Theorizing Capitalist Imperialism for an Anti-Imperialist Praxis

Towards a Rodneyan World-Systems Analysis

  • Kristin Plys University of Toronto
Keywords: political economy, world-systems, capitalism, imperialism, class struggle, dar es salaam school, Walter Rodney


How does one craft an explicitly left theory of anti-imperialism that would animate an anti-imperialist praxis? World-systems analysis has a long history of engagement with theories of anti-imperialism from an explicitly Leninist perspective. For the founding fathers of World-Systems Analysis—Immanuel Wallerstein, Giovanni Arrighi, Samir Amin, and Andre Gunder Frank—anti-imperialism was an early central concern. Each of the four founders of world-systems analysis reads Lenin’s theory of imperialism seriously, but each has slightly different interpretations. One significant commonality they share is that they adopt Lenin’s periodization of imperialism, seeing imperialism as emergent in the late 19th century as part of a particular stage within the historical development of capitalism. However, as I will argue in this essay, perhaps it would be preferable to temporally expand Lenin’s concept of imperialism. Walter Rodney’s concept of “capitalist imperialism,” as I shall show in this essay, similarly calls Lenin’s periodization into question. Thereby, putting Rodney in conversation with Amin, Arrighi, Frank, and Wallerstein, leads me to further historicize world-systems’ theories of global imperialism thereby refining existing theories and levying that to build stronger praxis.


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How to Cite
Plys, K. (2021). Theorizing Capitalist Imperialism for an Anti-Imperialist Praxis: Towards a Rodneyan World-Systems Analysis. Journal of World-Systems Research, 27(1), 288-313.