The Long Twentieth Century and Barriers to China's Hegemonic Accession

  • John Gulick Hanyang University


Giovanni Arrighi's The Long Twentieth Century is an almost unfathomably ambitious andcomplex work. Its monumentality derives from Arrighi 's conviction that the best way to handicapthe possible futures of the world capitalist geo-economy is to analyze the structural evolution ofthis global system, an evolution spanning more than five centuries; the genius of the work rests inthe distinctive approach that Arrighi takes. At the core of his approach is the identification ofthose long-term trends and accreted characteristics - one might call them "systemiccontradictions" - that promise to send the world capitalist geo-economy in a radically differentdevelopmental direction as US hegemony wanes. Arrighi 's assessment of these contradictionscompel him to make a provocative suggestion: in all likelihood, no singular concentration of stateand economic power possesses the territorial scale or the organizational capacities required tolead the global system through another round of restructuring and expansion. Properly framed,this illuminating insight could serve as the starting point for a theoretical exploration of thesocio-ecological constraints to global capitalist reproduction, but such is a journey (mostly) nottaken by Arrighi in The Long Twentieth Century. In fact, to the degree that he subsequentlycontemplates the prospect of a China-centered reconstitution of the world geo-economy, Arrighimarginalizes the question of global systemic contradictions altogether.
How to Cite
Gulick, J. (2011). The Long Twentieth Century and Barriers to China’s Hegemonic Accession. Journal of World-Systems Research, 17(1), 4-38.
The World-Historical Imagination: Giovanni Arrighi's The Long Twentieth Century in Prospect and Retrospect