Andre Gunder Frank

Personal Research Interests for Public Policy Practice

Table of Contents
Personal and Professional
Research Interests
ReOrient: Global Economy in the Asian Age
On the New World Order
On-line Essays
IISH Archives
AGF on the Internet

  1. Current Research
  2. Urban Location and Dissipation of Entropy (A Programmatic Statement)
  3. World System Development and Underdevelopment
  4. International Political Economy
  5. Ex-Soviet and Socialist Studies
  6. Social Movements
  7. Five Thousand Year World System History
  8. Ancient Society and Archaeology
  9. Central Asia
  10. Five Hundred Year Global History
  11. Changes in my View about Dependence and Capitalism

Current Research

My current research regards three time periods and is informed by two analytic devices. One period is the present and future in which my focus is the NEW WORLD [DIS]ORDER. The second period is the nineteenth and then hopefully also the twentieth centuries to which I am trying to extend the global approach of my last book ReORIENT [1998] to which I hope to offer a sequel whose working title is ''ReOrient the Nineteenth Century." The third period involves my return to "Bronze Age World System Cycles" [1993] both to revisit them with more and new data and to try to extend their geographical range through more of Afro-Eurasia and their temporal depth into the 4th, 5th and if possible still earlier millennia. [I would like also to be able to tackle a medieval WORLD history, which has never before been even attempted; but I fear that in my present incarnation that ask is beyond me, and I can only encourage others younger and better equipped than I to try]. Some resultas and publications from this current research are posted herein below in the sections on publications, on-line essays, and New World Order.

Apart from continuing and strengthening my holistic approach to these time periods, I hope to improve my analytic capacities and results by recourse especially to the following: The observation that the absolute and relative welfare of people,"societies," "economies," countries, etc. is derived NOT only, or even not primarily, from what they [can] do, nor even less from any ''characteristics'' or ''things'' that would permit them TO DO. Rather welfare and the benefits and DISbenefits derived from participation in a wider global whole is determined primarily by RELATIONS among people and within and among 'societies' and their PLACE or LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION in the whole system. THAT is what we need to study in the SYSTEM AS A WHOLE, which is greater than the sum of its parts and which shapes the relations among the parts and the parts themselves. And it is changes in location, more than in any innate or even acquired capacities, that determines the welfare or lack of it of any part.

However, such changes involve not only deriving more or less benefits and disbenefits from participation and location in the system. "Development," production, etc. also generate entropy in the form of ecological degredation and social and other disorder, such as alienation, crime, civil and political strife, and even war. So a further source of welfare here is to lessen the amount and degree of entropy here below that which we ourselves generate by dissapating or exporting it to there. That way, our local or national environment can be less polluted and our society can be more orderly - or democratic! - inasmuch as we oblige the entropy that we generate to be absorbed by others whose environment is thereby additionally polluted and their society is DISordered with heightened crime, authoritarianism, war, and other forms of social dissolution. Conveniently then, we blame the victims and are oblivious to, much less accept, our own responsibility for the distribution of entropy in the system as a whole, which is also a function of LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION.

A third theoretical proposition and guide to research and analysis of and in world [system] history and contemporary development was made explicit in my book WORLD ACCUMULATION 1492-1789 [published in 1978 but written much earlier, see below]: Throughout this book [and in all my work since then] the attempt is made to examine successively simultaneous historical events and to analyze the processual or systemic connections between them in different parts of the world [in italics] at the same time. The author considers this emphasis on the examination of different parets of the world at the same time to be the historiographically most significant approach to the writing and [in italics] understanding of history, past, present, and future [pp. 20-21]. A few years later, Joseph Fletcher would say the same thing in a posthumously published article in a Journal of Turkish studies [subsequently reprinted in a 1985 collection of his works edited by his students] urging us to do ''horizontally integrative macrohistory''. Alas, his untimely death prevented him from pursuing the same himself. I have and still do, but to my knowledge so far hardly anybody else has joined us, except for the relatively small but growing coterie, among them also myself, of those who have been doing 50-60 year long Kondratieff cycle analysis.

My main but oft interrupted work among the afore mentioned is writing a book tentatively entitled ReORIENT THE 19Th CENTURY - And Maybe the 20th, which is a sequel to my 1998 book ReORIENT about which there is a separate section below. I hereby offer to collaborate with colleagues who may be engaged in a similar endeavor or part thereof by exchanging manuscript chapters or sections and/or relevant research materials. I also inform that this 19th century project of mine has been discussed by readers of some chapters and the audience at two sessions devoted exclusively thereto at winter 2004 conferences at the University of California at Irvine and at a history conference in Berlin, and I can establish contact with their organizers who recorded some results of these discussions.

My central question is when / how / why the ''Orient'' and the ''Occident" or The ''North" and the "South'' or "The West and the Rest" traded places in the world during the 19th century. For the received and still persistent mythological 'explanations' are altogether wide of the mark of how THE GREAT DIVERGENCE, as Pomeranz [2000] calls it, emerged out of the structure; function and transformation of the world economy in the nineteenth century. So I now join Kenneth Pomeranz [2003] when he writes "I would emphasize an effort to re-think the 19th century", which as he observes has been abandoned by a whole generation of scholars. Also Edmund [Terry] Burke III [2000: 1] notes "Why the nineteenth century? Because it seems to me to be the piece that has thus far been left out of the rethinking of modern world history. We're still far from being able to devise a truly world-centered historical framework for the nineteenth century he also writes that "we must rehistoricize the colonial period [and] colonial history as existing in its own right apart from the [Western] progress-oriented narratives that have operated until now . The intellectual and political stakes for such an undertaking are enourmous." My search for answers will be in the GLOBAL ECONOMY that really gave rise to a " single world-wide system which also provided the transfer: along, round about routes ... [of wealth, income and entropy] to particularly, the United Kingdom ... by the much less adequately understood system of multilateral settlements of all classes of international accounts" [Folke Hilgerdt 1942].

