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The World-systems approach is a post-Marxist view of world affairs, one of several historical and current applications of Marxism to international relations.

One of the basics of the approach is its view of imperialism, which for many Marxists during the 20th century represented "the highest stage of capitalism", a term coined by Lenin, who also used the terms periphery and core as a means to analyze world politics and economy.

Immanuel Wallerstein, a leading advocate of the approach, uses the same terminology. He characterizes the world system as a set of mechanisms which redistributes resources from the periphery to the core. In his terminology, the core is the developed, industrialized, democratic part of the world, and the periphery is the underdeveloped, raw materials-exporting, poor part of the world; the market being the means by which the core exploits the periphery.

Wallerstein traces the origin of today's world-system to the 16th century in Western Europe, and defines it as:

"...a social system, one that has boundaries, structures, member groups, rules of legitimation, and coherence. Its life is made up of the conflicting forces which hold it together by tension and tear it apart as each group seeks eternally to remold it to its advantage. It has the characteristics of an organism, in that it has a life-span over which its characteristics change in some respects and remain stable in others. One can define its structures as being at different times strong or weak in terms of the internal logic of its functioning."[1]

Apart of these, Wallerstein defines four temporal features of that. Cyclical rhythms represent the short-term fluctuation of economy, while secular trends mean deeper long run tendencies, such as general economic growth or decline. In the theory the term contradiction means a general controversy in the system, usually concerning some short-run vs. long run trade-offs. For example the problem of underconsumption, wherein the drive-down of wages increases the profit for the capitalists on the short-run, but considering the long run, the decreasing of wages may have a crucially harmful effect by reducing the demand for the product. The last temporal feature is the crisis: a crisis occurs, if a constellation of circumstances brings about the losing of the system's structure, which also means the end of the system.

Technically speaking, World-systems analysis is not a theory, but an approach to social analysis and social change. It is based in part on the works of Samir Amin, Giovanni Arrighi, Andre Gunder Frank, and Immanuel Wallerstein with major contributions by Volker Bornschier, Peter Turchin, Andrey Korotayev, Janet Abu Lughod, Thomas D. Hall, Kunibert Raffer, David Wilkinson, and others.

It should be noted that World-systems analysis is not only derived from the neo-Marxist literature on development but also from the French Annales School tradition(especially Fernand Braudel).

The world system perspective

The essence of world systems theory starts with the following assumption, as once was stated by the Latin American economist Osvaldo Sunkel, a representative of dependency theory:

The interpretation so far advanced suggests that the international capitalist system contains an internationalized nucleus of activities, regions and social groups of varying degrees of importance in each country. These sectors share a common culture and ‘way of life’, which expresses itself through the same books, texts, films, television programs, similar fashions, similar groups of organization of family and social life, similar style of decoration of homes, similar orientations to housing, building, furniture and urban design. Despite linguistic barriers, these sectors have a far greater capacity for communication among themselves than is possible between integrated and marginal persons of the same country who speak the same language (...) Modernization implies the gradual replacement of the traditional productive structure by another of much higher capital intensiveness (...) On the one hand, the process of modernization incorporates into the new structures the individuals and groups that are apt to fit into the kind of rationality that prevails there; on the other hand, it expels the individuals and groups that have no place in the new productive structure or who lack the capacity to become adapted to it. It is important to emphasize that this process does not only prevent or limit the formation of a national entrepreneurial class, as indicated by Furtado, but also of a national middle class (...) and even a national working class. The advancement of modernization introduces, so to speak, a wedge along the area dividing the integrated from the segregated segments (...) In this process, some national entrepreneurs are incorporated as executives into the new enterprises or those absorbed by the TRANCO (i.e. transnational corporations), and others are marginalized; some professionals, forming part of the technical staff and the segment of employees are incorporated, and the rest are marginalized; part of the qualified labor supply and those that are considered fit to be upgraded are incorporated, while the remainder are marginalized.

