World Systems Theory Essay

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Immanuel Wallerstein's World Systems Theory is one of the many influential theories that has shaped the social sciences in the late 20th century. First proposing the theory in his 1974 book, The Modern World System, Wallerstein sees the concept as not a theory, but as part of a larger “knowledge movement” that “[rejects] social science categories inherited from the nineteenth century”, aiming to construct a new approach to social science (Wallenstein 2013: 1). This new approach conceptualises inter-state relationships in the global economic system as part of a larger “world system” instead of unilateral or bilateral behaviours, argues that historical and contemporary events must be view over the “long term”, and emphasises the need for a multidisciplinary …show more content…
Building on top of the Marxist ideas of exploitation and unequal exchanges championed by dependency theorists, Wallerstein argues that the semi-periphery is a crucial link in this system of unequal exchanges - the “intermediaries with the periphery, conveyor-belts of surplus value” (Wallerstein 1974: 241). The semi-periphery does not just act the “core” economically to some peripheral regions, they can exert influences politically and culturally through their limited hegemonic powers in the same fashion as core nations, sometimes to their own national agendas sometimes on behalf of core nations. They also serve as examples of economic development that peripheral nations aspire to become, overlooking the difficulties and challenges that accompanies being in such position. In this way, the power structure in the global economic system is obscured by the semi-periphery - it becomes difficult to see the full pictures, determining where economic and political decisions are stemming from and where surplus value is being transferred to (Wallerstein 1979:

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