world system prediction (fwd)

Mon, 03 Feb 1997 18:29:42 +1100
Bruce R. McFarling (

This was sent last wednesday (csf.colorado time) as well.
I've already got an answer for the first point, but I'll give
those on WSN a crack at it first.


Bruce R. McFarling, Newcastle, NSW


Date: Wed, 29 Jan 1997 17:48:31 -0500 (EST)
From: "Gregoire de Nowell (ci-devant)" <>
Subject: world system prediction

Frank's message sent me scurrying back to Amin, Arrighi, Frank &
Wallerstein (1982), _Dynamics of Global Crisis_.

p. 238:

"Two immediate questions are on most people's minds when they
think about their expectations for the 1980s. Will there be
a "crash," and will there be a world war? The answer to the first
depends on what one means by a crash. If one means a serious
financial collapse followeed by a price drop and
a significant increase in world unemployment, then Amin,
Frank, and Wallerstein all think that there is a reasonably
high probability of this in this decade."

So w/a world-systems stockbrocker, you'd a missed out on
the Great Bull Market of the 80s-which, crash of 87 included-
was one of the great $$ oppportunities in history. Much
better to stick with Malkiel whose late 70s edition of
Random Walk said BUY.

On other matters they get points: a forecast of serious
potential ethnic problems in the USSR, which is seen
as greatly stronger than under the Tsars (tho' the
Tsars could conquer the Caucasus--and all that fearsome
Soviet hardware was pretty worthlessin Afghanistan and
Checnya). The labor movment in Poland is seen as
"antisystemic" (w/regard to world capitalism). Hmmmm.
I dunno. I need to mention that I love world systems
stuff. Wallerstein and Frank have made some royalties
off of me (even Frank & Gill's 500 Years). And I mean
that I assign them, not just buy them for myself.

But while it's great to look at all these historical
interconnectednesses from Sandarkan to Zanzibar,
never ever stake your portfolio on what these guys
say. Especially over next-ten year increments. As for
long-cycles 'n' stuff which is at the core of this
work, I refer readers to Nathaniel Beck's
"Illusion of cycles in INternational Relations"
_International Studies Quarterly_ 1991, v. 35, pp. 455-476
with its rather devastating comparison of long-cycle
trends to randomly generated stationary data (p. 460).

So, as I say, I like the work--and Frank should
surely know, I'm no stranger to global capital
vs. global capital, since we exchanged books
and other materials a year or so ago. But
I think world systems and Kondratieffs are
mostly an aesthetic. Commodity-chain politics
I can see; the rest makes for interesting history.
But predictions? I think that what savvy is
there comes from expert knowledge of multiple regions.
Back in 1980 Bill Griffith at MIT--no World Systems
type he--called the USSR the last of the great
multinational empires with all the problems attending
thereto. What the two groupshave in common is
not a "science of history" but a deep appreciation
of history, period.

And before the harpies descend--I don't think
political "science" is a science either. I won't
venture into economics. But if you want to
stake your cycles on the acceleration principle
or accumulation crises--go with the acceleration

Greg Nowell