The central idea illustrated in this book is that 'Cumulative self-sustaining changes in the form of the endless search for accumulation has been the leitmotiv of the capitalist world-economy ever since its genesis in the 16th century.'
This theorem leads to the following conclusion: ' NONE (I underline) of the great revolutions of the late 18th century - the SO-CALLED (I underline) industrial revolution, the French Revolution, the settler independences of the Americas - represented fundamental challenges to the world capitalist system.'
Why? Because the transition from feudalism to capitalism had long since occurred.
I will only discuss the author's view on the Industrial Revolution.
Another marxist, Eric Hobshawm starts his book 'Industry and Empire' with the following sentence: 'The Industrial Revolution marks the most fundamental transformation of human life in the history of the world.'
How is it possible that two marxist scholars have such a different appreciation of the same phenomenon?
I believe because there is an all important 'hidden' element, which is unconsciously taken into account by Hobshawm and not by Wallerstein: power.
'The endless search for accumulation' is not an end, but a means to acquire power (R. Kuttner: 'Wealth is power.')
Power means a bigger chance to survive in the struggle for life. Those, then and now, who profit from the Industrial Revolution have a better chance to survive (states, corporations, classes, individuals).
Power is not only a question of social and economic systems, but also a matter of political and military strenght in order to implement certain policies.
Why did Britain rule the waves? Politically, the Parliament controlled the king and the capitalist landowners could implement their economic policies. Militarilly, the Navy's strenght assured victory in wars, permitted access to foreign markets, incorporation of vast new zones into the system, blocking entry of raw material into enemy states ... Economically, all important technical innovations.
The Industrial Revolution was a crucial element in the acquisition of world power by the British.
Wallerstein admits these cardinal factors: 'It was these politico-military victories that critically increased the economic gaps - in industry, in trade and in finance.' And, 'the wars allowed the spectacular change in Britain's exports.'
But, because they did not change the system (capitalism), those factors were not very important. Also in the struggle for survival?
Another aspect of both analyses is the Schumpeterian factor. For Wallerstein, the actors are ideas, classes, Estates. Individuals are mere vehicles for those ideas.
In Hobshawm's book, individuals are important, e. g. the aim of the British rulers was to implement first of all policies of economic expansion. This was not the aim of the Ottoman empire.
This book contains a wealth of information and is thought-provoking, but one-sided.
Ultimately, only democracy can determine the future of our world-system.