World Systems theory covers neither the world or the idea of system properly

World-Systems analysis is a historical and economic approach to analysis, however politics is not just reduced to economics and the nation to classes. In World-Systems Analysis peoples options are determined by the “World-System” rather than the nation state, this system has many influencing institutions of varying sizes between family blocks to the interstate system. In this method of analysis the nation state is substituted for the historical system.


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World Systems theory covers neither the world or the idea of system properly
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World Systems theory covers neither the world or the idea of system properly
Yes because...

Does not encompass the globe

During the sixteenth century, at the start of the “modern world-system”, the World System was only located in most of Europe and parts of America. [[Wallerstein, World System Analysis: an introduction, London (2004) p 16]] During this time period the people of Europe’s horizons were restricted to the system they were in to only include those areas under European dominance, little was known about areas outside that sphere of dominance that constituted the system they were in.

No because...

The “World” can be defined as being “the earth”, the globe however there are other definitions that are closer to the World-Systems view of the world such as “a sphere of interest or activity” or “the system of things” or “public life or society”.[[Chambers 20th Century Dictionary, new edition, p.1506]] In world-systems the world is the social reality in which we operate, the rules of this social reality constrain us and these rules for the mostly come from our world system. This is in a broad sense the culture of system, at the moment the culture in which we operate is the “Capitalist world-economy” a system in which the priority is to accumulate capital, which in turn can be used to accumulate yet more capital. In World Systems analysis the “World” need not encompass the whole globe, the World-Systems; World-empires and World-economies are a world in themselves. Each of these systems or economies are themselves a sphere of activity that make up the whole world for the people within that system. [[Wallerstein, World System Analysis: an introduction, London (2004) p.16]]

World Systems theory covers neither the world or the idea of system properly
Yes because...

Little contact with the rest of the world

There was contact with other systems of the world, particularly with the Islamic world, however the Islamic world was little known and considered to be different and therefore is outside the European “World-economy”. The Ottomans for example had virtually no interest in the affairs of Europe, for example the first Turkish work written on western history was written in 1572,[[Bernard Lewis, The Muslim Discovery of Europe, London (2000), p156]] more than 50 years after the Ottomans began fighting Western Europeans.

No because...

In world systems analysis there can be many “World-Systems” on our Earth at any one time. For example in the sixteenth century there was Chinese, Russian and Ottoman World empires and the European World economy,[[David Wilkinson, World Economic Theories and Problems: Quigley vs. Wallerstein vs. Central Civilisation, Journal of World Systems Research, Vol. 2 No. 17 (1996) p.39]] these ran parallel and had some contact but people within each of those systems had their actions governed essentially by that system, even if they did to some extent interact with the other systems. To give an example ambassadors interact with a different World system however their opinions and actions are more governed by the system they come from.

World Systems theory covers neither the world or the idea of system properly
No because...

Can cover whole globe

A World-System can cover the whole globe, the “Modern World-System” expanded, through imperialism in the 19th Century to cover the entire globe and it still does.[[David Wilkinson, World Economic Theories and Problems: Quigley vs. Wallerstein vs. Central Civilisation, Journal of World Systems Research, Vol. 2 No. 17 (1996) p.45]]

Yes because...

It is questionable how much this world system influences everyone’s actions and opinions, i.e. how much this system really covers the world, there are many people in the World today who know little outside their own locality, although they are influenced by the capitalist world economy. The same can be true of states, they can be more or less well connected to the system. Many trade much more within their region and are affected much more by their neighbours, their actions are not just affected by the “World-System” but also by a different level of “World-System” that is their own region and culture within it. In this way World Systems analysis does not cover the “world” as there may be so to speak “Worlds within Worlds”. These are in effect systems within the world system, although Wallerstein himself regards this as unimportant.[[Goran Therborn, Time, Space ad Their Knowledge: The Times and Place of the World and Other Systems, Journal of World Systems Research, Vol. VI No. 2 (2000) p.281 http://jwsr.ucr.edu/archive/vol6/index.php%5D%5D These areas main identities are cultural not economic, political or economic,[[Samuel P. Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the remaking of world order, London (1997), p.21]] as such they each have a different way of doing things within the same “capitalist world system”. Hence there are distinct cultural and economic blocs within the world system that compete with one and other.[[Walter L. Goldfrank, Paradigm Regained? The Rules of Wallersein’s world system Method* Journal of World Systems Research, Vol. VI No. 2 (2000) p167]]

World Systems theory covers neither the world or the idea of system properly
No because...

