World System Analysis Revisited
The World System Analysis as conceived by Immanuel Wallerstein consists of a core, semi periphery and periphery; shifting zones that are defined by their economic relationships to each other. As stated in his volumes of analysis Wallerstein outlines a multi-disciplinary model that tracks the formation of the world system between 1500 and the present day (Wallerstein, 1974).
While previous empires such as the Romans, Persians, Islamic Caliphates, Mughals, Aztecs and Chinese Han dynasties had been trans-regional powers capable of expansive influence and trade; none had, until the construction of the world system, been able to fully project hegemony upon the full mass of the species living in all continents. Advanced weapons, epidemiological resistance and industrialization allowed the Europeans a competitive advantage in outward conquest (Diamond, 2005). The epochs of conquest, slavery and colonialism allowed an unprecedented capital accumulation to take place in Europe. The Industrial Revolution had modernized these societies and subsequently organized their social hierarchy into that of global power administrators. This is not to say class and race and gender were not thoroughly established in internal hierarchies. The conquest of the rest of the world was an outward disposal of the mediocre into pursuits of war and profiteering. Inevitably according to this analysis the hegemonic power passed from Spain, to the Netherlands, to England and after a series of World Wars ultimately between Germany and the United States to a bipolar world of the US-NATO Block against the USSR. While the 1989-1991 implosion of the Soviet Union defeated authoritarian Communism. The Russian Federation, with the world’s second most powerful military, a comparable stockpile of nuclear weapons and the largest reserves of natural gas and oil on the planet is checked but not defeated. As stated the People’s Republic of China was only a minor antagonist within this struggle for core control, but is emerging as the most serious contender.
To fully understand the world system beyond the allegory of the mountain we must break apart the zones Wallerstein and dependency development theorists categorized to establish what is it is these ceaseless proxy wars, all this diplomacy, defense and development spending seeks to acquire. A false construct such as nationalism or ideology is a superstructure disguise for it means to acquire core control. As stated, the Oligarchical collectives have a limited range of coordination and span of control. While an oligarch in the core may in fact collude with an oligarchy in the semi-periphery or periphery; the closer asset control and resources allocation is exerted to a core political and economic process; the richer and more powerful the fruits of the gain.
The New Core
The guiding features of the core include a unified financial architecture and banking system, stable governance which can safe-guard property rights and currency valuation and can upkeep the impressive military and intelligence forces needed to coerce compliance to its economic directives. Out of these 46 nations; 4 are Medieval City States, 1 is a Catholic Religious City State, 1 is a Jewish military colony, 5 are oil petrogarchy City States, 4 are the so-called Asian Tiger states and 2 are newly re-absorbed Chinese financial hubs (back into PRC two-systems one state in 1997); all participants align their economic and political directives with the OECD, North Atlantic Treaty Organization, International Monetary Fund and World Bank; The United States is the dominant hegemon in this block, supported by the financial prowess of the European Union lead by German and the economic strength of Japan. Interestingly these nations are all of the primary belligerents of the World Wars and hold all seats of the United Nations Security Council; excluding the Russian Federation and People’s Republic of China.
These 46 primary beneficiaries’ nations of the World System according to the 2013 World Bank estimate (of OECD countries) be 1.054 billion people. These national entities ca be sub-divided into three internal groups; core central, core critical and core dependent.
The following national entities, under the stewardship and hegemony of the United States of America compose the modern nucleolus of central core control.
Medieval City States
United Arab Emirates (UAE)
Dependent Territories (Retained Colonies)
Cook Islands (New Zealand)
Puerto Rico (USA)
U.S. Virgin Islands (USA)
Wallis and Futuna (France)
Saint Pierre and Miquelon (France)
French Polynesia (France)
French Guiana (France)
Cayman Islands (UK)
Falkland Islands (UK)
Isle of Man (UK)
(Not complete listing)
Deconstructing the Core
Core Central/ Core Critical/ Core Dependent
Definition of Core Central: openly directs the imperatives and direction of the world system as well as imposes the dominant language, values and culture. There is clearly no contest at this stage with the United States of America.
Definition of Core Critical: has disproportionate access and strategic/ military coordination with the hegemon as well as its own economic interests that is safe guards via connection to the core central power. Great Britain and its commonwealth dependents, Switzerland, France and Germany.
United Kingdom (Former Core)
Germany (Former Core contender)
Definition of Core Dependent: do not dictate the geopolitical direction but benefit from closely linked security, financial or ethno-religious ties.
