Remembering Andre Gunder Frank.
Gunder Frank launched the memorable slogan of 'the development of underdevelopment' as the dictum to encapsulate the program of the dependistas. It suggested that the situation in which Third World countries found themselves today was not the result of some 'traditional' characteristics they had inherited but was rather the consequence of their incorporation as dominated and therefore exploited sectors in the modern world-system. It was in the early 1970s that I met him and discovered how much overlap there was in our views. In the years that followed, he, I, Samir Amin, and Giovanni Arrighi were in rather constant contact, and we then collaborated in two collective works: The Dynamics of Global Crisis (1982) and Transforming the Revolution: Social Movements" and the World-System (1990). We came to be called the 'Gang of Four'. We agreed on at least 80 percent of the analysis of the modern world. As for those issues about which we disagreed, there was no pattern to the alliances among us. But it was the areas of accord that were the most important to us.
In the 1990s, Gunder Frank moved into a new arena of work: the world system over the course of 5000 years and the centrality of China to that world system. He saw his analytic shift of emphasis as an essential mode of overcoming Eurocentrism. The other three of us agreed with him that China's role had long been neglected, but disagreed that the 5000-year 'world system' was the same kind of phenomenon as the 500-year 'modern world-system' based on the capitalist mode of production. Gunder Frank seemed to argue that there was no such thing as capitalism, and that therefore there was nothing really new in the modern world.
Even as Gunder Frank came to reject the concept of capitalism, he never ceased fighting the capitalists at the political level. Indeed, his constant militancy to the very end, as well as his unflagging devotion to intellectual production (and indeed to teaching and participation in international colloquia), was all the more remarkable in that he fought serious illness for the last 10 years of his life.
Gunder Frank was notoriously 'difficult' in his interpersonal relations. But he managed despite this, or perhaps because of this, to be loved by his friends, no matter what he did or said. This is because he was not merely a warm human being, but a deeply honest and committed intellectual, who gave at least as much as he took in all his social and scholarly encounters. He was a rare bird. The eagle flew high.
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|Publication:||International Journal of Comparative Sociology|
|Date:||Feb 1, 2005|
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