I reproduce here my provisional TABLE OF CONTENTS of which several 20,000 word chapters are partially or in first draft form completely written so far. I would entertain requests to send you what I can thereof that may be of particular interest to you. I would of course be interested in what you may be able to send as well.

Urban Location and Dissipation of Entropy

A Research and Didactic Statement by Andre Gunder Frank

Globalization is age old and has long been constructed through an ever changing network, especially within and among cities, which constitute the nodal knots in regional, inter-regional, and global networks of communication and other relations. The whole system of networks is greater than the sum of its urban, hinterland, and inter-urban parts, which are shaped and re-shaped by the structure and dynamic of the global system as a whole, to whose transformation the changing parts themselves also contribute. For instance, a change in global or regional trade routes can promote one or more cities at the expense of marginalizing other cities and exert direct effects on imperial or other political relations among these cities or between them and their respective hinterlands. Periods of global or regional economic, technological, demographic, military, political, cultural and other expansion offer opportunities for policy making success [lifting many if not all boats]; while successive periods of contraction or crisis impose serious limits to policy makers [many of whose boats and plans go down in the turmoil]. However, the same crisis in leading cities, economies, empires, etc. also offer some but never all intermediate economies and polities within the global network or its regional parts to improve their place and fortune within the whole. Much of the riches and other benefits of a city, region, and sector is derived less from its alleged internal, let alone pristine capacities and strengths than they are from gaining and maintaining a favored position or location, location, location within the whole from which the socio-political economic unit [including even an individual or family] can derive benefits at the expense of those who are or are pushed into a position of disadvantage. This structure and function has been in place but evolving and self-transforming throughout Afro-Eurasia over several thousand years and globally for the past five hundred years.

At the same time, the growth of those in positions of advantage generates entropy or disorder, which compromises the continuance of such growth - unless that entropy can be and is dissipated or exported to cities, hinterlands, or other regions who are obliged to absorb this entropy and generate disorder due to their unfavorable position in the system as a whole. For instance, no large city could survive nor maintain mutually beneficial relations with others like it except for its ability to dissipate its own entropy to its immediate hinterland and/or to somewhere else half way around the globe. The economic and demographic growth in and of the industrialized cities would not have been possible without the dissipation of their entropy to other parts of the world who are obliged to absorb the ecological costs of a world development that has benefitted and continues to do so to the few at the expense of the many.

The most glaring and yet least noted instance is the military industrial complex against which President Eisenhower warned in his "Farewell Speech." It is not only probably the world's most polluting industry. It is also the example par excellence of entropy. Military production by industrial powers uses local and imported raw materials - and often brain drain - to produce at huge economic resource opportunity and environmental costs ''goods'' [more properly ''bads''] of no social social utility whatsoever. Most of these are then exported back to the suppliers of the original or other - oil - raw materials. They pay for them with foreign exchange derived from their export of other still more commodities or goods of low value added, which they thereby deny to their own populations. Thus, starving Africans and Asians export foodstuffs to the rich. Entropy is thereby dissipated already through the transfer of exhaustive and polluting industries from the rich to the poor. But perhaps more serious even is the dissipation of socio-political entropy from the richer who sell their military hardware and training that aids them better to afford ''democratic order'' at home to the poorer abroad who import these arms and use them to kill each other in an entropy absorbing ever more chaotic ''Third World." Even so, the arms producers keep enough of them for their own use to enforce, maintain and even further extend this exploitative and entropic world division of benefits for themselves at the enormous cost to everybody else. That is called preserving human rights, freedom, democracy, civilization and most recently also combatting terrorism.

Urban and inter-urban politics is in large measure an outcome of this global structure and process. Indeed, much of what appears as inter-Anational@ / state relations turns out on closer examination to be more inter-URBAN relations. The contemporary revival of regionalism for instance in Europe or China is importantly derived from cities and their denser regional relations, though some of these cities may also be major WORLD CITIES, like New York, Los Angeles, London, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Shanghai that form a global network of their own,. They in turn connect minor world cities like Chicago, Toronto, Mexico, Sao Paulo, Buenos Aires, Frankfurt/Berlin, Zurich, Cairo, Istanbul, Moscow, Mumbai, Singapore, Sydney, Osaka and others [and the major/minor may be subject to dispute if only because their ranking is always changing], as well as of course all other cities and their hinterlands. The changing position or location of these cities and the efforts of their policy makers to promote or delay these changes largely determines the benefits or costs that its inhabitants derive from their common participation in the global whole. And it is the analysis and understanding of the actual and potential place within the contemporary and near future cyclical moment in global development that can afford policy makers the intelligence on which to act.

