World-systems analysis

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World-systems analysis studies the development of our world-system. Its units of analysis to explain social change are not nation-states, but world-systems. There were until the nineteenth century many different and dissimilar types of world-systems – world-empires and world-economies - in the world. These have over the centuries been subjugated by the capitalist world-economy which emerged at the end of the Middle Ages in Europe. Analysing these long term historical processes is central in world-systems analysis. It focusses not on the newest features of globalisation, but on the processes which over the centuries have formed our modern world-system. This started as an European world-economy and has always functioned as a capitalist world-economy. It has over the centuries gone through several distinct phases of development and has subsequently incorporated all areas on the globe. The peripheralisation of these areas enabled the core to prosper. World-systems analysis focusses on the complex processes through which the inequalities in the world-system are reproduced at the systems level, but are changeable at the state level. The semi-periphery plays an important role in both stabilising the world-system as a whole and enabling some states to improve their position in the world-system. These changes in position in the world-system are linked to its economic cycle of growth and stagnation and its political cycle of rivalry and hegemony. Besides these recurrent cycles there are also trends which change and undermine the present world-system.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHandbook on the Geographies of Globalization
EditorsRobert C. Kloosterman, Virginie Mamadouh, Pieter Terhorst
Place of PublicationCheltenham
PublisherEdward Elgar Publishing
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)9781785363849
ISBN (Print)9781785363832
Publication statusPublished - 30 Nov 2018


  • world-system


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