The Human Costs of Economic Growth

  • Immanuel Wallerstein
Keywords: Political Economy


Amiya Kumar Bagchi, Perilous Passage: Mankind and the Global Ascendancy of Capital (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2005), 395 + xxiv pages, hardcover, $76, paper, $34.95.
The great debate of social science for the last two centuries at least has been how to account for the extraordinary economic growth of the modern world. We all know the basic picture. The overwhelming majority of authors have argued that the story is that of the rise of the West. There have been, however, two opposing versions of this narrative. One is the Whig interpretation of history, which argues that it has been a story of steady social, intellectual, and moral progress whose explanation lies in some particular characteristic of the West (often just of England). In this version, the world is reaching its summit of progress today. The second version is Marxism, which has argued that the rise of the West is part of a larger story of steady dialectical and conflictual historical development. In this version, the present West-dominated world order will inevitably be superseded by another phase of historical development, in which capitalism will be replaced by communism