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World Systems Theory

Unlike former sociologicaltheories, which presented general models of social change with particular focus at the societal level, world-systems theory (or world system perspective) explores the role and relationships between societies (and the subsequent changes produced by them). A theory primarily developed by Immanuel Wallersteinand his colleagues in response to the many new activities in the capitalist world-economy during the mid 1970s, world-systems theory is derived from two key intellectual sources, the neo-Marxist literature on development and the French Annales School.

In Wallerstein?s 1987 publication, World-System Analysis, he proclaims that world-systems theory is "a protest against the way in which social scientific inquiry is structured for all of us at its inception in the middle of the nineteenth century." He goes on to criticize the prevailing conception of Dependency Theory, and argues that the world is much too complicated to be classified as a bimodal system, a system with only cores and peripheries. It is in this light that one of the main tenets of world-systems theory appeared, the belief in the semi-periphery, which created a tri-modal system consisting of the core, semi-periphery, and periphery.

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 "periphery" as the countries which are dominated, and "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). Based on 1998 data, the full list of countries in the three regions - together with a discussion of methodology - can be found at http://www.economicswebinstitute.org/essays/tradehierarchy.htm.


As a social sciencediscipline, world-systems analysis rejects the artificial disciplinary school boundaries, arguing instead, for example, that the schools of political science, anthropology, and sociology are one in the same. Progress of nations is established as having both the possibilities of upward or downward mobility, instead of the formerly perceived unidirectional development plans noticed in other theories such as Functionalism. World-systems analysis also rejects the notion of the bimodal system, instead developing a new form of tri-modal development containing a core, semi-periphery, and periphery. In addition, world-systems analysts argue that the current state of capitalism promotes exploitation through the use of broadening and deepening, resulting in a case of underdevelopment in the periphery. Its implication suggests establishing a truly democratic world, in which all oppressed peoples should be united, and that the present system of development is unsustainablewith the inevitability of collapse due at some point in the future.

Developments of World Systems Theory

Originally Wallerstein separated "World Systems", systems of interlocking nation states within a market system, with "World Empires" where a single polity dominated within a large part of the world. Although it was considered originally that the World System was a purely modern development, work by Janet Abu Lughodextended World Systems theory to the period of Mongol domination in the 13th Century. 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 Eypt to the Indus.

Looking at World Systems Theory 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 exceptionalismof Globalisation Theoristswho argue that the current system is wholly without precedent in world history.

External links

Journal of World-Systems Researchja:??????? pl:Teoria systemu ?wiatowego

Retrieved from "http://en.wikipedia.org/World_Systems_Theory"

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