centre and periphery

centre and periphery

a depiction of the division of the world into dominant, mainly industrial, capitalist countries, and others, mainly in the THIRD WORLD, which are weaker politically and economically Whilst the terms now have wide usage in sociology and a varied history, they are most commonly associated with WALLERSTEIN and the WORLD SYSTEMS approach. Wallerstein (1974) argued that from the 16th century onwards a capitalist world system began to emerge, with England, France and the Netherlands as the core countries having strong centralized political systems and mercantile economies. As a part of the process, other countries became subordinated to the core and provided cheap labour, most commonly unfree labour in the form of SLAVERY or DEBT PEONAGE. These became the periphery countries supplying raw materials, foodstuffs and luxury goods to merchants from the core who dominated world trade.

Later the concept of semiperiphery was introduced by Wallerstein and others to describe those countries which, in the 20th century, have achieved some level of industrialization, are less dominated by the economies of the core, and which have achieved some levels of political centralization and civic political organization. Most of the southern European countries, some Latin American countries, e.g. Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and some Asian countries, such as South Korea, have been described as semiperipheral.

Whilst the world systems approach has been criticized for its over-reliance on the market as its main analytical focus (Brenner, 1977), the usage is now so widespread that adherence to Wallerstein's approach should not be assumed when writers use these terms.

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