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EDITORIALS & OP-EDS / This is the end; this is the beginning
Immanuel Wallerstein’s last commentary
Date of publication at Tlaxcala: 06/09/2019
Translations available: Français  Español 

This is the end; this is the beginning
Immanuel Wallerstein’s last commentary

Immanuel Wallerstein (1930-2019)


Professor Immanuel Walerstein passed away on August 31, 2019, at age 88. Here is his latest commentary, published on July 1, 2019

My first commentary appeared on October 1, 1998. It was published by the Fernand Braudel Center (FBC) at Binghamton University. I have produced commentaries on the first and the fifteenth of every month since then without exception. This is the 500th such commentary. This will be the last commentary ever.

I have devoted myself to writing these commentaries with complete regularity. But no one lives forever, and there is no way I can continue doing these commentaries much longer.

So, sometime ago I said to myself I will try to make it to number 500 and then call it quits. I have made it to 500 and I am calling it quits.

My commentaries have a special format. They are not blogs, which are writings that the next to the last writer changes at his will. On the contrary, my commentaries are meant to be permanent and to never change.

The commentaries have a clear format. Sometimes as in commentary number one, the title is the theme. But most frequently the title is the theme in the following particular fashion.

The commentary opens with a few words that attract the attention of the reader followed either by a question mark or by a colon. There follows what might be thought of as a subtitle in which I indicate the concrete references to which this commentary makes allusion. This is usually another five or six words.

All commentaries may be translated, and I seek to have as many as possible translated. The translations have a strict format. We give rights gratis for the first 1,000 copies initial translation. This is to pay for the costs of translation.

But after that, the commentaries must follow certain rules. Nothing can be added, and nothing can be subtracted from the commentary, which must be reproduced in all fidelity. In order to ensure that this is the case, a proposer of a new translation is answered in the following manner.

First, we check to see whether previously a commentary has been translated. If it has, we thank the proposer for his or her interest and indicate that the translation has already been made. We indicate to the proposer the location of the completed translation. There can only be one translation, as there can only be one English language version.

There is only one language in which all 500 commentaries have been translated. This language is Mandarin Chinese. Furthermore, the translator has always been the same person. She is a former student of mine and is very familiar with my thought. Other languages have multiple issues translated, but only Mandarin Chinese has everything.

For a long time now, the commentaries are available for purchase by profit-seeking publications. They may enter into agreement with my agent – Agence Global. I take the occasion to thank all those who have been involved in fulfilling this arrangement.

It is I, and no one else, who chooses the theme of the commentary and who guarantees the uniqueness of the translation. All commentaries and all translations on an archive are available to anyone whatsoever, whether the person writes to us regularly or is simply someone who tunes in this one time. These commentaries are permanent members of a community of commentaries.

This is the sense in which the present commentary is at an end.

It is the future that is more important and more interesting, but also inherently unknowable. Because of the structural crisis of the modern-world system, it is possible, possible but not absolutely certain, that a transformatory use of a 1968 complex will be achieved by someone or some group. It will probably take much time and will continue on past the point of the end of commentaries. What form this new activity will take is hard to predict.

So, the world might go down further c. Or it may not. I have indicated in the past that I thought the crucial struggle was a class struggle, using class in a very broadly defined sense. What those who will be alive in the future can do is to struggle with themselves so this change may be a real one. I still think that and therefore I think there is a 50-50 chance that we’ll make it to transformatory change, but only 50-50.


Courtesy of Immanuel Wallerstein
Publication date of original article: 01/07/2019
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