World System Development and Underdevelopment

After moving to Latin America in 1962 and until after the 1973 military coup in Chile, my research, publications, public lectures and teaching focused primarily on developing a theory of "dependence" and on "development of underdevelopment" in Latin America as well as in the entire "world system" I first used this term in published form in 1965. The theory was first set out in a manuscript written in 1963 and later published in revised form in two parts, "Sociology of Development and Underdevelopment of Sociology" in 1967 and ON CAPITALIST UNDERDEVELOPMENT in 1975. My case studies were written in Brazil in 1963, in Chile in 1964, and in Mexico in 1965; and they were combined into the book the book CAPITALISM AND UNDERDEVELOPMENT IN LATIN AMERICA [1967]. It launched and then popularized dependence theory with 40 printings of over 120,000 copies in 9 languages. It was, as per contra among others that of American social science and Latin American Communist Party doctrine, that there was no and had never been any feudalism in Latin America, which on the contrary had been incorporated into the [capitalist] world market since the Conquest. That thesis would finally become accepted everywhere -except in the Soviet Union! - one and two decades later, even if not necessarily my political conclusion that [capitalist] reform was insufficient and [political] revolution was necessary to reverse underdevelopment. The latter of course was what at first made the work unacceptable from the orthodox and reactionary right to the reformist and Communist left. It was however incorporated into the theology of liberation, as per the testimony of its inventor Gustavo Gutierrez.

My work and I personally was widely and often vehemently criticized, as recorded and quoted up to 1972 in "Dependence is Dead " and re-published in my book CRITIQUE AND ANTI-CRITIQUE [1984]. For instance, I was a "conspicuous theorist of an anarchic left, provocateur, diversionist, confusionist, divisionist and his intellectual lightness,scientific superficiality and triviality end up in political inconsistency." As related in my autobiographical ''Underdevelopment of Development," it was the Cuban Revolution in Latin America and elsewhere the War in Vietnam that provided the political/ideological ground for the subsequent wider acceptance of my work. Dependence "theory" then had widespread influence on public discourse in Latin America and later elsewhere in the Third World, as well as on policy formation and implementation, especially by the 1970-73 Allende government in Chile. When at UNTAD III I heard the term "development of underdevelopment" bandied about by official government delegates from Africa in 1972, I decided it was time for me to move on to work on the world economic crisis of capital accumulation, as noted in the sub-section that follows below.

My magnum opus during this period, co-authored with Said Shah, was a two volume edited study that like designing a jig saw puzzle out of theoretical and mostly empirical case studies by others constructed a theory and analysis of dependent underdevelopment in Asia [including separately India, China, Indonesia] and by contrast Japan, the Arab World, sub-Saharan Africa, and Latin America [including several separate sections on several regions and countries] and the Caribbean. Volume I on history was completed and Volume II on contemporary affairs was substantially so. The book was never published.

I here relate only three instances and anecdotes out of the countless ones to illustrate the difficulties I had to overcome to get any of this work published, disseminated, and accepted, because it was too far ahead of its time and still deemed too politically threatening and/or because it was unacceptable for various ''technical'' reasons. My first book was submitted in English in 1964 but was not published until 1967 and never in Brazilian Portuguese. In Spanish, which interested me most, it was submitted soon at the same time as in English; but it was not published until 1970, first in Argentina and Cuba. Many publishers rejected the manuscript outright and three of them renigged on prior agreements and even contracts to publish it after they gave in to political pressure against publication of so ''radical'' and dangerous a thesis.

My two volume magnum opus on the development of underdevelopment around the world was never published, because small progressive publishers were unable to defray the costs of publishing, never mind also translating,, an 800 page book . Large established publishers either rejected it outright on political/ideological grounds or like Cambridge University Press imposed unacceptable conditions for accepting even the less politically delicate historical volume than the contemporary one would be, e.g.. putting "Marxist" in the title when it was NOT that. I therefore rejected CUP's offer to publish the book, which in retrospect may have been a mistake if 9/110 or even half a loaf may have been better then none. The table of contents was later published as an appendix to my book CRITIQUE AND ANTI-CRITIQUE [1984]. The 1968 draft introduction of the fist volume was later expanded into the two books mentioned at the beginning of Sub-Section I below.

I sent my 1966 manuscript on MEXICAN AGRICULTURE: 1520-1630 to one of the two authors whose work I had used as my target. It showed how changes in Mexican agriculture, including changes in its ''modes of production,'' were responses to cyclical changes in the Mexican and world economies and had nothing to do with its alleged feudal institutions. He replied that my work was worthless because is was not based on primary sources and that it should be discarded. So I shelved it until its publication a decade later in Mexico and in 1979 by Cambridge University Press. The very same author then wrote a review saying the book should not even have been published because [by then] the thesis had become universally accepted old hat.

Similarly and already earlier in a paper commissioned by the UN Economic Commission for Latin America [ECLA/CEPAL} in 1964, I proposed the economic, social and political importance of distinguishing between stable or well-structured and unstable sectors of the economy. ECLA declined to put its name on the paper on the grounds that it was politically too explosive. Yet in 1968 the UN International Labour Organisatiopn [[ILO] would launch and since then popularize the very same distinction under the terms ''formal'' and ''informal'' sectors. Similarly, my "Invisible Foreign Services or National Economic Development?" [1965] was at first rejected for publication because it used an unconventional distinction of foreign payments for merchandize imports from payments for services, especially for financial ''invisibles.'' . No one has ever noted that it was precisely this distinction that would become crucial to measure financial debt service as an unbearable burden of its share in earnings of foreign exchange during the debt crisis of the 1980s. I could record additional similar failures of my precocious work to make any impact.