Taiwan South Korea Vatican City Kuwait Qatar
The New Core Contenders
People’s Republic of China (Emerging)
Russian Federation (Defeated, Remerging)
A Core contender is an economic and military block lead by a robust, well populated and resource endowed nation state with the military, diplomatic and economic capacity to challenge the hegemony of the current core block central power.
From 1945-1989 there was a bi-polar world dominated by the US and the USSR each with their own competing systems of dependency. After the 1950-1952 Korean War in which the PRC directly battled the US-NATO block a combination of the Cultural Revolution and Den Xiaoping’s embrace of state capitalism pulled the PRC largely out of Cold War confrontations.
The economists of all great power craft highly competing narratives of both history and financial prescription. Although evidence now clearly debunks the Washington Consensus which held sway from 1980 to 2001; encouraging deregulation, privatization, structural adjustment and integration into the globalized Western core market; it cannot be said that the effects of these policies did not enrich the core deliberately. The purpose of the proxy wars was of course a battle to control the resource flows.
As of 2014; the logical core contender is the People’s Republic of China. The financial mechanism it has deployed to support this claim is called the BRICS Bank; a supposed counterbalance to the World Bank facilitating development lending from Brazil, Russian Federation, India, China and South Africa.
The New Semi Periphery
The elements of the semi-periphery include; on-going and expanding industrialization; modernization of political architecture in that whatever system is place efficiently provides critical aspects of governance; participation as intermediaries between periphery and core; manufacture and export of goods and are typically able to act as region hegemons over peripheral powers.
Excellent examples of semi-peripheral states are Brazil, Colombia, Argentina, Mexico, Cuba, Vietnam, India, Poland, South Korea, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and South Africa.
Colombia is slowly emerging from a civil war raging since 1964 that have taken the lives of between 4,744,046–5,712,506 people (Silva, 2011). Mexico has been recently plagued with drug cartel killings that are directly related to its proximity to the Southern US border. However, trade relations with the US have made both integral parts of the semi-periphery albeit unstable ones.
All of these nations are middle-income developing nations that have vital intermediary roles in global trade or possess vital energy resources. China which prior to 1949 was a peripheral nation largely of peasants has advanced progressively since to assume a position of semi-peripheral transition to core contention. Russia which was a feudal semi-peripheral monarchy (Czardom) until its socialist revolution in 1917 has fallen something short of a super power contender but is still with is military and oil reserves a far more formidable power than any listed above. Interestingly as yet another death blow to the neo-liberal Washington consensus; of the nations listed above; only Argentina and Mexico followed much of the IMF/World Bank policies. The primary success stories are the four Asian Tigers; South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong. China and India which cumulatively halved global extreme poverty by some 680 million persons and rapidly increased their economic growth did not follow nearly any of the consensus policy.
The key element of the semi-periphery is that enables the relationships of trade and mediates between core contenders as well as between periphery and core. While semi-peripheral counties (so-called middle income) may in face have largely impoverished populations, the semi-periphery does not depend as completely upon the core as the periphery does and can make a range of independent policy decisions. Cuba is particularly good example through its interventions in Angola and Ethiopia as well as its current policies of medical diplomacy. So is Saudi Arabia in its international support of fundamentalist Wahhabi-Salafist Islamic terror groups.
The Semi-periphery (like all of the nine zones) compose a spread. There are nations such as India and Brazil that are quickly closing economic ground on core contenders Russia and China. There are relatively independent semi-peripheral powers such as Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates that utilize their extractive resource wealth to further ideological policies of their respective elites. There are other nominally nation’s such as Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago that play little important role in international relations.
The semi-periphery is ultimately a structural buffer zone that unlike the illusion of the middle class described above, does not actually experience significant differentials in mass development. Most of the world’s 1.2 billion living below $1.25 a day live in middle income countries and within the semi-periphery. The local oligarchy of a given state if it can position the political elite of its nation to arrange the economic activity favorably can expect exponential capital increases but their nation achieving a semi-peripheral zone standing. Suffice to say in the 2014 list of Forbes billionaires Carlos Slim, a Mexican citizen is second from the top right below American Bill Gates. Here is listing of Semi-Peripheral states:
The Same Periphery
What was once called the third & fourth world , or currently the developing world is a legacy of the colonial system. It lacks infrastructure, it is poorly industrialized and its governance systems are little better than a mix of dictatorship, military rule and out right corrupt practice. The peripheral nations should not be counted as such by GDP or HDI because they are peripheral in their importance to the world systems functioning. According to Collier there are fifty nine states (Sudan and South Sudan were not separated when he wrote his Bottom Billion report) in Sub-Saharan Africa, Central Asia and Haiti which show decline and dysfunction. Global economic convergence, the convergence of the developed and developing world has not proven itself as a valid reality.
