Land, Space, and People: Constraints of the Capitalist World-Economy


  • Immanuel Wallerstein Yale University



The coming into existence of the capitalist world-economy created new constraints on utilizingthe land for productive purposes. The single most important change is that it established asystematic legal basis for what is called title to the land. Title to the land is fundamentally apolitical question masked by a legal veneer. The amount of land that is governed by title is, eventoday, not 100% of the global land surface. But it has grown as a percentage of the total globalland surface throughout the history of the modern world-system. Population growth has led totwo forms of expansion. There is extensive growth, the bringing of more and more land areasinto the system of titled land. But there is also intensive growth, the ever greater concentration ofthe population of the world into close-contact areas. We call this urbanization. The world leftfaces a fundamental dilemma. On the one hand, the world left has stood for measures that wouldreduce the enormous real north-south gap. On the other hand, the world left (or at least agrowing portion of it) is standing against further commodification of land rights and furtherecological degradation of the world. The two strategies are contradictory and incompatible onewith the other. Land rights stand as the crucial deciding point.




How to Cite

Wallerstein, I. (2012). Land, Space, and People: Constraints of the Capitalist World-Economy. Journal of World-Systems Research, 18(1), 6–14.



Land Rights in the World-System