Meets Wallerstein’s own definition of a system

Wallerstein also gives a definition of a system “Literally, some kind of connected whole, with internal rules of operation and some kind of continuity” and that social scientists either doubt the existence of social systems or else “the system is nothing but the sum of…individual activities.”[[Wallerstein, World System Analysis: an introduction, London (2004), p.98]] Within World-system analysis there are only two types of system: minisystems and World-systems. Within this latter category there are World-empires, World-economies and socialist world government.[[Goran Therborn, Time, Space and Their Knowledge: The Times and Place of the World and Other Systems, Journal of World Systems Research, Vol. VI No. 2 (2000), p.279, http://jwsr.ucr.edu/archive/vol6/index.php%5D%5D Minisystems are tribal economies, highly autonomous subsistence economies with only limited division of labour. World Empires are a individual political unit that unites two or more cultures into a single market, the imperial, controlling state redistributes wealth from the periphery to the core through collecting tribute and taxation, any trade tends to be administered trade not market trade.[[David Wilkinson, World Economic Theories and Problems: Quigley vs. Wallerstein vs. Central Civilisation, Journal of World Systems Research, Vol. 2 No. 17 (1996), p.31, 33-34, http://jwsr.ucr.edu/archive/vol2/v2_nh.php%5D%5D World economies unlike world empires are not politically centralised in one state. There are two or more distinct economic and cultural regions that are in competition with each other through the market without a single centre emerging as dominant enough to create a world empire. These separate blocs are interdependent in necessities such as food, fuel and protection. In the final type, that of socialist world government, production, appropriation and redistribution would be collectively and democratically decided upon going towards social equality. Each of these are ‘some kind of connected whole, with internal rules of operation and some kind of continuity’ each has a core, periphery and semi-periphery and internal rules governing the rise and fall of each. In the core there are mainly capital-intensive processes[[Walter L. Goldfrank, Paradigm Regained? The Rules of Wallersein’s world system Method* Journal of World Systems Research, Vol. VI No. 2 (2000) pp.167-170, http://jwsr.ucr.edu/archive/vol6/index.php%5D%5D or alternatively are relatively monopolised, this makes them far more profitable than the peripheral processes. Peripheral areas are by contrast labour intensive and relatively free market. This occurs because there are far fewer core countries meaning that there is less competition. However individual products do not always remain core-like processes, they often get downgraded first to semi-peripheral processes and then to peripheral processes. Textiles for example, prior to about 1850 they had been the pre-eminent core process, by 1900 they had become a semi-peripheral process and today their production is a peripheral process found all over the world.[[Wallerstein, World System Analysis: an introduction, London (2004) pp. 18, 29.]] However core producers can remain core producers despite this shift because the surplus capital they have gathered allows technological advance allowing them to move on to new core-like products.[[ Walter L. Goldfrank, Paradigm Regained? The Rules of Wallersein’s world system Method* Journal of World Systems Research, Vol. VI No. 2 (2000) p.170]]

Yes because...
World Systems theory covers neither the world or the idea of system properly
No because...

A connected whole

Just like the world “system” has numerous meanings and definitions, it can be “a set of things considered as a connected whole”, In a world empire it is the power of the central state that provides the connection in the system, this power is used to redistribute wealth to the core area from the peripheral areas through tribute, taxes and plunder. They also have semi-peripheral areas made up of traders who to a certain extent help in this redistribution, such as the Greeks and Jews in the Roman empire.[[David Wilkinson, World Economic Theories and Problems: Quigley vs. Wallerstein vs. Central Civilisation, Journal of World Systems Research, Vol. 2 No. 17 (1996) p34-35, http://jwsr.ucr.edu/archive/vol2/v2_nh.php%5D%5D In world-economies it is the market that makes this connection between the processes. In the market the surplus created by producers is appropriated and then distributed, this distribution is done through the market. The market is a unequal exchange of goods and services as the surplus appropriated from the periphery is transferred to the core.[[ Immanuel Wallerstein, The Politics of the World-economy: The states, the movements, and the civilizations, Cambridge University press, Cambridge, 1984, p.15]] Unequal exchange occurs when there is greater cost in producing one product than another but they are exchanged at the same price, the monopolies held by the core allows them to inflate the prices of their products thus surplus is transferred. This means that World-economies and World empires do fit pretty closely with at least one definition of system that of “a set of things considered as a connected whole”. The various core, periphery and semi-periphery areas are the parts while the market or else core state provide the connection that link those parts together through redistribution of surpluses, either directly as in world-empires or else indirectly through the market in world-economies.

Yes because...
World Systems theory covers neither the world or the idea of system properly
No because...

A full and connected view of some department of knowledge

Other possible definitions of systems are to do with knowledge “A full and connected view of some department of knowledge” or “A theory of the universe”.[[Chambers 20th Century Dictionary, new edition, p.1313]] World system analysis also takes a unidiciplinary approach, as such it will look at anything in what are normally regarded as separate disciplines. Hence World Systems Analysts will look at various areas, politics, the economy, sociology etc within a single analytical frame i.e. they look at everything, generalising not specialising.[[Wallerstein, World System Analysis: an introduction, London (2004) p.19.]] Therefore world-system analysis looks at as much of history that is meaningful within that system, creating a generalisation about history.[[Elson E. Boles, Critiques of World-Systems Analysis and Alternatives: Unequal Exchange and Three Forms of Class Struggle in the Japan-US Silk Network, 1880-1890, Journal of World-Systems Research, VIII, II, Spring 2002 pp.150-212, p.153 http://jwsr.ucr.edu/archive/vol8/index.php%5D%5D World System Analysis is looking at events through a “grand narrative” in which all aspects of history, throughout a much larger area than an individual nation and through a long time frame are looked at to make up the whole. World-systems therefore fits quite closely with being “A full and connected view of some department of knowledge” as it is an attempt at total-history, making it a pretty full view, always on a “world” scale, this connects the world systems in all areas.

Yes because...


World Systems theory covers neither the world or the idea of system properly

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