The periphery has a disproportionately small share of global wealth and most of its capital and resources flow out of the country. Agriculture, cheap expendable labor and natural resource extraction make up most of its economic activity. Most of its population lives in extreme or relative poverty. Some peripheral states might be middle income, but do have and substantial role to play in the functioning of the world system. Peripheral state political systems are weak and they are often easily sucked into lengthy conflicts to control domestic uprisings or fight drawn out wars with their neighbors. A key element is their relative powerlessness to the rest of the state system. Most if not all of the periphery were former colonial holdings of the European powers. Their GDP and HDI often, although not always have improved the earlier they were liberated from the colonial system; Latin American countries are all much more developed than their African counterparts except for the Republic of Haiti which exhibits health and development indicators closer to Sub-Saharan Africa.
The following is a listing of the Peripheral States:
Burkina Faso Namibia
São Tomé/ Príncipe
The Gambia Botswana
Papua New Guinea
Post-Soviet/ Former Socialist:
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Middle East & Maghreb
Latin America & the Caribbean:
Costa Rica Paraguay
Saint Kitts and Nevis
Antigua and Barbuda
The New Failing States
According to our internal algorithm any three of these criteria in any state entity constitute a peripheral-failing state classification/ two in a country with an existing low HDI rank. Any state entity with three of these criteria is recognized by this survey as a peripheral-failed state. Four of the criteria or more occurring sets classification at state collapse.
Criteria for Failing/ Failed/Collapsed Categorization:
o Low Human Development Index Rankings
o Literacy Rates below 50%
o Life Expectancy below 60 years of age
o Famine events exceeding 100,000 deaths past five years
o Epidemic disease events killing 50,000 people past five yeas
o Active conflict within the national borders
o Coup/Revolution/ dissolution of national government past 4 years
In a “failing state” conflict is combined with under development to set in motion a series of degenerations. During this period, interventions of core and semi-peripheral powers will largely shape what social and economic orders emerges from the chaos. Periodically such as in the cases of Somalia and Yugoslavia the state collapses completely in recognizable form into total anarchy and long term dissolution.
Ukraine is currently a failing state. It is an ethnically divided energy pipeline hub for pumping Russian energy resources into Europe. Its (recently annexed Crimea) region is a major warm water strategic port for the Russian Navy; it has highly fertile soil, it is linguistically and ethnically similar to Eurasia not Europe; and it was until 1991 an integral part of the former Soviet Union. As part of the Second World (former Soviet Socialist States) Ukrainians have enjoyed economic, social and cultural rights markedly higher than the developing world even after collapse of the USSR in 1989-1991. However, following political re-ordering and oligarchic expropriation of energy assets and infrastructure across the former Soviet world; President Putin began a low intensity war to reclaim what in the Russian political consciousness is within the obvious and legitimate sphere of interests of those who run the Russian Federation. Specially all of the former Soviet Union and former Russian client states such as Cuba and Syria.
After the uprising in Maiden Square which looked likely to topple the pro-Russian president Russian military and intelligence operatives seized and annexed Crimea and triggered separatist warfare in the three eastern provinces. Organizing via its intelligence service the FSB (former KGB) the United Russia Party of Vladimir Putin is replicating the exact tactics it had previously used in Moldova, Chechnya, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Georgia to eliminate political order that sought to align those countries with NATO and the West. As there are 20 million ethnic Russians living in a wide range of former Soviet states such a rubric of ferment sedition, infiltrate intelligence operatives and fighters, provoke crisis, occupy and annex has spread to Ukraine made even more valuable because of numerous pipelines and the Crimea Naval base.
Because of these escalating actions heavy sanctions have been applied against Russia, but over 1/3 of Ukraine remains by default in Russian control. As in the cases of Moldova and Georgia, it is highly unlikely that any Ukrainian government will ever take back that territory. Russian Oligarchs and President Putin and his advisors have very little respect for the nation state system which due to Cold War strains, crippled Russia temporarily as a super power and core contender.
