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Core? Periphery?. Wallerstein’s World System Theory. Core and Periphery Model. Polar Projection. The Emergence of the World System. The world system is the result of the increasing interdependence of cultures and ecosystems that were once relatively isolated by distance and boundaries.

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Core periphery



Wallerstein’sWorld System Theory

Core and periphery model
Core and Periphery Model

Polar Projection

The emergence of the world system
The Emergence of the World System

The world system is the result of the increasing interdependence of cultures and ecosystems that were once relatively isolated by distance and boundaries.

Of particular significance to the development of the world system was the European Age of Discovery, wherein the European sphere of influence began to be exported far beyond its physical boundaries by means of conquest and trade.

Influence of the capitalist world economy
Influence of the Capitalist World Economy

The defining attribute of capitalism is economic orientation to the world market for profit.

Colonial plantation systems led to monocrop production in areas that once had diverse subsistence bases (beginning in the seventeenth century)…PLANTATIONS.

Colonial commodities production was oriented toward the European market.

Immanuel wallerstein
Immanuel Wallerstein

  • Born September 28, 1930 in New York City, is an American sociologist, historical social scientist, and world-systems analyst. His bimonthly commentaries on world affairs are syndicated.

  • Wallerstein first became interested in world affairs as a teenager in New York City, and was particularly interested in the anti-colonial movement in India at the time.

Wallerstein s world system theory
Wallerstein’s World System Theory

Wallerstein has argued that international trade has led to the creation of a capitalist world economy in which a social system based on wealth and power differentials extends beyond individual states.

The world system is arranged according to influence: core (most dominant), to semi-periphery, to periphery (least dominant).

The core consists of the strongest and most powerful nations in which technologically advanced, capital-intensive products are produced and exported to the semi-periphery and the periphery.

The semi-periphery consists of industrialized “Third World” nations that lack the power and economic dominance of the core nations (Brazil is a semi-periphery nation).

The periphery consists of nations whose economic activities are less mechanized and are primarily concerned with exporting raw materials and agricultural goods to the core and semi-periphery.

Wallerstein s world systems questions
Wallerstein’s World Systems Questions


  • What was the New European Division of Labor that emerged in the late 15th and early 16th century.


  • What was the historical relationship between the Core and the Periphery?


  • How are some regions considered “Semi-Periphery” by Wallerstein and what role did they play?

World systems theory
World Systems theory

Dependency theoryis a body of social science theories predicated on the notion that resources flow from a "periphery" of poor and underdeveloped states to a "core" of wealthy states, enriching the latter at the expense of the former.

It is a central contention of dependency theory that poor states are impoverished and rich ones enriched by the way poor states are integrated into the "world system."

Dependency theorists like Andre Gunder Frank, were criticised by later Marxists because it only describes the relationship between the core and periphery as a two tier model and doesn’t explain fully.

Wallerstein refined Frank’s dependency theory in his World Systems Theory

Four aspects of wallerstein s world systems theory
Four aspects of Wallerstein’s World Systems Theory

Developing countries are not exploited by individual countries but by the whole capitalist, profit-seeking system in a Modern World System. The MWS is a unified system of capitalism

Three zones in the MWS

i. The core/developed nations – these control world trade and monopolize manufactured goods

ii. The semi-peripheral zone e.g. Brazil, South Africa, India, have urban areas like the core but large areas of rural poverty like the periphery

iii. The peripheral countries e.g.. Most of Africa – they provide primary products for both the semi periphery and the core

Wallerstein’s model is dynamic (This allows for movement and change).

Countries are ‘socially mobile’ they can move in from the periphery into the semi periphery

(ex. Asian tigers) or out from the core to the semi periphery (Russia, sometimes...)

While Wallerstein refines Frank’ theory there are still similarities

Both show how surplus valuecreated in the periphery is appropriated by the semi periphery and especially the core

Both see the origins of exploitation of some countries by others to have originated in slavery, colonialism and neo-colonialism

Modern world system of capitalism is profit seeking
Modern World System of capitalism is profit seeking

The pursuit of profit by capitalism results in exploitation between classes

Commodification – everything is turned into a commodity to be bought and sold

Wallerstein s world systems questions1
Wallerstein’s World Systems Questions


  • What was 1 aspect of Wallerstein’s Stages 1 and 2 of Growth that would help a state grow?

  • What was 1 aspect of Wallerstein’s Stages 3 and 4 of Growth that would help a state grow?

Modern world system of capitalism is profit seeking1

De-skilling of labor

Proletarianization occurs

(ie. The nature of call centers?)

Wallerstein argues that this process also occurs between nations

Modern World System of capitalism is profit seeking

Karl Marx

Evaluation of world systems theory weaknesses
Evaluation of World Systems Theory Weaknesses

Both Frank and Wallerstein are economically deterministic

Wallerstein does not say how capitalism can be overcome as Marx said it would

Evaluation of world systems theory weaknesses1
Evaluation of World Systems Theory Weaknesses

Wallerstein does not look at internal factors (ie. mismanagement and corruption in the LDC’s)

Methodology is too vague and unscientific, ‘core’ etc cannot be clearly operational zed

Evaluation of world systems theory strengths
Evaluation of World Systems Theory Strengths

1 Wallerstein was one of the first to recognise ‘globalisation’ of the world and the international division of labour as the basis of global inequality

Evaluation of world systems theory strengths1
Evaluation of World Systems Theory Strengths

Globalisation theorists also show how dependency is not a one way process, there is inter-dependency between the developing and western world.

(E.g. economic crisis caused by debt can ripple out and affect core nations – unemployment and destabilisation of western currencies)