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Re: Armchair theorizing and scholarship on wsn
by Danny Dayus
12 March 2002 11:42 UTC
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I have only been subscribed to the list a few weeks, and although some
of the views are interesting, I am disappointed that a fair bit of
emotional baggage seems also to be off-loaded here.  Nevertheless, I am
very ineterested in issues related to world systems theory.  Does anyone
know of a good site devoted to discussing these, where disagreements can
be aired without fear of arousing anger and/or personal attacks?

Danny Dayus

-----Original Message-----
From: wsn-owner@csf.colorado.edu [mailto:wsn-owner@csf.colorado.edu] On
Behalf Of David Smith
Sent: Tuesday 12 March 2002 05:52am
To: world-system network
Subject: Armchair theorizing and scholarship on wsn

Just a quick point of information for those involved in the recent
discussion, which is ostensibly about "the Islamic State" but seems to
have digressed into diatribes against folks who are academics.  I won't
attempt to defend academia: no doubt the world that many of us who are
professors live in is very imperfect, with pressures to "publish or
perish" often detracting from the intellectual quality of our work as
well as it's policy relevance, the degree to which its grounded in
everyday life, etc.  No point in defending the indefensible.

However, the idea that "most" of the contributors to the current wsn,
such as it is, are "pointed-headed intellectuals" is very ironic!  It
is, frankly, (to use a shopworn "intellectual" phrase) a "straw
argument." This list did, in fact, start out as one that was primarily
subscribed to by serious scholars who studied the world-system from
various academic disciplines (sociology, political science, history,
etc).  However, in the past few years MOST of those scholars have either
unsubscribed or no longer actively participate in the listserve.  Some
have told me that they found the discussions were no longer interesting
because they got the impression that a number of the interlocutors on
wsn had so little deep understanding of the issues.  One person told me,
"It seems like most of the folks current participating in wsn
discussions are primarily interested in venting their opinions and get
most or all of their "information" from dubious sources on the internet
or the web."  This person was suggesting that many current wsn folks who
want to understand the dynamics of the current global situation might
actually do well to try actually read some of the important books in the
field by "armchair theorists" like Arrighi, Wallerstein, Gunder Frank,
etc.  (Just to be
clear: none of these folks are the World Bank "experts" with their Land
Rovers or "exotic villas" -- and their books really DO help us
understand why there is so much global inequality today, and who and
what really is to blame for it.)

I have a suggestion for Adam, the poli sci undergrad student.  Read some
of this stuff (heck, after all you are a college student, so you ought
to be reading something).  If you had a rudimentary understanding of
some of the larger debates about the nature of the modern world-system,
and how it came to be, you would know better than to deride Immanuel
Wallerstein for his question about "the influx of cotton," might not be
quite so "amazed" (this is a classic case of something zipping right
over a person's head!).

It's okay that many of the folks on wsn are not as well-read or as
distinquished a scholar as Professor Wallerstein (and he's actually a
pretty sharp, clever, "grandfather" -- wsn is actually very fortunate to
have someone like that actually "look in" on it once in a while!).
Personally, I find it particularly useful to hear voices, of scholars
and others, who are living far beyond North America and can offer
perspectives from different parts of the world.  And it's interesting to
get some input for those of you who think you have more "real-life"
experience with the world than the rest of us -- and those who think
that having relatives who are from different cultures make them
"experts." I'm willing to read some of this stuff (okay, I'll confess: I
DO delete some, too).  But it seems like it serves no real purpose to
rail against the world-system scholars who really DO have some
understanding about how things work, and who were the original
inspiration for this network.

Would wsn really be better off, if ALL the serious academic types
unsubscribed?  The sort of silly discussion that I've read today pushes
the listserve precisely in that direction.  Pause and think before you
start typing!

dave smith
professor of sociology

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