The effects of the disintegration of each social class has important consequences for social mobility. The marginalized entrepreneur will probably add to the ranks of small or artesanal manufacture, or will abandon independent activity and become a middle class employee. The marginalized sectors of the middle class will probably form a group of frustrated lower middle class people trying to maintain middle class appearance without much possibility of upward mobility and terrorized by the danger of proletarization. The marginalized workers will surely add to the ranks of absolute marginality, where, as in the lower middle class, growing pools of resentment and frustration of considerable demographic dimension will accumulate (...) Finally, it is very probable that an international mobility will correspond to the internal mobility, particularly between the internationalized sectors (...) The process of social disintegration which has been outlined here probably also affects the social institutions which provide the bases of the different social groups and through which they express themselves. Similar tendencies to the ones described for the global society are, therefore, probably also to be found within the state, church, armed forces, political parties with a relatively wide popular base, the universities etc. (Sunkel, 1972: 18-42)

Dependency and world system theory hold, that poverty and backwardness in poor countries are caused by the peripheral position that these nations have in the international division of labor. Ever since the capitalist world system evolved, there is a stark distinction between the nations of the center and the nations of the periphery.

Fernando Henrique Cardoso summarized the quantifiable essence of dependency theories as follows:

  • there is a financial and technological penetration by the developed capitalist centers of the countries of the periphery and semi-periphery
  • this produces an unbalanced economic structure both within the peripheral societies and between them and the centers
  • this leads to limitations on self-sustained growth in the periphery
  • this favors the appearance of specific patterns of class relations
  • these require modifications in the role of the state to guarantee both the functioning of the economy and the political articulation of a society, which contains, within itself, foci of inartuculateness and structural imbalance (Cardoso, 1979)

Wallerstein's formulation of the world-system approach

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The most well-known version of the world-system approach has been developed by Immanuel Wallerstein. Wallerstein analyzes the World System as follows: "A system is defined as a unit with a single division of labour and multiple cultural systems."

In Wallerstein’s 1987 publication, World-System Analysis, he defines World-System Analysis by contrast with various theses which he rejects.'The 'disciplines' of modern social science are intellectually coherent groupings of subject matter that refer to discrete 'logics.World-systems analysis rejects this and calls for an unidisciplinary historical social science, and contends that the modern disciplines, products of the 19th century, are deeply flawed because they are not separate logics, as is manifest for example in the de facto overlap of analysis among scholars of the 'disciplines.History is the study of events (the idiographic approach) and social science discovers universal rules of human/social behavior (the nomothetic approach).Wallerstein writes that "World-systems analysis offers the heuristic value of the via media between trans-historical generalizations and particularistic narrations...It argues that the optimal method is to pursue analysis within systemic frameworks, long enough in time and large enough in space to contain governing 'logics' which 'determine' the largest part of sequential reality, while simultaneously recognizing and taking into account that these systemic frameworks have beginnings and ends and are therefore not to be conceived of as 'eternal' phenomena.Modern countries or 'states' are societies, or there is a society underlying each state.World-systems analysis argues that modern states have never been societies, but are the political units of modern society's interstate system and economy.

In Wallerstein's view, there have been three kinds of societies across human history: mini-systems or what anthropologists call bands, tribes, and small chiefdoms, and two types of world-systems (single state world-empires and multi-polity world-economies). World-systems are larger, and ethnically diverse. Modern society, called the "modern world-system" is of the latter type, but unique in being the first and only fully capitalist world-economy to have emerged, around 1450 - 1550 and to have geographically expanded across the entire planet, by about 1900.Capitalism is a system based on competition between free producers using free labor with free commodities, 'free' meaning its available for sale and purchase on a market. Situations in countries that deviate from this definition, such as the "communist" or "socialist" countries, and "Third countries", are not yet capitalist.

World-systems analysis argues that capitalism, as a historical social system, has always integrated a variety of labor forms within a functioning division of labor (world-economy). Countries do not have economies, but are part of the world-economy. Far from being separate societies or worlds, the world-economy manifests a tripartite division of labor with core, semi-peripheral, and peripheral zones. In core zones businesses, with the support of states they operate within, monopolize the most profitable activities of the division of labor. In recognizing a tripartite pattern, world-systems analysis criticized dependency theory with its bimodal system of only cores and peripheries. There are many ways to attribute a specific country to the core, semi-periphery, or periphery. Using an empirically-based sharp formal definition of "domination" in a two-country relationship, Piana in 2004 defined the "core" as made up of "free countries" dominating others without being dominated, the "semi-periphery" as the countries which are dominated (usually—but not necessarily—by core countries) while at the same time they dominate others (usually in the periphery)and "periphery" as the countries which are dominated. Based on 1998 data, the full list of countries in the three regions—together with a discussion of methodology—can be found [http:'The late 18th and early 19th centuries marked a great turning point in the development of capitalism in that capitalists achieved state-societal power in the key states which furthered the industrial revolution marking the rise of capitalism.World-systems analysis contends that capitalism as a historical system formed earlier, that countries do not "develop" in stages, but rather the system does, and these events have a different meaning as a phase in the development of historical capitalism; namely the emergence of the three ideologies of the national developmental mythology (the idea that countries can develop through stages if they pursue the right set of policies): conservatism, liberalism, and radicalism.

