Immanuel Wallerstein 1930-2019

Department News
September 4, 2019

The Sociology Department at Yale is deeply saddened to announce the death of Professor Immanuel Wallerstein on August 31, 2019. He was a Senior Research Fellow in our department since 2000 and as such a highly visible presence in our daily life on campus. He received his BA (1951), MA (1954), and PhD (1959) all from Columbia University. He taught at Columbia (1958-71), where he served as a prominent supporter of the students during the 1968 protests, and then at McGill (1971-76).  From 1976-1999, he served as distinguished professor of Sociology at Binghamton University (SUNY), where he was also founder and director of the Fernand Braudel Center for the Study of Economies, Historical Systems, and Civilizations. From 1975 until his death he was a Senior Research Scholar at the Maison des sciences de l’homme in Paris, and intermittently served as Directeur d’études associé at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris. He held positions as visiting professor at many other universities worldwide throughout his career, gave named lectureships, and was awarded 15 honorary degrees from universities around the world.

Wallerstein served as President of the International Sociological Association from 1994-1998, and received the Career of Distinguished Scholarship Award from the American Sociological Association in 2003. In 2014, the International Sociological Association awarded him the first ever Award for Excellence in Research and Practice. During the 1990s, he chaired the Gulbenkian Commission on the Restructuring of the Social Sciences, whose object was to indicate a direction for social scientific inquiry for the next 50 years.

Wallerstein was a prolific author and intellectual giant best known for his influential contributions to world systems theory. His early work on colonial and post-colonial Africa made him highly sensitive to the significant global flows and interconnections in the evolution of capitalism. There followed several decades of theoretical elaboration which looked to explain and document the global division of labor and core/periphery relations. In the process Wallerstein obtained an unparalleled and truly encyclopedic knowledge of the social, political and economic history of the world over the past five hundred years. It is entirely fitting that he has been awarded medals, prizes and degrees from every corner of the planet, including honorary degrees from University of Paris-Denis Diderot, York University, University Libre de Bruxelles, Higher School of Economics in Moscow, and many others.  His books have been translated into dozens of languages. 

In the department, we know Immanuel as a treasured colleague; a sharp and stimulating intellectual critic, and a dear friend. We honor his legacy, and will miss him greatly.

For his bio, please go to his website: