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Capital, Colony, Core: an Introduction to World-Systems Analysis

Explore the global dynamics of capitalism, as well as its roots and impact on societies with a study of Immanuel Wallerstein's World Systems Analysis at the Brooklyn Institute for Social Research. Uncover the interconnectedness of core, semi-periphery, and periphery nations. Gain an understanding of global capitalism and its potential alternatives.

  • All levels
  • 21 and older
  • $335
  • Earn 3,350 reward points
  • Online Classroom
  • 12 hours over 4 sessions

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  • $335
  • 12 hours over 4 sessions
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What you'll learn in this lecture class:

Capital, Colony, Core: an Introduction to World Systems Analysis

Capitalism cannot be understood except as a global system. Such is the guiding insight propelling the work of Immanuel Wallerstein, whose World Systems Analysis provides a grand theoretical account of the origins, evolution, and eventual dominance of a system whose basic characteristics are fundamentally global—its intercontinental arrangement into wealthy “cores,” liminal “semi-peripheries,” and colonial and postcolonial “peripheries.” For Wallerstein, the World System is predicated on a world-wide division of labor: core nations specialize in high-skill, capital intensive work, peripheral countries in low-skill labor and resource extraction—weaving a global circuit of exchange that tends to enrich the core nations (or, at least, certain classes within them) and dispossess the periphery. And, while the system is far from static—countries can rise from peripheral positions and fall away from the core—its structure is fixed: capitalism cannot, by nature, lift all boats. Yet, how did the world system, as Wallerstein theorizes it, come to be? How does World Systems Analysis relate to, and help illuminate, colonial and postcolonial history? And, how can Wallerstein’s work help us understand, and make predictions about, both the U.S. “core” economy and the increasingly turbulent global capitalist system?

In this course, we will read from the major works of Immanuel Wallerstein as we explore the major concepts and theory of World Systems Analysis, as well as its strengths, weaknesses, and points of compatibility with and difference from competing understandings of national and global capitalism, from mainstream to Marxist to postcolonial accounts. Guided by Wallerstein’s World Systems Analysis: an Introduction, we will start by looking at the theoretical and methodological foundations of World Systems Analysis—its borrowings from Marx, Fernand Braudel’s longue duree history, and the core-periphery framework of dependency theorists such as Samir Amin or Paul Sweezy—and discuss Wallerstein’s attempt to present a holistic account that, as he saw it, transcend the “three supposedly distinctive arenas” of society, economy, and politics. What’s gained in attempting to understand world phenomena as a totality, rather than examining it by discipline? We will then examine the World System as an account of the rise and continued evolution of the capitalist world economy. What are the rudiments of the world system, and how does it work? How can we understand the relational positions of core, semi-periphery, and periphery, and what does it mean for an understanding of historical and modern imperialism and postcolonialism? We’ll then turn our focus to the cultural dimensions of the world system, asking: How can we understand the power of ideas as determinants of global economic reality, from ideology to racism, sexism, and social movement activism? Finally, we will use World Systems Analysis as a frame for thinking about current capitalist crises and possible alternatives. How can Wallerstein’s work help us understand the trajectory of the global capitalist economy, and its local ramifications, particularly in light of apparent U.S. decline, the rise of China, and accelerating climate change? Can Wallerstein’s holistic theory of global capitalism help us envision and articulate alternative arrangements and futures? In addition to World Systems Analysis, we will also read from Wallerstein’s Race, Nation, Class: Ambiguous Identities and Does Capitalism Have a Future?, as well as secondary sources.

Remote Learning

This course is available for "remote" learning and will be available to anyone with access to an internet device with a microphone (this includes most models of computers, tablets). Classes will take place with a "Live" instructor at the date/times listed below.

Upon registration, the instructor will send along additional information about how to log-on and participate in the class.

Refund Policy

  • Upon request, we will refund less 5% cancellation fee of a course up until 6 business days before its start date.
  • Students who withdraw after that point but before the first class are entitled to 75% refund or full course credit.
  • After the first class: 50% refund or 75% course credit.
  • No refunds or credits will be given after the second class.

In any event where a customer wants to cancel their enrollment and is eligible for a full refund, a 5% processing fee will be deducted from the refund amount.

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Brooklyn Institute for Social Research

The Brooklyn Institute for Social Research was established in 2011 in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn. Its mission is to extend liberal arts education and research far beyond the borders of the traditional university, supporting community education needs and opening up new possibilities for scholarship in the...

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