Characteristics of the modern world-system

Proponents of world-systems analysis see the world stratification system the same way Karl Marx viewed class (ownership versus non-ownership of the means of production) and Max Weber viewed class (which, in addition to ownership, stressed occupational skill level in the production process). The core nations primarily own and control the major means of production in the world and perform the higher-level production tasks. The periphery nations own very little of the world’s means of production (even when they are located in periphery nations) and provide less-skilled labor. Like a class system with a nation, class positions in the world economy result in an unequal distribution of rewards or resources. The core nations receive the greatest share of surplus production, and periphery nations receive the least. Furthermore, core nations are usually able to purchase raw materials and other goods from noncore nations at low prices, while demanding higher prices for their exports to noncore nations. Chirot (1986) lists the five most important benefits coming to core nations from their domination of periphery nations:

  1. Access to a large quantity of raw material
  2. Cheap labor
  3. Enormous profits from direct capital investments
  4. A market for exports
  5. Skilled professional labor through migration of these people from the noncore to the core.


Core nations
  • The most economically diversified, wealthy, and powerful (economically and militarily)
  • Highly industrialized
  • Tend to specialize in information, finance and service industries
  • Produce manufactured goods rather than raw materials for export
  • More often in the forefront of new technologies and new industries. Examples today include high-technology electronic and biotechnology industries. Another example would be assembly-line auto production in the early twentieth century.
  • Have more complex and stronger state institutions that help manage economic affairs internally and externally
  • Have a sufficient tax base so these state institutions can provide infrastructure for a strong economy
  • Have more means of influence over noncore nations
  • Relatively independent of outside control
Periphery nations
  • Least economically diversified
  • Tend to depend on one type of economic activity, such as extracting and exporting raw materials to core nations
  • Are often targets for investments from multinational (or transnational) corporations from core nations that come into the country to exploit cheap unskilled labor for export back to core nations
  • Tend to have a high percentage of their people that are poor and uneducated.
  • Inequality tends to be very high because of a small upper class that owns most of the land and has profitable ties to multination corporations
  • Have relatively weak institutions with little tax base to support infrastructure development
  • Tend to be extensively influenced by core nations and their multinational corporations. Many times they are forced to follow economic policies that favor core nations and harm the long-term economic prospects of periphery nations.
Semiperiphery nations

Semiperiphery nations are those that are midway between the core and periphery. They tend to be countries moving towards industrialization and a more diversified economy. “While they are weaker than core societies, they are trying to overcome this weakness and are not as subject to outside manipulation as peripheral societies.” [3]

Core conflict and hegemony

Throughout the history of the modern world-system there has been a group of core nations competing with one another for access to the world’s resources, economic dominance, and hegemony over periphery nations. There has been one core nation with clear dominance over others since the beginning of the world-system. According to Immanuel Wallerstein, a core nation is dominant over all the others when it has a lead in three forms of economic dominance over a period of time:

  1. Productivity dominance allows a country to produce products of greater quality at a cheaper price compared to other countries.
  2. Productivity dominance may lead to trade do trade dominance. Now, there is a favorable balance of trade for the dominant nation since more countries are buying the products of the dominant country than it is buying from them.
  3. Trade dominance may lead to financial dominance. Now, more money is coming into the country than going out. Bankers of the dominant nation tend to receive more control of the world’s financial resources. [4]

Military dominance is also likely after a nation reaches these three rankings. However, it has been found that throughout the modern world-system, no nation has been able to use its military to gain economic dominance. Each of the past dominant nations became dominant with fairly small levels of military spending, and began to lose economic dominance with military expansion later on. [5]

According to Wallerstein, there have only been three periods in which a core nation has dominated in the modern world-system, with each lasting less than one hundred years. Around 1450, Spain and Portugal took the early lead when conditions became right for a capitalist world-economy. They lead the way in establishing overseas colonies. However, Portugal and Spain lost their lead primarily due to becoming overextended with empire building. It became too expensive to dominate and protect many colonial territories around the world. [5] [6] [3]

