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Re: how many world-systems in 1400 AD ?
by Thomas D. [tom] Hall
06 December 2003 20:21 UTC
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As a California school player, I would argue many world-systems, especially in 
those regions characterized by no states or only nascent states.  For state 
based systems there are AT LEAST the following, and quite probably more:
East Asia, South Asia, West Asia [of which "europe" is a  mostly peripheral 
rump]; at least one in what is now south Mexico [Aztecan], and at least one in 
the Andes.  Plus all the others you mentioned.  There were, no doubt some in 
Africa, but my knowledge there is too thin to make any sort of claim.

For state based ones, consult the civilizations lists compiled by David 
Wilkinson, several of which Chase-Dunn and I have reprinted in Rise and Demise 
and other papers.

Even for state ones, considering multiple boundaries is an issue.  For 
instance if one follows the boundaries Chris & I have proposed, Bulk Goods, 
political/military, prestige or luxury goods, and information.  Some systems 
may be linked at one level but not others, which, of course, would shape the 

I am reminded of something Art Stinchcombe said long ago.  Counting is the 
last thing you do, AFTER you figure out what you want to count and why.  But 
in a situation such as this, the entire process needs several iterations.  
Work out some definitions, do some counting, than revisit the definitions.  We 
have maybe the first or 2nd round of such iterations in Rise & Demise, but I 
would stress those are preliminary at best.

Not a definitive answer, for sure, but a reasonable one.\
tom hall

>===== Original Message From g kohler <kohlerg@3web.net> =====
>I have an historical question that I meant to ask someone in the know for
>some time. I understand that by one definition there has always been only
>one world economy and one world system. But let's think of the hyphenated
>definition a la California school of WS which leads to the identification of
>multiple world-systems.(Not sure whether Wallerstein would count differently
>from Chase-Dunn.) How many world-systems were there in 1400 AD ? (Bill Gates
>should make it easier to ask the same question in terms of other calendars -
>Chinese, Jewish, Islamic, but let's stay with AD.)
>Here in Canada, there might have been at least 3 world-systems at that
>time - one at the Pacific coast, one in the North (Inuit) and one between
>the prairies and the Atlantic coast. Several more in North, Central and
>South America. Australia was probably a world-system by itself. Add Europe,
>Asia, Africa - the total number of world-systems (definition of California
>school) could have been quite considerable. Is there an historical WS atlas?
>I picked 1400 AD, because it was before Columbus etc and before the fall of
>Constantinople to the Osmans, but after the Mongol invasions in Europe, and
>before the "discovery" of most of Africa by Europeans.
>Just curious. Any takers?

Thomas D. [tom] Hall
Department of Sociology & Anthropology
Chair, Faculty Development Committee
306 Asbury Hall
DePauw University
Greencastle, IN 46135
dept: 765-658-4516
off:  765-658-4519
web:  http://acad.depauw.edu/~thall/hp1.htm

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