Edited by Robert C. Kloosterman, Virginie Mamadouh and Pieter Terhorst
Chapter 5: World-systems analysis
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 focuses not on the newest features of globalization, but on the processes which over the centuries have formed our modern world-system. This started as a 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 peripheralization of these areas enabled the core to prosper. World-systems analysis focuses 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 stabilizing 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.
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