Thus, my work on dependence in Latin America was first extended [actually my 1963 manuscript already did] to include the "Third" and then also to the "Second" ["Socialist"] World elsewhere. From 1968 onwards the work was further extended to encompass the historical and contemporary process of capital accumulation and the structure of the world economy and system as a whole. The main resulting publications, WORLD ACCUMULATION 1492- 1789 and DEPENDENT ACCUMULATION AND UNDERDEVELOPMENT [1978], were written in Chile before the 1973 military coup. They set out my analysis explicitly of the capitalist world system, [for instance the preface to the fist one referred to "examine the whole of the accumulation process and world system and to analyze how different parts of the same world process and single world system influence or even determine each other'' p. 20], but I entitled them with the term "accumulation" in order to emphasize the system DYNAMIC. But despite the subsequent spread of world-systems'' analysis, my early formulations failed to have any impact on it, nor did several others.

Contemporary International Political Economy

After then moving to Europe, for the next two decades work concentrated on contemporary international political economy and the present world economic crisis of capital accumulation. In itts first identification in lectures and publications in 1972 and 1973, I predicted that the economic crisis would be world- wide, that it would increasingly integrate the "socialist" economies, and that export promotion would be widely imposed and enforced in the Third World through military coups and other forms of political repression. I analyzed the 1973-75 recession as no "oil shock," but as one in a series of successive and ever deeper recessions in this ongoing world economic crisis. In several articles, I argued how that crisis would oblige "policy" makers North and South, West and East, first to replace post war expansive Keynesian polices with monetarist ones of "stabilization" and then to lose control over the world -- and a fortiori over any "national" -- economy altogether. These lectures and articles appeared in REFLECTIONS ON THE WORLD ECONOMIC CRISIS [1981] and in the related books CRISIS: IN THE WORLD ECONOMY and CRISIS: IN THE THIRD WORLD [1980/81]. Although writing was completed in 1978, I accurately forecast both the 1979-82 world recession AND the inadequacy of political economic policy that it would generate. Indeed if I may now say so, all of my ''analysis'' of the crisis also contained forecasting that was far more accurate than any and all of the official institutional [US, UN, OECD, World Bank, IMF, etc.] forecasts with benefit of all their data, models and computers. Reality and praxis eventually caught up, but orthodox theory still has not. My theoretical apparatus also seems to have been two decades ahead of unorthodox theory and its influence in some quarters since 2000, as exemplified for instance by the work of my friend Bob Brenner. For my work had the same emphasis already then [as also did Ernest Mandel's] on the decline of the rate of profit AND on the explanation of the same. But nobody paid the slightest attention to me, though I can immodestly claim that to my knowledge no other book or combination of books offered a better analysis of the crisis in the two decades following mine.

In my work on the economic and debt crisis that continued through the 1980s, I forecast the formation of US- European- Japanese economic blocs and a still more severe next recession with titles like "Is the Reagan Recovery Real or the Calm Before the Storm?" [1986], "Perils of Economic Ramboism," and "Illusions of Recovery and Threats of Deflation and Depression in the World Economy"[ 1987]. I showed why Thacherite and Reaganomic policy had to deepen the crisis still further, and it again accurately forecast what and why inadequate political economic policy would be put in place during that recession, which followed from 1989 to 1992. More recent work on contemporary IPE is summarized - and in part reproduced in other subsections, especially on the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe and in the New World Order section.

Related topics

  • World Economic and Financial Crisis
  • Policy Options for Europe
  • Relations among US-Europe-Japan, East-West Europe, North-South
  • Third World Debt
  • Development Theory and Dependence
  • Gulf War
  • New World Order
  • Russia
  • Eastern Europe

Ex-Soviet and Socialist Studies

I began these with my "Organization of Economic Activity in the Soviet Union "[1957] and "General Productivity Soviet Agriculture & Industry: Ukraine "[1958], which was based on my PhD thesis completed in 1957. The analytic category "general productivity" of changes in output over time compared to changes in measurable inputs plus unmeasurable ones such as institutional and technological change and investment in ''human capital." My derivative observation and policy recommendation there and in other publications in the early 1960s was that increases of such productivity elsewhere are and can be derived from investment in human capital. Similar analyses by others simultaneously and later attributed human capital as contributing importantly to "total productivity," which is the same as my ''general productivity," and for which at least one economist was awarded a Nobel Prize in Economics. However huge investments in human/social capital through education and health in Cuba and in the Union itself have ultimately proved to be insufficient to support sustained economic development. My analysis of Soviet political economic organization also led to my formulation of the concept of ''conflicting standards" and orders in other hierarchically organized social systems and institutions and how that contributes to flexibility and promotes social change and transformation. One of my articles was reprinted in a book on business management in the United States, but otherwise the idea seems to have had little influence, and I myself went on to other things in Latin America and the world , as related in the following sub-section. However, considering now to take this idea up again as a guide to my research.

