World Sociology: World Systems Theory

 Descriptiong and evaluation of the theory by Wallerstien

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  • Created by: Issy H
  • Created on: 18-06-12 14:18



  • Influenced heavily by dependency theory. 
  • Based on neo-Marxist principles. 
  • This theory addresses a critismism that dependency theory has (countries are unchangeable). We see that the Asian Tigers for example, need some form of explanation. 
  • Instead of two worlds (metropolis and satellite) there are three worlds: core, periphery and semi-periphery. It is shown like a global hierarchy
  • Marxist influence: Exploitation occurs of the  proletariat from the bourgeoisie. Society is a capitalist class economy. Wallerstein, like Marx did wanted to change Capitalism into Communism. 
  • The collapse of the Berlin Wall and an end to the cold war (after Marx's time) makes this dream more unlikely. 
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3 World Model

In the capitalist class system there are 3 worlds:

  • Core Regions:- A highly developed capitalist economy. These are the bourgise nations. They have strong dominant central governments. They are fully developed in terms of industrialisation (like metropolis nations). These countries control world trade and are the centre of finance. 
  • Periphery Regions:- Perform a similar role to satellite nations. These are under developed reasons in society. They have an unequal relationship with the core. They have weak governments, meaning the core easily exploits them. Governments are run by indigenous elites. The periphery nations serve as a source of cheap labour and natural resources for the core. They have an underdeveloped status which is locked in socio-political system based around exploitation. Countries are dependant on the core due to economic practices. 
  • Semi Periphery Regions: In between the two previous. They either aspire to be a core region, or they used to be one and have declined out of that role. They are exploited by the core, yet they exploit the periphery. The regions are industrialised, yet they have less basic technology. Therefore, there is no unity amongst the exploited. Revolution not possible. Guardian Paper argues Britian is declining into this world, from the core. 
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Analysis of World Systems Theories

  • Countries in the semi periphery have the power to change. They have the freedom to choose what they trade. It plays capitalist countries off each other. Social mobility is possible. This could contribute to a revolution. 
  • Dynamic theory- sees nations as interconnected, and sees that the hierarchy is not fixed. For example, the Japanese moved to the core in the 1980's. 
  • However, the change in mobility is hard as the core has the manipulation of monopoly, technology and global markets. The core underpays countries and producers for their goods, and over charges for produce which other purchase, making a corrupt profit. 
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Countries are Depndant

Poor states are dependant on the right because:

- Narrow Export Orientated Economies: TNC's own land to make cheap produce. In the periphery, colonial; powers have an impact on agriculture, forcing nations to specialise. This control of the core, prevents the periphery nations from developing industries. 

- Lack of Industrial Capacity: Poor Societies face a double blind position. They rely on the core to buy their produce and raw materials, yet they also depend on rich nations to sell them manufactured goods which they can afford. World Systems Theory is therefore against the green revolution. The poor buy expensive agricultural technology from the core. Rich profit from this more than the poor benefits from the technological benefits. 

- Foreign Debt: Unequal trade patterns means that the poor are in debt to the rich. There is $2trillion owed to the rich in debt. Debt drains resources of societies. This leads to an unstable economy. There is a lack of employment and huge inflation. Wealth Transfer $50 billion which impoverished peripheral societies. 

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Strengths of World Systems Theory:

  • Occurs at a global level (dynamic and interchangeable)
  • Blames inequality on the west- not on periphery nations. 
  • Shows that social mobility is possible, meaning a revolution is still possible. 

Weaknesses of World Systems Theory:

  • Ignores internal factors such as corruption. 
  • Like Dependency theory, it explains in equality, but not a specific model to become developed. 
  • It is economically deterministic. 
  • The theory is naive. Capitalism is not possible to overcome now. 
  • The model is ambiguous. 
  • The methodology used to research World Systems Theory is vague and scientific- not valid to real life. 
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