File:Fleuten 1647.jpg

Dutch fluyts of the seventeenth Century

The first nation to gain clear dominance was the Netherlands in the 1600s, after their revolution led to a new financial system many historians consider revolutionary. [5] An impressive shipbuilding industry also contributed to their economic dominance through more exports to other countries. [2] Eventually, other countries began to copy the financial methods and efficient production created by the Dutch. After the Dutch gained its dominant status, the standard of living rose, pushing up production costs. [4]

Dutch bankers began to go outside of the country seeking profitable investments, and the flow of capital moved, especially to England. [5] By the end of the 1600’s, conflict among core nations increased as a result of the economic decline of the Dutch. Dutch financial investment helped England gain productivity and trade dominance, and Dutch military support helped England to defeat the French, the other country competing for dominance at the time.


Map showing British Empire in 1921

As a result of the new British dominance, the world-system became relatively stable again during the 1800’s. The British began to expand all over, with many colonies in the New World, Africa, and Asia. The colonial system began to place a strain on the British military, and along with other factors, led to an economic decline. Again, there was a great deal of core conflict after the British lost their clear dominance. This time it was Germany, and later Italy and Japan providing the new threat.

By 1900, the modern world-system was much different than it was 100 years earlier. Most of the periphery societies had already been colonized by one of the older core nations. [2] In 1800, the old European core claimed 35% of the world’s territory, but by 1914 it claimed 85% of the world’s territory. [5] Now, if a core nation wanted periphery areas to exploit as had done the Dutch and British, these periphery areas would have to be taken from another core nation. This is what Germany, and then Japan and Italy, began to do early in the 20th century.

While these countries were moving into core status, so was the United States. The American civil war led to more power for Northern industrial elites, who were now better able to pressure the government for policies favorable to industrial expansion. Like the Dutch bankers, British bankers were putting more investment toward the United States. Like the Dutch and British, the U.S. had a small military budget compared with other industrial nations at the time. [5]

The U.S. began to take the place of the British as the new dominant nation after World War I. With Japan and Europe in ruins after World War II, the U.S. was able to dominate the modern world-system more than any other country in the history of the world-system. After World War II, the U.S. accounted for over half of the world’s industrial production, owned two-thirds of the gold reserves in the world, and supplied one-third of the world’s exports. [5]

New Developments of the World System Analysis

Abu Lughod's version

Janet Abu Lughod argues that a pre-modern World System extensive across Eurasia existed in the 13th Century prior to the formation of the modern world-system identified by Wallerstein. Janet Abu Lughod contends that the Mongol Empire played an important role in stitching together the Chinese, Indian, Muslim and European regions in the 13th century, before the rise of the modern world system.[7] In debates, Wallerstein contends that her system was not a "world-system" because it did not entail integrated production networks, but was instead a vast trading network.

Other contributions

Andre Gunder Frank goes even further and claims that a global-scale world system that includes Asia, Europe and Africa has existed since the 4th millennium BCE.[8] The center of this system was in Asia, specifically China.

Europe only prospered when Asian economy was in its contracting phase of long-term economic cycle and Europe had access to virtually free silver and gold from the Americas. There was no European miracle, Europe simply had geographical advantage in the discovery of Americas. This contracting phase is now coming to an end and the center is moving back to Asia. In a joint critique, Wallerstein, Arrighi, and Samin attacked the empirical data of this argument.

Archaeologically too the idea of a World System was extended to the Late Chalcolithic-Early Bronze Age, looking at the period of dominance of ancient Uruk, within the system that stretched from Egypt to the Indus.

These debates have seen a split in the identification of world-systems analysis and "world systems theory."

An important contribution to the study of the history of the World System was produced by Christopher Chase-Dunn and Tom Hall who discovered a significant synchrony in the urban dynamics of the western and eastern parts of Afroeurasia starting from the 1st millennium BCE (Chase-Dunn, C., and T. Hall. Rise and Demise: Comparing World-Systems. Boulder, CO.: Westview Press, 1997). The possible mechanisms of this synchrony were analyzed by Peter Turchin and Tom Hall (Turchin, Peter and Thomas D. Hall. 2003. Spatial Synchrony among and within World-Systems: Insights from Theoretical Ecology. Journal of World-Systems Research 9:37-66).