I returned to the "socialist" economies in the 1970s when I examined how they were affected by the world economic crisis elsewhere. One of my titles was "Long Live Transideological Enterprise! The Socialist Countries in the International Division of Labor" [1976 and also included as chapter 4 in my first 1980 CRISIS book, cited above]. I extended the same theme was in THE EUROPEAN CHALLENGE [1983]. I argued that, as a result of the still on-going and deepening world economic crisis and all ideology notwithstanding, Pan-European union is possible and desirable, though the East would necessarily be dependent on the West. In 1989 still before the Berlin Wall came down, I applied this analysis to the desirability of the European Union's extension eastward in connection with its programmed deepening in 1992. I make bold to bring three anecdotes in this regard. In 1985, I summarized the thesis of my 1983 book at the Harvard University European Studies Center, only to be laughed out of court - four years before reality confirmed my analysis and prediction caught up with their blindness. Indeed, the Director of a Hungarian Economics institute later told me that I was the only analyst who correctly got and related developments in Hungary and elsewhere in Eastern Europe. A post 1991 book, noted that the entire Sovietologist camp was caught with their pants down [women now ware them also] and only a few unorthodox analysts like me got it right. In my case, it was by putting the ''socialist'' countries into the world economy of which they had always been part and parcel. So when in an article for a UNESCO journal I referred to the "[ex] Soviet Union" already in mid -1991, by the time I received my copy of the printed issue I was as dumbfounded to find that UNESCO had edited out the "ex" as I was not surprised that the same had become true in December of 1991.

The renewed and once again deeper and wider world economic recession since 1989 occasioned analysis and prevision of its dire consequences for the European East, specifically including Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union, whose breakup was predicted in 1991 and published [1990-94] by UNESCO as "World Economic Interpretation of Politics in East and West Europe," and elsewhere several times with titles similar to "A World Economic Interpretation of What Went Wrong in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe," "Revolution in Eastern Europe: Lessons for Democratic Social Movements (and for Socialists?)" etc. I argued that not so much ''capitalism'' would produce the destruction of their economies and societies as two other policy dangers that should be avoided at all costs as I insisted in interviews and lectures: Letting the IMF in - which is the international instrument of the Treasury Department - to do its ''structural adjustment'' hatchet jobs in Eastern Europe in the 1990s as it had in Latin America in the 1980s. But of course it then did. And the same Jefferey Sachs from Harvard who's policy expertise had just destroyed the economy of Bolivia, would now be let loose to further American interests and reduce Polish income by 40 percent, and then to do even more damage in Russia. The other mortal danger to avoid, I argued, was the destruction of the Comecon division of labor. It could be divested of the ruble and become dollar or D-mark based, but foreign markets elsewhere in Eastern Europe and Russia must be preserved lest export industry be destroyed and consequently unemployment become rampant in each country that had been dependent on exports to other Comecon countries. But precisely that happened as a result of intentional Western policy, which instead delivered each national market to Western industry and agriculture and exposed the entire area to Western ''carpetbagging'' no less than the US South had been after its defeat in the Civil War. Privatization was to become rampant as state capital was sold off at bargain basement prices, especially in local currency that was subject to vast inflation in its own terms but to devaluation and DEflation in dollar terms. The state had to be weakened to eliminate its policies of import substitution and protectionism internationally and to destroy the welfare state domestically. As a result, the population was exposed to the ravages of "globalization," read Americanization. My writings and lectures of the early 1990s had warned against exactly that as well as of the dangers of cynical recourse to ethnic politics in the Balkans and especially in Yugoslavia. Ethnic cleansing would be the result.

Social Movements and Civil Society

Social movements and their cycles over the past two centuries were also examined with Marta Fuentes in "Ten Theses" on womens, environmental, peace, peasant and other movements in the West, East and South in " Civil Democracy: Social Movements in Recent World History" in TRANSFORMING THE REVOLUTION written with Amin, Arrighi and Wallerstein [1990], and in studies of the Gulf War. "Transformation" referred to the inefficacity of the institutionalized ''left'' and the same and/or decline of traditional Communist and other left political parties. We observed that they were being replaced by un- [dis?] organized social movements of all sorts, which now carried the hopes for social and political transformation without the capture of state power. Marta and I further observed that these movements have come in long cycles of increased membership and activity followed again by long declines in the same. The post 1960s period was the latest such of movement expansion. Yet already as we were writing but without our adequately so noting, widespread decline seems again already to have set in, and eliminated altogether in the Eastern Europe to whose 1989 revolution they had contributed. Archtypical thereof was the Polish Solidarnosz Movement, whose leader Lech Walensa became President and immediately imposed IMF policies and their consequent economic and social degradation on his people. As we but not many others noted additionally, social movements need not be only progressive ones, but in the past and present also include reactionary ones - early fascism, present racism, etc. Moreover, most political parties started as movements that then institutionalized, and one even said so in its very name, the party that ruled Mexico for over 6 decades: PRI=Partido Revolucionario Institucional! So would the Polish Solidarnosz. In 1993 my wife Marta Fuentes died, and so did the social movements - so I stopped working on - AND IN - them. [Some of these writings are in the New World Order section.]

Related topics

  • Historical & Contemporary in West, Eastern Europe, Third World
  • Relations to state, democracy and development cycles in social movements.

Five Thousand Year World System History

After more than two decades of studying - and successfully forecasting! - the development of the contemporary crisis without anyone paying the slightest attention, I went back to my study of world history. My earlier concern with the last 500 years of "capitalist" world economic development since 1500 was then extended backwards to study the past 5,000 years -- and to search out this longer perspective's implications for modern world history and alternative social theory. Several articles from the early 90s are included in THE WORLD SYSTEM: FIVE HUNDERD YEARS OR FIVE THOUSAND? edited with Barry K. Gills [1993]. They pose a humanocentric challenge to Eurocentrism, which argues that the contemporary world system has a long history in which the rise to dominance of Europe and the West are only recent - and perhaps passing - events. The main theoretical categories are:

  • The world system itself, its structure, process and transformation.
  • Capital accumulation as the motor force of [world system] history.
  • Center-periphery relations in the world, which however are not necessarily system-wide.
  • Periodic alternation between regional hegemonies and succession rivalries, although world system-wide hegemony appears rare or nonexistent.
  • Long [and short] economic cycles of alternating ascending ["A"] phases and descending ["B"] phases in world system-wide economic growth and the other abovementioned features, and their "regional" impact in Central Asia, Latin America, and Europe.

