Utopystics and the Asiatic Modes of Liberation: Gurdjieffian Contributions to the Sociological Imaginations of Inner and Global World-Systems

Mohammad H. Tamdgidi published the chapter titled “Utopystics and the Asiatic Modes of Liberation: Gurdjieffian Contributions to the Sociological Imaginations of Inner and Global World-Systems,” in The Rise of Asia and the Transformation of the World-System, a collection in the Political Economy of the World-System Annuals series, volume XXX, edited by Ganesh K. Trichur, and Immanuel Wallerstein (series editor). The volume is now published by Routledge (originally a Paradigm Publishers’ title published in 2009 (sc) and 2010 (hc)).

In the chapter, Tamdgidi argues that Asian trajectories of esoteric mystical traditions significantly challenge the categories and paradigms associated with the world-systems perspective, particularly in the emerging field of utopistics (Wallerstein, 1998), and its comparative/integrative variant “utopystics” which advocates cross-cultural explorations in utopia, mysticism, and science (Tamdgidi, 2006a, 2007b, 2008). He draws on G. I. Gurdjieff’s (1872?-1949) hybrid teaching syntherizing elements from diverse Asian mystical traditions in order to help enrich the world-systems perspective in favor of imaginative sociological approaches that take seriously the personal as well as the world-systemic discourses on and strategies for the realistic historical alternatives to the modern world economy. Gurdjieff’s emphases on the paradigmatic significance of human inner division and multiple selfhood, the resulting propensity to habituation in limiting human liberatory endeavors, and the subsequent need for radical efforts in personal self-knowledge and transformation, are noted.

The theoretical and methodological challenges facing such comparative/integrative approaches to utopistics are intellectually exciting for those interested in developing sociological imaginations of historical world-systems—past, present, and emergent—characterized by simultaneous attention to the dialectics of inner personal and broader global/world-historical forces shaping the trajectories of world-systems. Tamdgidi argues that such exercises of simultaneity in self and global/world-historical knowledge and transformation necessitate fruitful revisitations of the unit of analysis question in world-systems studies in favor of the adoption of not a singular unit, but two-fold, dialectically conceived, micro/macro units of analyses of inner and global world-systems.

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