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World-systems Theory Resources

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  • “A world-system is not the system of the world, but a system that is a world and that can be, most often has been, located in an area less than the entire globe. World-systems analysis argues that the unities of social reality within which we operate, whose rules constrain us, are for the most part, such world-systems (other than the now-extinct small minisystems that once existed on the earth). World-systems analysis argues that there have been thus far only two varieties of world-system: world-economies and world-empires . . . In English, the hyphen is essential to indicate [this concept]. ‘World-system’ without a hyphen suggests that there has been only one world-system in the history of the world” (Wallerstein 2004:98–99).
  • Immanuel Wallerstein’s theory that the interconnectedness of the world system began in the 1500s, when Europeans began their economic and political domination of the rest of the world. Because capitalism depends on generating the maximum profits for the minimum of expenditures, the world system continues to benefit rich countries (which acquire the profits) and harm the rest of the world (by minimizing local expenditures and therefore perpetuating poverty)” (Kimmel and Aronson 2012:664).
  • “Transitions from the semiperiphery to the core have historically been rare, and have largely driven by chance (e.g., the discovery of oil) or massive transfers (e.g., membership in the EU). Neither mechanism can be relied upon to drive policy in the poorer countries of the world more broadly . . . Keeping in mind that the vast majority of the world’s population lives in the periphery of the world-economy, it would not be an unworthy goal to focus on ways to help peripheral countries attain semiperipheral income levels. While the current research gives no guidance on how to accomplish this goal, it does suggest that such a goal might be productively pursued” (Babones 2005:53).

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Babones, Salvatore J. 2005. “The Country-level Income Structure of the World-Economy.” Journal of World-Systems Research 11(1):29–55. doi:10.5195/jwsr.2005.392.

Kimmel, Michael S., and Amy Aronson. 2012. Sociology Now. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Wallerstein, Immanuel. 2004. World-Systems Analysis: An Introduction. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.