A failing state is state that due to corruption, bankruptcy and fiscal-social mismanagement an internal revolt or foreign intervention is predictably about to cause collapse state collapse and failure. A long running low intensity insurgency is not criteria for this classification. That insurgency, internal unrest or foreign invasion must produce a high likelihood of the citizens being left without a coherent political leadership and social services. In the cases of CAR civil unrest has developed into ethnic civil war ravaging large swaths of the population and leading to heavy violence against civilians. In Nigeria and Egypt mounting corrupt practices coupled with long running insurgencies place them here. In states like Malawi, Burundi, Chad, Niger, Mali and Lesotho government corruption on such an endemic level have deprived the populations of even the most basic services. A failed state is caught not in a “poverty trap” by Collier or Sachs description of such they are deliberately placed into a downward cycle of under development. Peripheral and failing states slip into failed state status based on the following twelve variables.
The Failed State Index (FDI) weighs in via twelve major indicators found within a territory indicating state failure:
1. Mounting Demographic Pressures
2. Massive Movement of Refugees or Internally Displaced Persons
3. Vengeance Seeking Group Grievance
4. Chronic and Sustained Human Flight
5. Uneven Economic Development
6. Poverty, Sharp or Severe Economic Decline
7. Legitimacy of the State
8. Progressive Deterioration of Public Services
9. Violation of Human Rights and Rule of Law
10. Expansive Security Apparatus
11. Rise of Factionalized Elites
12. Intervention of External Actors
Failing States include:
The New Failed States
A state where its government has collapsed expect perhaps for diplomatic purposes in the capital and a few major cities; lost control of its territory; has ceased to provide social services and is at war with its own population can be described as failing state.. A secondary arrangement of this scenario zoning is when the state fully and indiscriminately unleashes its military against its population as occurred in Rwanda, Sudan and Syria. Where and when this occurs the population is at the full mercy of invading armies, militia groups and banditry. A sustained condition of state failure results in conditions best described in Thomas Hobbes book the Leviathan; a nasty, brutish and short life truncated by extreme violence and early death. The deployment of peacekeepers and NGOs can prolong the existence of a government presence; but the inevitable result of state failure is lasting underdevelopment coupled by internal human rights violation on a massive scale, war and atrocity (Rotberg, 2010). Failed State are also hot beds of opportunism for both oligarchs and criminal middle men to utilize the defunct governmental infrastructure to launder money and serve as transshipment hubs for bulk currency, narcotics, weapons, conflict minerals, expropriated oils and human cargo. Haiti is a primary port of illegal transshipment into the United States (Farmer, 1994). North Korea operates the largest and most sophisticated printing operation of duplicated $20 bills. Failed states are also breeding grounds for terrorist organizations and revolutionaries (Rotberg, 2002).
The following is a list of failed states:
Islamic Republic of Sudan
Central African Republic
On State Collapse
The collapse a state of anarchic non-governance differentiated from failed state in that large swaths of its territory are no longer under the control of government or under rule of law. The people unfortunate to live in these regions are not only severely impoverished they are subject to arbitrary and criminal attack and rights violation by marauding bands, rival militias, warlords and various social predators. Currently large swaths of the following failed states meet this description; the Democratic Republic of Congo (former Zaire) since 1998, 1/3 of Syria since 2012, 1/3 of Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia which has not had a central government since 1992.
Yugoslavia (collapsed in 1991)
Somalia (collapsed in 1992)
Afghanistan (occupied since 2001)
Iraq (occupied since 2003; collapsed into three entities; ISIS, Kurdish Regional Government, and Shi’a central government)
Haiti (collapsed 2004)
Syrian Arab Republic (collapsed into Civil War 2012)
Libya (collapsed into Civil War 2013)
DRC (invaded in 1998, ongoing multi-dimensional conflict)
The United States invaded Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 1991 and 2003. Rwanda along with a variety of other African countries invaded Zaire (DRC) in 1998. Somalia collapsed after a CIA funded insurgency topped its government in 1991. Afghanistan was previously occupied by the Soviet Union from 1979-1989 where mujahedeen and political Islamists recruited trained and financed by the CIA, Pakistani ISI and Saudi Arabia (including Osama Bin Laden) were sent to give the USSR ‘its own Vietnam’. This pivotal military intelligence operation was critical to both the collapse of the Soviet Union and the spread of Wahhabi-Salafist Islamic militant ideology which would later in 2011 culminate in Arab Spring (bringing down the governments of Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Syria); ultimately resulting in the Islamic State (ISIS)’s control of vast swaths of Iraq and Syria. (Blum, 2003). Since most of these states collapse near the fault lines of hegemon power proxy struggle or near and around energy resource fields another term for the failed state wilderness is a killing field where those that don’t die of poverty will perish in war.
