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A Review of Wallerstein's World Systems Theory

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This narrative presents a discussion of Wallerstein's World Systems theory - a unique perspective that looks at the world from a macro, multidisciplinary and systemic approach as a form of social research and units of analysis. Resources are listed for further exploration of the topic. Information derived from a series of background literature review in the author's (academic expert's) PhD studies.

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World Systems Theory Review

Abstract: This paper looks into Wallerstein's World System's Theory, exploring its key principles followed by an opinion on the theory.

Introduction

In 1974, Immanuel Wallerstein published his 'World Systems Theory' (WST) as a critique to the Dependency Theory (DT) of Development and Underdevelopment (which in turn are based on the Prebisch-Singer hypothesis by structural economists Hans Singer, a German-British economist, and Argentine Raul Prebisch who proposed that the price of primary commodities declines in accordance with the price of manufactured products over time affecting the deterioration of primary-product based economies). DT is said to be a Marxist view of development in that in the flow of resources, natural resources flow from the periphery of poor undeveloped nation-states to be utilised and consumed in wealthy, developed core states. According to the authors, this enriches the core and keeps the periphery poor due to lack of development. It also is seen as a key factor in establishing a 'world system' that integrates periphery to core and vice-versa into a form of dependency. DT is itself a critique of another economic theory - the modernization theory of development (MT) that arose from the ideas of Max Weber and Talcott Parsons who posited that countries go through varied stages of social change from its social structures to forms of government and its economy. According to Przeworski and Limongi (2012), the process of modernization "consists of gradual differentiation and specialization of social structures that culminates in a separation of political structures from other structures," with the final, 'modernized' state becoming completely democratic following a chain of industrialization, urbanization, education, communication, mobilization and political incorporation - social changes that get a state and its people to freely compete, create, explore and self-order, which they argue is essential in economic development. To 'modernize' a society refers to the progressive and transitive series of processes and events that takes it from a pre-modern (i.e. a feudal system) and/or traditional society to a modern/contemporary society - one that is characterized by present innovations and contemporary means of order, living and doing.

WST's Main Principles

With WST being a critique of DT, a Marxist perspective, and with DT being in turn a critique of MT which takes on a sociological perspective on development using the macro lens, WST can be argued to be a theory that considered the positions of both DT and MT by providing a macro approach of understanding a world economic system, taking note of history and social change within units of social analysis (in WST, a unit is represented by a nation) where the context of each nation internally as well as internationally is considered to explain the flow of power from region to region, country to country, and as a bonus attempts to explain the status of world hegemony according to social situatedness of the ...

Solution Summary

The solution is a narrative that presents a discussion of Wallerstein's World Systems theory - a unique perspective that looks at the world from a macro, multidisciplinary and systemic approach as a form of social research and units of analysis. Resources are listed for further exploration of the topic. Information derived from a series of background literature review in the author's (academic expert's) PhD studies.

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