• Born on September 28 1930 (80 years old.)
  • Sociologist, social scientist, and a world-systems analyst.
  • He first became interested in world affairs growing up as a teenager in New York City.
  • He attended Columbia University and received his B.A, M.A, and PhD.
  • Immanuel is an expert of post-colonial African affairs as well as a historian and theorist of the global capitalist economy.

Factor’s Influencing The Development of Theory

  • Karl Marx and his emphasis on economic factors and their influence on global politics. He also followed Marx’s ideas such as dichotomy between capital and labour, and the stages of development through feudalism and capitalism.
  • Fernand Braudel who talks about the development of economic relationships in the European world.
  • Dependency theory, especially the definitions of “core” or “periphery”.
  • Experience gained from his research and trips to post-colonial Africa.

World Systems Theory

  • Rejects the idea of the “third world”. There is only one world connected by economic exchanges and relationships.
  • Wallerstein believes there are three types of social systems: Mini Systems, World empires, and world economies.
  • Mini systems- small societies studied by anthropologists. Typically hunting and gathering, simple pastoral societies and self-contained economic units. Produce all goods and services in their own society.
  • World Empire- An economy based on the extraction of goods and services from outer districts. Much of the money from this goes to the administration, the military and political leaders.
  • World Economies- Unlike world empires, a world economy has no unified political system, and does not rely on its military to dominate. However like a world empire, it relies on an extraction of goods and services from outer districts.
  • Capitalism- According to Wallerstein, world systems are based on the international capitalist division of labour.
  • The capitalist world economy was made by creating long distance trade in goods and production processes all over the world, which allowed them to amass a significant amount of capital in Europe.
  • This was based on the extremely unequal division of labour between European states and the rest of the system, to protect the interests of the European capitalists.
  • Categories-Because of this, the system divides countries into three categories: core, semi-periphery, or periphery.
  • Core countries focus on high-skill, capital-intensive production.
  • Semi-periphery or periphery countries focus on low-skill, labour-intensive production and extraction of raw materials.
  • Constantly reinforces the dominance of core countries over periphery countries.
  • However the system is dynamic, and a country can lose or gain their core, semi-periphery, periphery status over-time.
  • There is usually a world leader, and most recently this has been the United States.

Dependency Theory­- The world-systems theory builds on the dependency theory, which was created by Hans Singer and Raul Prebisch in 1949. The dependency theory states:

  • There is a financial and technological invasion of a periphery country by a core country.
  • This produces an unbalanced economic structure between peripheral countries.
  • This leads to limitations upon self growth in peripheral countries, and it will be difficult for them to ever expand and change to become a core country.

Both the dependency and world-systems theories state that the poverty and backwardness of more under-developed countries are caused by their peripheral position in the international division of labour.

Wallerstein states that eventually, a worldwide economic crisis will occur, and the capitalist world system will collapse, leaving way for a revolution to take place.

Real Life Application of Theory

  • A real life example of this is the relationship between the U.S and Peru.
  • Peru, the periphery country, provides low-skill, labour intensive production and materials for the U.S
  • The U.S is a core country, and relies on the extraction of goods and services from other countries, such as Peru, to survive.
  • Peru has an unbalanced economic structure after relying to heavily on trade.
  • The U.S has both technologically and financially invaded Peru.
  • Reinforces the dominance of the U.S over Peru.
author avatar
William Anderson (Schoolworkhelper Editorial Team)
William completed his Bachelor of Science and Master of Arts in 2013. He current serves as a lecturer, tutor and freelance writer. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, walking his dog and parasailing. Article last reviewed: 2022 | St. Rosemary Institution © 2010-2024 | Creative Commons 4.0

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