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
 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
 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
 Colonial commodities production was oriented
toward the European market.
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
 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 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
 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
 Dependency theory is 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
 Wallerstein refined Frank’s dependency theory in his World
Systems Theory
Four aspects of Wallerstein’s World
Systems Theory
1. 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
2. Three zones in the MWS
i. The core/developed nations – these control
world trade and monopolize manufactured
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
3 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...)
4 While Wallerstein refines Frank’ theory there
are still similarities
Both show how surplus value created 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
 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 Questions
 What was aspect of Wallerstein’s Stages 1 and
2 of Growth that would help a state grow?
 What was aspect of Wallerstein’s Stages 3 and
4 of Growth that would help a state grow?
Modern World System of capitalism is
profit seeking
 De-skilling of labor
 Proletarianization occurs
(ie. The nature of call centers?)
 Wallerstein argues that this
process also occurs between
Karl Marx
Evaluation of World Systems Theory
Both Frank and
Wallerstein are
Wallerstein does not
say how capitalism
can be overcome as
Marx said it would
Evaluation of World Systems Theory
III. Wallerstein does not
look at internal factors
(ie. mismanagement
and corruption in the
IV. Methodology is too
vague and unscientific,
‘core’ etc cannot be
clearly operational zed
Evaluation of World Systems Theory
Wallerstein was one
of the first to
‘globalisation’ of the
world and the
international division
of labour as the basis
of global inequality
Evaluation of World Systems Theory
Globalisation theorists also
show how dependency is not a
one way process, there is
inter-dependency between
the developing and western
(E.g. economic crisis caused
by debt can ripple out and
affect core nations –
unemployment and
destabilisation of western