Modern applications of the theory have sought to incorporate the changing relations between the First World and the Second World with the collapse of the Soviet Union, describing attempts by the United States and Europe to "colonize" or "absorb" the Newly Indepenent States of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe into the New World Order. David Lempert's description of "Pepsi-stroika" builds on the "Coca-colonization" theme. Michael Burawoy has also focused on these transformations.

Looking at World Systems Theory (as distinct from world-systems analysis) from this perspective demonstrates similarity to the concept of the Oecumene, used by cultural historians like William McNeill. Historically World Systems Theory have been very useful as an antidote to the exceptionalism of Globalisation Theorists who argue that the current system is wholly without precedent in world history.[9]

The question of cycles

World systems theory has become part and parcel of the debate in major international peer-reviewed journals in the social sciences. For one, the entire notion of business cycles fascinates the profession. Without question, the notion of business cycles and war cycles dominates the debate about the time-series trajectory of the world system.

Although many contemporary economists treat the legacy of Nikolai Kondratiev with utter contempt, several major figures of economics of the 20th Century, among them Economic Nobel Prizewinners, were deeply impressed by Nicolai Kondratiev's research, which forms the starting point of the world systems theory notion of long cycles. It suffices to mention here not just Joseph Alois Schumpeter and also in a way Simon Kuznets, but Ragnar Frisch; Gottfried Haberler; Alvin H. Hansen; Walt Rostow; and Jan Tinbergen. The revival of Kondratiev research in the 1960s and beyond is linked to the simulation efforts of Jay Forrester at the MIT in the context of his world modeling for the Club of Rome. IIASA developed a highly sophisticated debate on the issue, centered mainly on the works of the physicist Cesare Marchetti and the Portuguese systems scientist Tessaleno Devezas. Devezas' research is particularly noteworthy here, because it combines sociological insights into values and generations with the mathematics of cyclical swings in economics and demography. Forrester reproduced a 50-year pattern for the US-economy, based on his System Dynamics National Model (NM-model) which is based on 15 sectors. Marchetti moved the debate away from price series to physical quantities, including production and energy consumption. Unfortunately, as sophisticated and statistically satisfying as this IIASA debate might sound, it has been rather overlooked by both the mostly Marxist and world system supporters of Kondratiev waves and by their economist detractors.

Early on, the United States Central Intelligence Agency commissioned a research paper by Ehud Levy-Pascal in the 1970s on Kondratiev cycles, and it was published in 1976. The Swiss world system sociologist Volker Bornschier also carried out quantitative sociological surveys of Kondratiev type of waves. In addition, a decisive breakthrough in the entire debate was the Ph. dissertation by Joshua Goldstein at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology under supervision of Hayward Alker Jr., which was published in 1988. NATO's interest in the entire question has an obvious background - long cycle theory allows long-term predictions that are important for military and political contingency planning. Finally yet importantly, Kondratiev's native Russia fully rehabilitated one of her greatest social scientists of all times and now devotes a state research institute to scientific investigation in his memory.

Kondratiev downswings were always particularly severe in the Russian periphery of the world system, and the vicissitudes of reform and the re-centralization of government are closely linked to the Kondratiev cycle. The cyclical swings in the periphery are by far more pronounced than in the center and the depressions more severe. The level of inequality is historically higher in the periphery than in the center, but inequality also increases in the centers. Such comparisons clearly suggest three tendencies:

a) first, a faster growth in the peripheries during the beginning B-phase of the Kondratiev cycle
b) a more severe depression in the peripheries than in the center
c) a belated recovery in the periphery

The very logic of industrial processes and basic innovations, as well as the societal models, connected with them, would suggest building cyclical fluctuations into more general theories of development (Amin, 1997). Blast furnaces and other important components of the industrial process, too, have a certain life cycle, comparable with the Juglar cycles and Kuznets cycle, just as technical innovations are scattered in a non-random fashion along time, coinciding with the Kondratiev cycle (Bornschier, 1988 and 1995; for a very comprehensive summary Scandella, 1998). There are short term instabilities of 3 to 5 years duration (Kitchin cycles), 8-11 years duration (Juglar cycles), 18-22 years duration (Kuznets waves), and longer, 40-60 year Kondratiev waves. The following dating scheme, taken here from Tausch/Ghymers, 2006 could be suggested in the light of the Schumpeterian theory tradition (Scandella, 1998). Global capitalism since 1740 had the following Kuznets cycles (calculations based on the untransformed rates of global industrial production growth, 1740 - 2004), based on polynomial expressions of the sixth order:

