This award is presented annually to honor a scholar who has shown outstanding commitment to the profession of sociology and whose cumulative work has contributed in important ways to the advancement of the discipline. The selection committee decided to present the 2003 Career of Distinguished Scholarship Award to Immanuel Wallerstein.
Wallerstein has been described as one of the most influential sociologists of his generation, due in large part to his development of a new paradigm for sociology, world-systems analysis. The world-systems paradigm offers linkages for previously unlinked studies and previously unaffiliated scholars. His world-systems analysis shifted the focus of studies of large-scale political processes from societies and nation states as the unit of analysis, to the world system, thereby bringing attention to interdependencies that had been largely ignored.
Through his work, Wallerstein has extended the influence of sociology into other disciplines, including history, geography, economy, political science, cultural studies, ethnic studies, and women’s studies. His work has crossed not only academic borders but also has extended the influence of sociology to other parts of the world. His writings have inspired a whole generation of sociologists in Asia, Africa, and Latin America who want to know more about how the capitalist world-economy has shaped the contour of development of their own countries. His multi-volume The Modern World-System is a classic.
His contribution has been to start not only a paradigm shift in motion, but to sensitize sociologists to think in world-system terms for epochs predating our own. He has helped us to see that globalization is not merely something that set in at the end of our century, but shaped the very character of the “rise of the west” five centuries ago.
Wallerstein’s mark on the ASA is clear in many ways, but most visibly through the existence of the Section on the Political Economy of the World System, which he founded. His service to the field extends beyond his research to include work as a mentor to younger scholars, and development of the Fernand Braudel Center at SUNY-Binghamton and its journal Review. Immanuel Wallerstein truly has had a career of distinguished scholarship.