capital.

What, then, are the forces which allow the scenario of a progressive future to be envisaged?

Immanuel Wallerstein There are three: intellectual analysis of the realities of this structural crisis, the moral choice of a fight for a progressive path and lastly, creating a policy with a chance of winning. If these three do not seem inspirational, it must be said that a large part of the world left still have not linked them.

Between class issues and questions of identity, how and by which social agents, can the left play a new historic role?

Immanuel Wallerstein The political problem is exactly that – how to combine class issues and questions of identity in a large group open to all the susceptibilities of the world left?

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