Monday, June 22, 2009

Giovanni Arrighi, 1937-2009

There have been few books of history and social theory--not quite sure where I can place it in terms of genre--as important as The Long Twentieth Century. It's a shame that Arrighi couldn't have lived to see more of history's own confirmations and counters to his predictions. So far, mostly confirmations. One cannot but help feel, now, in the summery green of the dollar, the autumnal yellows and reds of a terminal crisis. . .

As is well-known, Marx projected the writing of a number of companion books after he finished his investigation of Capital (which he never finished)--books on wages, the state, the world-market. There have been many writers--of course--who attempted to fill in these gaps, and many of the arguments among leftists during the early and middle part of the 20th century concerned the precise relationship between the state, the world-market, finance and capitalism--in other words, the forms and futures of imperialism. It seems uncontroversial to suggest that Arrighi's contribution--set beside Lenin and Luxemburg--is definitive here, however much its integration with the micrological account of the capital-labor relationship of Marx (the subject of his earlier research) remains unclear, and however mild and modest its horizon of possible worlds.

I met him once, and he seemed a kind and generous man. You can read an interview with him here.