This work includes the identification and dating of 500 year long world system wide political economic and also ecological cycles from 3000 BC to the 1750 AD, whose existence and dating others have largely confirmed by using city size data in 3 independent tests. A growing number of colleagues have begun to pursue parallel or similar studies using some of the same and also their own analytic guides. We collaborate under the aegis of the recently formed group to that end within the International Studies Association, whose proceedings of its first conference were published under the title WORLD SYSTEM HISTORY. THE SOCIAL SCIENCE OF LONG-TERM CHANGE [ Robert Denemark et al, editors ] with the first chapter by Frank and Gills. Another related group functions on the "Long Term" Thus, although this work had an immediate impact on the research of other scholars, they seem - to my disappointment - not included archaeologists. [Several summary essays are included in the On-Line Essays section.]

Ancient Society and Archaeology

"Abuse and Use of World System Theory in Archaeology" in WORLD-SYSTEMS THEORY IN PRACTICE [N. Kardulias, ed] applies the theory to extending the reach of over a dozen archaeological case studies in the same book. " Bronze Age World System Cycles" [in CURRENT ANTHROPOLOGY 1993], proposes datings of Ancient World System-wide approximately 500 year long cycles that extend into modern times. This longer historical perspective therefore also has far reaching implications for the study of history, from ancient to modern and perhaps to contemporary as well. Nonetheless as observed above, archaeologists seem to have taken little or no note of this work.

Central Asia

My main thesis is conveyed by my title THE CENTRALITY OF CENTRAL ASIA [1992] in the development of therefore not independent ''civilizations'' in East, and West Asia, not to mention Europe. The titles of my publications on Central Asia in Section 5 below testify to the continued and now again renewed importance of this region in world history. Central Asia remained an important economic cross-roads until at least 1800, was the site of the ''Great Game'' for its domination by others in the nineteenth century, and will in the twenty-first again be the site for yet another Great Game of geo-political domination and reward with its petroleum for Russia, China and the United States, with India, Pakistan, and Western Europe also interested would-be players. Both my more historical and theoretical and some of the contemporary work on Central Asia has been cited within the small - but since the Renewal of the Great Game explosively growing - group of regional specialists, but of course it has had no influence on policy.

Five Hundred Year Global History

Earlier books, ON CAPITALIST UNDERDEVELOPMENT [written 1963, published 1975] and the twin books WORLD ACCUMULATION 1492-1789 and DEPENDENT ACCUMULATION AND UNDERDEVELOPMENT [both written in Chile between 1968 and 1973 and published 1978], examined world capitalist development and underdevelopment in the World System and its process of capital accumulation that I still supposed to have emerged in and spread from Europe since 1492. In contrast, my 1998 book ReORIENT outlines and analyzes the entire global economy and its sectoral and regional division of labor and cyclical dynamic from 1400 to 1800. The evidence and argument are that within this global economy Asians and particularly Chinese were preponderant, no more "traditional" than Europeans, and in fact largely far less so. Moreover, the Europeans did not do anything - let alone "modernize" - by themselves. My contention turns the tables on the last centuries of historiography and social theory from Marx and Weber to Wallerstein and Frank, and indeed also of the humanities a la "the East is East, and the West is West, and never the twain shall meet." They DID meet, albeit not at all on the alleged European terms, and the question is WHY? The book builds up, chapter by chapter, the global scaffolding that will permit the construction of at least preliminary answers derived from the structure and dynamic of the world economy as a whole. A historical implication is that the Rise of East Asia in recent years is not a flash in the pan as many have argued since the financial crisis of 1997. Rather Asia, and China in particular, are very likely to recover the predominant place and role in the world economy that they already had until at least 1800 and whose recovery was foreshadowed by decolonization and liberation in China since 1949. A theoretical implication, which rather pulls the theoretical rug out from under my previous work, is that "capitalism" has never had any real world existence but rather has been an ideological category that obscures world historical and still contemporary reality more than it illuminates it. Despite all evidence in support of that thesis, alas it is still unacceptable to almost all my concerned academic colleagues, as well as to politicians and publicists and even the general public from then Thacherite and Reaganist right and beyond to the farthest left, if any still be left. A detailed outline and discussion may be found in the ReOrient section. It also testifies to the immediate and hopefully still growing influence of this work at least among world historians and some students of the world system, both of whose professional associations gave ReORIENT their respective book awards. Regarding "Reorient the 19th Century", the first manuscript versions are posted below  in the on-line section and some recents parts of the slowly growing manuscript may be available on request.

Changes in my View About Dependence and Capitalism

An explanation may be due to my many personal and political friends and some political foes around the world who again and again raise two questions about whether or not I have changed my mind about dependence and about capitalism, and if so how and why. The questions have been raised at innumerable professional meetings in their formal sessions and informally in hallways and restaurants. They are raised also by many people in their own professional papers and/or other venues. Moreover, thanks to the internet, I receive an average of at least one inquiry each week from mostly students whom I do not know all around the world about dependence and what I now think of it and about capitalism, does it exist and if not what does? Both questions arise out of their real life importance and the public policy stands that I have taken to them, which seem curious to those who have accompanied - and also to the many who by reasons of age have not- my half century public and active engagement with these vital issues.