The Abyss is in essence what all development and progressive resistance to the callous greed of the oligarch collectives are attempting to avert; the total collapse of the world system with no alternative in place, disastrous climate change that results in famine and displacement and all-out war between Core powers like what occurred between 1914-1945. In essence an Abyss can be likened to Peak Development; a point of core hyperdevelopment that overloads and overwhelms our social, economic and environmental thresholds to the point where irreversible trauma is inflicted upon the human & planetary condition.
In “Peak Development” the governments of the core trigger any of three probably catastrophic events; all of which are likely if the World System continues on the current trajectory.
1. (Environmental) Disastrous, irreversible climate change proceeding until a 5 degree rise in global temperatures raising sea levels and triggering massive climate migrations, causing wide spread famine as a result of crop failure and exacerbate the periodically growing list of climate disasters.
2. (Economic) Peak Oil which we are expected to hit in 2020 levels off petroleum production paralyzing global trade and military function last, but first dramatically affecting the means in which we are supplied energy; which in turn leads to less power availability; which in turn limits internet connectivity. Peak Water which occurs in 2050 leads to new destructive conflicts over decreasing supplies. Wealth accumulation continues along the lines of Thomas Piketty’s analysis and the rise of an overtly elite class subsumes new levels of power and privilege. Critical divergence occurs with a micro-faction of the arch-oligarchic collectives gathering in secure citadels with a global degeneration of development reverting most of the human race to barbaric living conditions.
3. (Social) Multipolarity expands creating a more equalized power differential between the three primary core blocks. Proxy war heightens in the semi-periphery and periphery over resource scarcity. Inevitably all three of the core contender get sucked into a more direct confrontation which results in nuclear exchanges, genocides and democides.
The result of any of these catastrophic events being allowed to occur; permanent environmental damage, unmitigated oligarchic capital accumulation and or a more grisly and protracted series of World Wars will irrevocable trigger the degeneration of our species to sub-human conditions and inevitable extinction.
Human Development Algorithm
The Human Development Index (HDI) is a composite statistic of life expectancy, education, and per capita income indicators, which are used to rank countries into four tiers of human development. A country scores higher HDI when the lifespan is higher, the education level is higher, and the GDP per capita is higher. The HDI was developed by the Pakistani economist Mahbub ul Haq, often framed in terms of whether people are able to “be” and “do” desirable things in their life, and was published by the United Nations Development Program.
The 2010 Human Development Report introduced an Inequality-adjusted Human Development Index (IHDI). While the simple HDI remains useful, it stated that “the IHDI is the actual level of human development (accounting for inequality),” and “the HDI can be viewed as an index of ‘potential’ human development (or the maximum IHDI that could be achieved if there were no inequality).”
Published on 4 November 2010 (and updated on 10 June 2011), the 2010 Human Development Index (HDI) combines three dimensions:
• A long and healthy life: Life expectancy at birth
• Education index: Mean years of schooling and Expected years of schooling
• A decent standard of living: GNI per capita (PPP US$)
In its 2010 Human Development Report, the UNDP began using a new method of calculating the HDI. The following three indices are used:
1. Life Expectancy Index (LEI)
LEI is 1 when Life expectancy at birth is 85 and 0 when Life expectancy at birth is 20.
2. Education Index (EI)
2.1 Mean Years of Schooling Index (MYSI)
Fifteen is the projected maximum of this indicator for 2025.
2.2 Expected Years of Schooling Index (EYSI)
Eighteen is equivalent to achieving a master’s degree in most countries.
3. Income Index (II)
II is 1 when GNI per capita is $75,000 and 0 when GNI per capita is $100.
Finally, the HDI is the geometric mean of the previous three normalized indices:
LE: Life expectancy at birth
MYS: Mean years of schooling (i.e. years that a person aged 25 or older has spent in formal education)
EYS: Expected years of schooling (i.e. total expected years of schooling for children under 18 years of age)
GNIpc: Gross national income at purchasing power parity per capita