1741-1756; R^2 = 23.5 %
1756-1774; R^2 = 36.1 %
1774-1793; R^2 = 34.8 %
1793-1812; R^2 = 39.7 %
1812-1832; R^2 = 16.4 %
1832-1862; R^2 = 25.7 %
1862-1885; R^2 = 36.3 %
1885-1908; R^2 = 56.2 %
1908-1932; R^2 = 44.2 %
1932-1958; R^2 = 19.1 %
1958-1975; R^2 = 60.9 %
1975-1992; R^2 = 75.8 %

The period between 1756 and 1832 is then the first Kondratiev cycle of the industrial age, the period between 1832 and 1885 as the second Kondratiev cycle, the period between 1885 and 1932 as the third Kondratiev cycle, and the period between 1932 and 1975 as the fourth Kondratiev cycle. Therefore, according to this logic, we are now in the fifth Kondratiev cycle of the industrial age; with one Kuznets cycle after the depression of the mid-1970s already well behind us, and the second Kuznets cycle since 1992 pointing in a downward direction.

For Volker Bornschier, there are the following phases in the K-cycle:

  • Upswing
  • Prosperity
  • Prosperity-recession
  • Crisis
  • Temporary recovery
  • Depression

Tests, provided by Tausch/Ghymers show that the Bornschier dating scheme much better corresponds to the structure of world production data than the alternative, proposed by Goldstein. This scheme is in line with the dating scheme proposed by Joshua Goldstein, Phil O'Hara, and Ernest Mandel, among many others.

The question of war cycles has received enormous international attention. Joshua Goldstein was led to the conclusion that the capitalist world systems tends continuously towards wars and violent conflicts. The international system is characterized according to him by

global war -> world hegemony of the dominant power -> de-legitimization of the international order -> de-concentration of the global system -> global war et cetera

The duration of these phases of the international order is approximately one Kondratieff cycle, so the unit of time of the international system can be symbolized by the expression 1K.

At a time of major shifts in world politics and economics, it is no wonder that systematic studies in the evolution of the international order have gained ground. Goldstein's quantitative approach (1988 ff.) concentrated on the major power confrontations as the `watershed' in international relations. Ample empirical evidence supports both Arrighi's and Goldstein's theories. Each world political cycle up to now corresponded to a `W'-pattern of untransformed annual battle fatalities from major power wars in thousands. The war cycle 1495-1648 is a polynomial expression of the 6th order; R^2 is 91.7%; 1649-1816 yields an R^2 of 33.6%; while a polynomial expression of the 6th order explains 50.1% of war intensity 1817-1945. The x-axis in our graph is the number of years after the end of the major power wars, i.e. 1648, 1816, and 1945. The same, deadly function explains 49.5% of annual battle fatalities in thousands from 1946 to 1975 (Tausch, 2007).

Now, one of the most intriguing features of contemporary capitalism seems to be the fact that vigorous upswings need to be supported by a tightly organized new world political hegemonic order, while the strength of the downswings and the severity of the depressions always are a function of the waning world political order. All real major depressions in the world system were hegemonic transition phases, and all these major crises thus had the character of what the present author calls a "Tsunami wave" of world politics that each time was also connected with terrible social upheavals, depressions and the onsets of major power wars, like the great crash of the early 1340s, which marked the beginning of the Genoese age (Arrighi) or Portuguese and Genoese age (Modelski), the crash of the 1560s, which marked the beginning of the Dutch era, the depression of the 1750s and 1760s, which marked the beginning of the British era, and the Great Depression in the 1930s, which was the terminal crisis of British world capitalist dominance (Arrighi, 1995).

By re-analyzing latest conflict data (great power battle fatalities from all wars, Goldstein, 1988 and COW/PRIO, 2005, from 1945 to 2002 and as yet unpublished UNIDO data about the growth of world industrial production 1740 - 2004) it was shown in Tausch/Ghymers that the long Kuznets and Kondratiev swings and cycles of capitalist world development that play such an important role in the analysis of global war since 1945 have indeed not ended after the end of Communism, and that instability, and not stability, characterize the world economy, and that there is an indented "W" shaped pattern of global conflict since 1945 that did not end with the end of the Cold War. World hegemonies that characterize the workings of world capitalism arise and they end. As it is well known in world system research, especially from the works of Arrighi and Silver, there are signal crises of world capitalism (the usual Kondratiev depressions), and there are terminal crises of the world system, when hegemonies end. Peaceful transitions from one hegemony to the other are among the most intricate questions of peace research and peace policy of our time.

