< < <
Date Index
> > >
Re: formal definition of world-system, talking points
by Mark Douglas Whitaker
18 March 2002 22:38 UTC
< < <
Thread Index
> > >

         In posing it to complete novices, I always describe WST as:

1. a division of labor based on 'states' across the world instead of within 
particular states. It's a theoretical and empirical critique of most 
sociological theroy, as most of it is entirely 'internal' to states as the 
unit of analysis. WST argues that to analyse one state only as a unit of 
analysis is entirely misspecifying the issue. It's cross-state frameworks 
of a division of labor that comes about.  Positionally, WST poses that 
states, as a consequence do fall into 'core' 'semi-periphery' and 
'periphery' areas in relational matrices of power. All those other features 
mentioned in the other defintions already mentioned in those quotes passed 
along. States cycle through these core, semi-periphery, and peripherial 

2. the hyphen debate, where the modernist premise of the novelty of the 
world-system, imported from Marx/Lenin by Wallerstein, is critiqued by 
Frank and others for much longer periods of history since the same 
relations are seen then as well.

3. WST as an explanatory framework for underdevelopment issues, as a 
challenge to modernist developmental theories of unilinear paths 
(legitimating European/American ideas of what development means) for all 

4. military/financial critiques of WST, from Fergeson, The Cash Nexus: 
Money and Power in the Modern World, 1700-2000 (2001) some summaries at:
I like this one because it draws out into sharp relief by comparison the 
economic reductionism of most modernist theories--Smith or Marx inspired 
ones. You could mention Gilpin's work on 'modern mercantism' here as well.


Mark Whitaker
University of Wisconsin-Madison

At 12:37 PM 3/17/2002 -0500, you wrote:
>here is a formal definition from Chase-Dunn's glossary --
>Christopher Chase-Dunn,
>Global Formation: Structures of the World-Economy. Updated Edition.
>Oxford, England: Rowman & Littlefield, 1998, pages 347-348
>p. 348 "World-system: a whole social system (not necessarily global)
>composed of cultural, normative, economic, political, and military
>relations which is bounded by a territorial network of regularized
>exchange of material goods. Regarding the problem of spatial boundaries
>of world-systems, see chapter 15, "Spatio-temporal mapping"."
>. . .  and just to confuse you a bit, he has three more formal
>definitions, which are:
>p. 347 (with hyphen) "World-economy: a type of world-system in which the
>territorial network of economic exchange is politically structured as an
>interstate system."
>p. 347 (without hyphen) "World economy: the total sum of economic
>relationships contained in a world-system, including intranational,
>transnational, and international production and exchange."
>p. 347-348  "World-empire: a type of world-system in which the
>territorial economic network is largely contained within a single state
>. . . and to irritate some other members of the world(-)system(s) club,
>he did not even give a formal definition of "world system" (without
>hyphen) or of "Weltsystem" (no hypen and no space), as in the German
>edition of Lenin's introduction to "Imperialism" of 1922.
>with greetings to Russia from Canada,
>Gernot Kohler
>in response to:
>A question       by Evgeni Nikolaev           17 March 2002
>Dear Sirs,
>I cannot find an answer to a very simple, and therefore stupid question:
>What is (are) the formal definition(s) of the term "world-system" as
>from the world-systems perspective? I am now writing a report on the
>world-systems analysis in Russian, and the most important thing that I
>cannot find is precisely the above definition. I will highly appreciate
>help, and apologize for the trouble.
>Evgeni Nikolaev.
>Still paying $22.95 a month for unlimited dial-up? Get 3webXS, only $9.95 
>a month!!!
>Switch & Save at http://www.Get3web.com/?mkid=emt001

< < <
Date Index
> > >
World Systems Network List Archives
at CSF
Subscribe to World Systems Network < < <
Thread Index
> > >