My answers to these two questions already arise out of a careful reading of my books and articles over the past two decades, and they are made explicit in a couple of chapters therein and very deliberately so in the prefaces to my last three books in the 1990s, UNDERDEVELOPMENT OF DEVELOPMENT. AN AUTOBIOGRAPHIC ESSAY [1991], THE WORLD SYSTEM [with Barry Gills 1993] and ReORIENT [1998]. The prefaces of both books cite John King Fairbank and evoke his important message that "How did this book come into being? authors ought to look back and give us some record of how their works developed." So both prefaces deliberately go back over the process of why, that and how these books were written.

And they address precisely the two questions that I am nonetheless asked over and over again To each there is there is long answer that is developed and substantiated in the books themselves, and there is a short [summary] answer that is enough to get off the hook at a cocktail party. Here I propose to give the short answer, not to get off the hook, but to guide the interested reader [IF he is really interested and THAT is the real question!] to where and how the, or at least my, answers were derived and can be found in the texts of my writings. A short version of the above mentioned essay and both prefaces are accessible on line from this web -page below.


The short answer is that we were right and we were wrong in the main questions we addressed and that we completely failed to address some other relevant questions. YES there is dependence of the kinds we identified, denounced, and combated. Those who denounced us on this issue did and still do not have an empirical leg to stand on. A for instance is that in the 1980s dependence was pronounced dead because public policy in Third World countries was no longer so seriously mismanaged by foreign investment in the country. But the debt crisis of the 1980s an 1990s vastly enhanced the power of creditors to mismanage the economies of their debtor countries. Cheryl Payer already in the 1970s warned against THE DEBT TRAP, and I myself wrote countless articles and chapters in books against the same. Foreign Direct Investment had tremendous influence on policy that was directly related to itself. Foreign debt however took over the entire economic policy making mechanism of the debtor country, hiring and firing ministers of finance all over the third, and even the ''second'' world at the whim of the International Monetary Fund, which was and still is a euphomism for the US Department of Treasury whose instrument it is. So far from dependence having declined as some alleged, the degree of dependence had increased. The damaging ravages it wrought on the entire social, political and economic fabric around the world had multiplied. Millions were made destitute, and the middle class was destroyed in country after country with the good ''advice'' of such as Jeffery Sachs.

The question we did not adequately address was how to eliminate dependence. True there were different schools that offered in part similar and in important respects different anti-dependence theory, policy and praxis. They reigned from the most social democratic reformist ''dependent development'' of Fernando Henrique Cardoso to the most ''revolutionary socialist'' ""Underdevelopment or Revolution" of Frank, Rui Mauro Marini, and Theotonio dos Santos and others in between. Samir Amin and I saw delinking or deconnexion fom the world capitalist economy externally and socialism internally as the only paths to salvation. In retrospect our positions were not nearly as different as we claimed at the time , and on the question of what to do to eliminate dependence we were all wrong [all of us and altogether].

Of the two ''fathers'' of dependence theory [neither of us ever liked the word theory], one of them, my friend Fernando Henrique, is now president of Brazil and as I am writing these lines as a guest at the White House to give away even more of the shop in Brazil [including extaterritoriality for American bases there], and the other one is sitting here writing these lines. The simple truth is that none of us found a way out of dependence and the South East Asian Tigers did so only partially and under different conditions, and even then were still subject to being ravaged by the financial crisis of 1997 as a mark of their continued dependence. Where we failed completely was in he policy of delinking, which proved to be impossible, even by the so called ''socialist'' counties. Just look at them now. Addressing the United Nations already in 1988 Soviet Premier Michael Gorbachev said

The existence of any ''closed'' societies is hardly possible today.The world economy is becoming a single organism, outside of which no state can develop normally, regardless of the social system it might belong to or the economic level it has reached [Gorbachev 1988:3851].

Our third failure has become academic: None of us [ nor did Marx! ] ever gave any serious attention to the question of what to do and how to do it if once the shackles of dependence were broken. What then? Un/fortunately the time never came when answers to that question had to be proffered in a hurry. Perhaps Fernando Henrique as president of Brazil has to give answers on a daily basis - but they are to what to do within the constraints of dependence that bind his options. So at this moment his party and candidate for president in the next elections is facing ignomious defeat. A few other dependentistas have become ministers of state including of ministries directly responsible for economic policy, but all of them are instituting policies that in their Good Old Days as dependentista critics they would have denounced as ultra-reactionary. In a word, we were right in fact and still are, but we were wrong in our policy prescriptions. But then, so was everybody else.


For someone who has devoted almost all of his adult life to combating capitalism in the name of replacing it by socialism, I suppose I owe an explanation to why I now contend that neither of the two exist, that both are ideologically motivated ideological inventions. To persuade people today that socialism does not exist is not too difficult. Long before the fall oft the Berlin Wall, the term ''actually existing socialism'' already had widespread use as an ironical way of saying that what does exist is a sham socialism, in other words that THAT is no real socialism. Several parts of this web-page, and of course my writings and lectures since the early 1970s, testify to my increasing doubts about the existence of any real socialism. Therein I was in large company of people from right to left. Certainly almost all of my colleagues and friends on the left concurred [the question of what is right and what is left, if any, began to arise only later].