Regaining a Schumpeterian perspective

Authors like Joseph Alois Schumpeter, and later world system and dependency writers like Samir Amin, Volker Bornschier, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Raul Prebisch, and Osvaldo Sunkel were always aware of the crises, cyclical imbalances, regional shifts, and of the rise and decline of entire regions and even continents in the process of capitalist development.

Like many other development theorists of the first generation of development economists after the Second World War, whose stars began to rise long after Schumpeter in the post-war period, and who all greatly influenced “dependency theory” in the world periphery, like Kurt Mandelbaum, Paul Narcyz Rosenstein-Rodan, and Hans Wolfgang Singer, capitalism for Schumpeter never was a smooth equilibrium process, whose end result is crisis-free growth, full employment, environmental sustainability and an end to social exclusion.

Quantitative world systems debate has to mention the name of the Swiss sociologist Volker Bornschier, who throughout the 1970s, 1980s, and beyond, has been a critical voice on the long-run detrimental effects of transnational penetration on the host countries in world capitalism, dynamizing the host countries of transnational foreign investment only in the short run, but leading towards inequality and stagnation in the long run, thus enormously enriching earlier work on dependency theories, pioneered by Peter Heintz and the Latin American "dependency theory school". His theoretical and empirical developments made "dependency theory" truly global and linked it up to the evolving world system school, and by his networking and collaboration –especially with Christopher Chase Dunn – firmly entrenched the "quantitative approach" in the world system school. His later work, related to the long cyclical fluctuations in the world economy, has shown that instability is also an overwhelming element in the historical evolution of capitalism, and that the world would need a new social contract similar in its encompassing nature to the one that shaped the world after the Great Depression in the 1930s. Bornschier put high hopes into the European Union as an alternative, more "social" pole in the world economy.

Literature (Selection)

  • Amin S. (1973), 'Le developpement inegal. Essai sur les formations sociales du capitalisme peripherique' Paris: Editions de Minuit.
  • Amin S. (1976), ‘Unequal Development: An Essay on the Social Formations of Peripheral Capitalism’ New York: Monthly Review Press.
  • Amin S. (1992), 'Empire of Chaos' New York: Monthly Review Press.
  • Amin S. (1997), ‘Die Zukunft des Weltsystems. Herausforderungen der Globalisierung. Herausgegeben und aus dem Franzoesischen uebersetzt von Joachim Wilke’ Hamburg: VSA.
  • Arrighi G. (1989), 'The Developmentalist Illusion: A Reconceptualization of the Semiperiphery' paper, presented at the Thirteenth Annual Political Economy of the World System Conference, University of Illinois at Urbana - Champaign, April 28 - 30.
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See also


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External links

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  1. Immanuel Wallerstein (1974) the Modern World-System, New York, Academic Press, pp. 347-57.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Chirot, Daniel. 1986. Social Change in the Modern Era. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Chirot, Daniel. 1977. Social Change in the Twentieth Century. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Wallerstein, Immanuel. 1980. The Modern World System II: Mercantilism and the Consolidation of the European World-Economy, 1600-1750. New York: Academic Press.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 Kennedy, Paul. 1987. The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers: Economic Change and Military Conflict From 1500 to 2000. New York: Random House.
  6. Wallerstein, Immanuel. 1974. The Modern World System: Capitalist Agriculture and the Origins of the European World-Economy in the 16th Century. New York: Academic Press.
  7. Abu-Lugod, Janet (1989), "Before European Hegemony: The World System A.D. 1250-1350"
  8. Andrey Korotayev et al. go even further than Frank and date the beginning of the World System formation to the 10th millennium BCE, connecting it with the start of the Neolithic Revolution in the Middle East - see: Korotayev A., Malkov A., Khaltourina D. (2006). Introduction to Social Macrodynamics: Compact Macromodels of the World System Growth. Moscow: KomKniga. ISBN 5-484-00414-4
  9. An overview of current world systems theory debates is to be found, among others, in the volume: Globalization. Critical Perspectives. Editors: Gernot Kohler and Emilio José Chaves. Nova Science Publishers, Hauppauge, New York, 2003, with key-note contributions by Samir Amin, Patrick Bond, Christopher Chase-Dunn, Andre Gunder Frank, Immanuel Wallerstein.