Known best for a four-volume sociological work titled The Modern World-System, he also published The End of the World As We Know It: Social Science for the Twenty-first Century. He taught at Binghamton University and Yale University, among other institutions.
After earning his PhD in Sociology from Columbia University and briefly serving in the United States Army, he began his teaching career at McGill University.
He explained international warfare in terms of "Kondratiev waves" -- predictable economic cycles that influence national and global politics.
He was born and raised in New York City. His marriage to Beatrice Friedman began in 1964 and resulted in a daughter.
His masterpiece work, The Modern World-System, was influenced by the economic and political theories of Karl Marx.