The Rise of JWSR

Chris Chase-Dunn   (v. 6-18-13, 1432 words)

In 1995 I was a world-systems sociologist at Johns Hopkins University who had done a PhD under John W. Meyer and Michael Hannan at Stanford and then tried to formalize the world-systems perspective as a theoretical research program. My Global Formation was published in 1989.  After that Thomas D. Hall and I began developing the comparative evolutionary world-systems approach that uses world-systems as the unit of analysis for studying human sociocultural evolution.

               I attended a conference in Boulder, Colorado in 1994.  Marta Gimenez, a sociologist friend at University of Colorado-Boulder, introduced me to Don Roper, an economist at UC-Boulder, who was in the process of setting up something he called Communications for a Sustainable Future (CSF).  Don brought me to his apartment and showed me how he could ftp (file transfer protocol) in to the card catalogue at the University of Texas from his home computer.  I knew this was hot.


               In January of 1995 Don helped me set up the World-Systems Network (WSN), a listserv for world-systems scholars[1] and Don also hosted the newly founded Journal of World-Systems Research (JWSR) at Communications for a Sustainable Future. We used ftp and gopher text files before the invention of hypertext markup language (html). Geeks had invented something called ascii art, which were graphics composed of ascii characters that could be displayed in simple text file. We used an ascii art representation of the globe as the first logo for JWSR (see  ).

  Gopher was clunky[2] but Tom Brown, a techie sociology graduate student at Johns Hopkins, helped us get it to work. Susan Manning and Salvatore Babones,  also Johns Hopkins sociology grad students, helped to produce the first volume of JWSR. We were early adopters of internet technology just before the explosion of the web.

               The philosophy of the global knowledge commons was clearly expressed in the first Editorial Purpose and Policy, which has unfortunately not survived the various techno transitions that have occurred since 1995. The original is appended below, along with the original masthead of staff and board members.

               Our approach was to not worry about the surface of things, but rather to focus our energies on producing the best content we could.  The review process was designed to help contributors improve their work. We had no trouble getting quality submissions because our colleagues were also enthusiastic about the idea of the global knowledge commons.  Some must have worried about whether or not the journal would survive and whether or not it would be taken seriously, but this is the same problem for all start-ups.

               We knew from WSN and the ASA PEWS section that there was a vibrant community of scholars who were excited about world-systems analysis.  The great content published in JWSR over the years is the best evidence that we were right. Many colleagues worked very hard on the campaign from 2001 to 2008 to get JWSR adopted as the official journal of the PEWS section.  

               The future, like the past, will turn on the content.  Linking to data sets, the use of audio and video in research articles have been encouraged from the beginning, but not much used, at least so far.  We also always intended to publish in languages other than English, but not much of this has been done. These are areas that might be expanded in the future. Pretty pictures are nice, but real social science is still the gold standard.  If the content is good, the form just needs to serve to communicate it effectively.  We continue to believe that the world-systems perspective will help the humans survive the crises that we have conjured for ourselves in the 21st century. 



Appendix: First Editorial Purpose and Policy of JWSR,  February 1995

                _Journal of World-Systems Research_

                                ISSN 1076-156X


                         Editorial Policy

       The main editorial goal of the _Journal of World-Systems

Research_ is to develop and disseminate scholarly research on

topics that are relevant to the analysis of world-systems. We

especially want to include works that proceed from several

different theoretical stances and disciplines. These include, but

are not limited to, civilizationists, evolutionary approaches,

international political economy, comparative, historical and

cultural analysis. We seek the work of political scientists,

historians, sociologists, anthropologists, archaeologists,

economists and geographers.

        We especially encourage works that take theory seriously

by confronting problems of conceptualization and making

definitions of concepts explicit, by formulating hypotheses,

constructing axiomatic theories and causal models. Theoretical

research programs that combine theory construction with

comparative research are badly needed to take the world-systems

approach beyond the stage of a perspective.

       We also want to encourage the application of comparative,

quantitative and network-analytic methods to world-systems

research, though we will certainly also publish pieces that do not

use these methods. Any empirical study that is deemed relevant

to world-systems analysis may be published even if it uses a very

different conceptual framework.

       And finally, we also want to publish discussions of future

trajectories and options for the modern world-system and

considerations of what can be done to create a more humane,

peaceful and just world society.