With capitalism the story is very different. Almost everybody from right to left agrees that capitalism exists. Disagreements arise only about whether capitalism is a good thing or a bad thing. It is certainly ironically curious that now the Reaganist, Thatcherite, Bushist right has engraved ''capitalism'' on their banner of virtue and success; and that they wave it for all it is worth, which is a lot. Therein the anti-capitalist left has been deprived of the ideological banner that it invented and waved since the days of Marx. Converting ''capitalism'' into the good makes it more difficult to mobilize against it with the thesis that it is really bad, or even to use Samir Amin's thesis that ''actually existing capitalism" has a very ugly face. In any case, the inscription of capitalism on the banner of the right has not moved any of my friends and comrades in arms to re-think the question of "capitalism." They hang on to it as the enemy that we must combat for dear life. Indeed, then what do we make of our lifelong personal and professional devotion to combat capitalism if there isn't any? That is a difficult step to take. I know because I have taken it.

So why did I have to conclude that there is no capitalism? Because I am evidence driven. Seek truth from facts, as the Chinese say. That may sound naove, but it is less so than remaining bound by the Good Book. So what is the evidence? It is all around us aplenty. No Socialism? So every thing is capitalist! Then what is the comparative analytic usefulness of ''capitalism'' if we have nothing else to compare it to? If not with socialism, then the usual comparisons are with feudalism, semi-feudalism, pre-capitalism, proto-capitalism, semi-capitalism, state-capitalism, post-capitalism, non-capitalism [ as invented by the Soviets for the would be non-aligned Third World] and various versions of commercial, industrial, and imperialist capitalism. The need to come up with so many varieties of what does and does not fit the bill [and attention, under Stalin it could and did cost you your head if you did not get it right, which also changed from one time to another] should be enough to make us suspicious about the righteousness and utility of ''CAPITALISM." Would the real capitsalism/ist please stand up?

From Marx [though he did not employ that term] to Wallerstein capitalism has been attributed any number of characteristics and functional relations. In one essay, Wallerstein distinguished 13 of them, then summarized them into three, and finally identified the key one as the ceaseless the accumulation of capital. Braudel already complained of Wallerstein's obsession with 1600, and showed that a number of these characteristics could be found earlier in various pats of Europe, especially in the capitalist city states of northern Italy. In a critique of Wallerstein's essay [both are included in Frank & Gills THE WORD SYSTEM], I argued that also NONE of these characteristics was ever unique to Europe. On the contrary, all of the alleged characteristics of European capitalism were present all over Afro-Eurasia already for millennia. If so of course, that would deprive ''capitalism" of any distinctive or analytic use. Because I claim to have demonstrated just that, eg in THE WORLD SYSTEM, FIVE HUNDRED YEARS OR FIVE THOUSAND? and so have any number of archaeologists, I have been charged to have made the absurd claim that capitalism is 5,000 years old. Absurd indeed, for if that were the case ''capitalism'' would have lost all of its analytic value; for it could no longer be used to distinguish us from them. Much better to cut the Gordian capitalist knot and realize that there is and never has been any set of characteristics or combinations and relations among them that is distinctly capitalist and distinguishable from anything or anywhere else.

After spending so much time and effort, yes and sacrifice, trying since 1962 to prove that underdevelopment is not traditional, nor feudal or semi-feudal or whatever but that instead it is the result of dependent capitalist development of underdevelopment, I owe it to myself even more than to others to ask in what respects and why I have changed my mind. Not back to the heretofore and sill reigning received wisdom of course, which remains as wrong as ever only more so; but now to reject also the part of the thesis that I had [blindly?] accepted earlier on, namely that commercial and industrial DEvelopment in the West was somehow "capitalist." For if it was not as argued above, then it makes little sense - or is it some kind of poetic irony? - to argue that UNDERdevelopment is capitalist. It could hardly be so if there is NO capitalism. So why did I make so agonizing [and it has been!] a reappraisal of an important part of my life's work? For the simple reason that I all honesty the evidence has obliged me to do so.

Yet hardly anybody else, especially among my closest friends and colleagues, has been willing to go along with this dumping of capitalism. Of all the objectors, let me pick out as examples the three with whom I co-authored two books, and with one of them - Samir Amin- 4 or 5 books, I have lost count. They dedicated almost an entire issue of Wallerstein's REVIEW to a review by each of them of ReORIENT. Samir wrote that since this book is not about capitalism, there is no need to discuss it any further; and so he went on to repeat his side of our decade long arguments. Immanuel Wallerstein as good [bad!] as accused me of being a traitor to the cause, and more or less let it go at that, except to raise on analytic problem to which I partly cede in my reply. Only Giovanni Arrigghi [who first put me onto Kondratieffs in 1969-72, and then abandoned them himself] made a serious analytic review, including challenges to my data, my inferences and my logic. He does not address a critique of mine of his own book THE LONG TWENTIETH CENTURY, which is directly relevant to the argument here. Giovanni does not accept my contention that he is caught in an unresolvable contradiction. First he claims capitalism began in the Italian cities and from there went through successive cycles of financial revolution, each bases in yet another city of Europe. At the same time and more so since, Giovanni has discovered China and its central place in world economic development although of course it had little or no part in the institutional development of capitalism based in Europe. The only resolution of Giovanni's knot, I argue, is to cut the Gordian knot of capitalism all together. The text of my reply to my three friends is included in the On-Line essays section.

Table of Contents
Personal and Professional
Research Interests
ReOrient: Global Economy in the Asian Age
On the New World Order
On-line Essays
IISH Archives
AGF on the Internet