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Remembering Andre Gunder Frank.

Andre Gunder Frank was born in 1929 and died in 2005. He was one of the major figures of world anti-Establishment thought in the 20th century, and his writings were a great influence on very many people, certainly on me. He started intellectual life as an economist, and indeed one trained in the heartland of neoclassical economics, the University of Chicago. But he soon turned into one of the severest critics of his mentors and those whose views they propagated. He spent his early research years in Latin America, particularly in Brazil and Chile. And there, he became one of the leaders of the dependistas. The three essential features of his position were (1) a rejection of neoclassical economics as both intellectually irrelevant and generative of false policy prescriptions for the countries of the South; (2) a commitment to radical political action as well as radical analyses; (3) a rejection of the Marxism of the orthodox Communist parties for purveying inadequate and misleading modes of analysis and praxis.

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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Author:Wallerstein, Immanuel
Publication:International Journal of Comparative Sociology
Article Type:Biography
Geographic Code:4EUGE
Date:Feb 1, 2005
Words:596
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