systemic connections?

Thu, 06 Mar 1997 12:34:18 +0800

The "world system" view is getting more interesting and persuasive, and
Frank makes it fun.

We've heard and read lots on how East-West areas/regions of the "world
system"are CONNECTED by trade, and have an empirical relation in this
respect and apparently a weak (?) division of labor. No denial of this.
Some areas are compared and said more advance than others, and hence are
"core." But what are the systemic interrelations (as opposed to
ideographic description of differences)
that explains the differences of the areas?

Frank and others contend that the trade ties make the areas parts of a
single whole, a coherent, interrelated system. But it still sounds more
like an outer-shell luxury trade networks spanning different systems (i.e.
world-economies). Is it really a coherent SYSTEMIC world-economy in which
the interdependence of livelihoods exists and thus becomes the foundation
for explaining SOCIAL change in the parts? Or is the idea of a systemic
unit of analysis being conflated with a global arena of observation?

The test, it seems to me, rests on whether one can spell out the general
social developments of the distinct areas/regions of the so-called "world
system," (e.g. East and West); and then explain how these social
developments (not merely economic networks) are systemically, reciprocally,
related. I should be more clear.

That is, the parts must be shown to be systemically related in the sense
that the SOCIAL (e.g. class relations) developments of these parts (e.g.
the China-center "part") are explained in relation to the development of
the whole, in the same way, for example, that old w-s'rs explain
developments of the mw-s, such as the second serfdom in LA and Eastern
Europe, as a consequence of a global downturn (of presupposing their
participation in a division of labor and not luxury trade). Even if one
rejects details of that particular account, the point is that social change
within areas are explained as a result of their being part of a single,
dense, division of labor. On this basis, or via state-tribute, can one
argue that areas change interrelatedly, systemically, as formative of a
single coherent SOCIAL system.

The same thing applies to the argument that the China-Afroeursian systems
merged prior to ca 1850. Otherwise, it still seems that we are talking
about long distance trade ties that affect the development of w-systems,
but which do not constitute a single coherent SOCIAL system.

(The emergence of peculiar domain or state-mercantilist forms of capital on
the Japanese archipelago during the Tokugawa era, for example, were not a
consequence of being part of a larger Asian system but were constitutive of
a system that spanned the archipelago itself. The Edo-system "delinked"
from Hamashita's Sino-Centric tribute system, which and was necessary for
Tokugawa hegemony to be built. The system dissolved/incorporated (a
two-way process) into the mw-s only after 1860. The feudal forms of
capital became reconstituted, as exemplified, for example, with the
outbreak in 1885-6 of the first known modern factory strikes, among women
silk reelers, and just months after the very last millenarian peasant
uprising among petty sericulturists occurred in late 1884.)

Elson Boles