     The purposes of _JWSR_ are:

      >to produce a high quality publication of world-systems     

         research articles using the advantages of the electronic 


     >to publish quantitative and comparative research on world-


     >to publish works of theory construction and codification of

         causal propositions;

     >to publish data sets in connection with articles; and

     >to publish articles that are longer than those usually        

         accepted by hard copy journals

     >to publish reviews of books relevant to world-systems      


     >to publish a forum for world-system-relevant comments on

         current issues

Institutional Basis:

The institutional home of _JWSR_ is the Program in Comparative

International Development in the Department of Sociology at

Johns Hopkins University. It is also associated with WSN, an

electronic conferencing network located at Communications for a

Sustainable Future at the University of Colorado in Boulder.


_JWSR_ is a self-published refereed journal under the control of

the Editor and the Editorial Board. The Associate Editors are

consultants who help to procure and evaluate articles for



Articles in _JWSR_ will be published as soon as they are ready.

All those appearing in a single calendar year will be in the same

Volume. Each article will be assigned its own unique reference

number. Each regular article published in the journal will be

anonymously reviewed by at least one referee. Final decisions

about publication will be made by the Editor.


Articles published in the gopher (ascii) version of _JWSR_ will be

available free to the user by ftp and gopher access from the

World-Systems Archive at  Subscribers to WSN,

the world-system electronic conferencing network, will receive

notices about new articles appearing in _JWSR_. In the future we

plan to produce an html version of the journal for World Wide

Web.  And we plan to make  paper copies available to those who

desire them.

Copyright Policy:

The contents of _JWSR_ are for use by scholars and researchers

and can not be copied for commercial purposes. Authors retain

the full copyrights to their papers. Permissions to reprint must

be obtained from the authors. Authors are asked to cite the

_JWSR_ versions of their papers if related versions are published

elsewhere. The Editor of _JWSR_ reserves the right to reproduce

articles in future hard copy, ascii file or html editions of


ISSN 1076-156X  

Original Staff and Boards in 1995


                         Christopher Chase-Dunn

                             Johns Hopkins

                          EDITORIAL BOARD

Janet Abu-Lughod          Albert Bergesen         Volker Bornschier

  New School                  Arizona                  Zurich


Terry Boswell             Carl Dassbach          Jonathan Friedman

  Emory                   Michigan Tech                Lund


Andre Gunder Frank     Walter L. Goldfrank        Thomas D. Hall

  Amsterdam              U.C., Santa Cruz              DePauw


David Kowalewski        Su Hoon Lee              Beverly Silver

    Alfred              IFES, Seoul             Johns Hopkins


Cornelius Terlouw     William R. Thompson      Michael Timberlake

  Utrecht                   Indiana             Kansas State


David A. Smith             David Wilkinson

U.C., Irvine               U.C., Los Angeles



                           ASSOCIATE EDITORS

Giovanni Arrighi       Peter Evans        Harriet Friedmann

  Binghamton         U.C., Berkeley             Toronto


Edward Kick          Robert J.S. Ross         John W. Meyer

   Utah                   Clark                Stanford


Patrick McGowan       George Modelski      Katherine Moseley     


Arizona State           Washington         IAS, Rabat, Morocco


Thomas Schott        Peter J. Taylor        Immanuel Wallerstein

  Pittsburgh           Newcastle              Binghamton


            Dale Wimberley           Gary Feinman

             Virginia Poly            Wisconsin

                       BOOK REVIEW EDITOR


                        Dale Wimberley

                     Virginia Polytechnic

                     GRADUATE ASSISTANTS

             Salvatore Babones, Susan Manning, Tom Brown           

                        Johns Hopkins





[1] The World-Systems Archive ( contains most of the posts made to this list serve from 1995 to 2004. In later years WSN was moderated by Prof. Quee-Young Kim at the University of Wyoming.


[2] The gopher file for the masthead page of the first issue of JWSR:

Gopher Menu

[Image] ***********************************************************

[Image]   *******    JOURNAL OF WORLD-SYSTEMS RESEARCH    *******

[Image] ***********************************************************

[Image] Logo

[Image] Welcome To JWSR

[Image] How To View Tables And Figures

[Image] JWSR Volume #1, 1995