Review XXVII, 1, 2004
Hartmut Elsenhans, “On the Development of World-Systems Studies”
Uneven development at the global level begins when some element of the poor somewhere in the world is able to reduce surplus available to the rich, forcing the rich to either develop productive forces or to look elsewhere for sources of surplus. Technical development occurs where surplus is contested, and is accompanied by technical lags elsewhere. This article begins by defining the importance of economic paradigms in opening up possibilities of multiple equilibria. In a Keynesian paradigm, capital is less important for growth than demand. The transition to capitalism results from the rise of the lower classes and the bargaining power of the poor reducing surplus. The transition to capitalism is blocked because of marginality and labor surplus with low marginal productivity of labor, which disempowers labor. The worldwide expansion of the capitalist world-system is based on rising mass incomes, at least in the center. Newly-emerging comparative advantage in the periphery can be transferred into cost competitiveness. This may lead to full employment in the periphery, which will succeed in this case in its transition to capitalism. But there are serious obstacles to the realization of this perspective. The transition to capitalism at the global level requires a conscious effort in the periphery to empower labor by channeling rent to marginal labor in the form of subsidies. The issue at hand is not how to discredit capitalist globalization, but how to use globalization to create full employment in the periphery, thus offering the perspective of a worldwide empowerment of labor via employment, as opposed to a mandarin-type society of reduced competition and vast privileges for the rich.
Peter J. Tayor, ”Homo Geographicus: A Geohistorial Manifesto for Cities”
Cities are the subject of this manifesto; envisioning a sustainable world-system is its object. Cities as the loci of trade constitute the basic social infrastructure that distinguishes humanity’s relation to environment-as-resource-for-reproduction from all other species. This unique human widening of the geographical scope of environmental use has culminated in contemporary globalization. A city-centered interpretation of world-systems is introduced that focuses upon the conflict between traders (makers, cities) and warriors (takers, states) in which the modern world-system is viewed as a singular world political economy in which economic elites have been able to sustain their networks in a multiple state world of political elites. The current position of the United States (posthegemony, lone superpower) is interpreted in cities-in-sections terms (North versus South regionalism). The political conclusion of the argument identifies the need to develop a world-systems anarchism.
Steven Sherman, “Culture and the Global Emancipatory Project”
This essay reviews Terry Boswell and Christopher Chase-Dunn’s The Spiral of Capitalism and Socialism: Toward Global Democracy. The achievement of this work is recognized, particularly its identification of periodic world revolutions as both transforming the cognitive framework of the system and deepening its integration. However, the vision of global market socialism in this work is found wanting, largely as a result of the rational-choice foundations of this concept. Rational choice is critiqued on the grounds that it fails to recognize the cultural and emotional impetus behind actions. As a result, it naturalizes bureaucratic and consumer practices. Cultural aspects of social life that need to be integrated into the utopistic project are then identified. One is the informal relations in which economic relations are embedded. A second is the use of cultural capital to legitimize some authority claims and delegitimize others. The cultural studies/anthropology/social history nexus and notions of local knowledge are identified as challenges to the presumptions of the dominant scientistic approach. A third is the way certain choices are invested with meaning, and, in particular, the role of advertising and corporate culture in this process. A fourth is the constitution of political agencies, and the prospects of the emergence of transnational communities as political agents as well as critiques of unitary subjects encouraged by nation-states. The prospect of a different emancipatory project, with a richer conception of the social and natural relations at stake is discussed. The role of social movements and subcultures in possibly producing such a project is highlighted. In this context, a new history of the world-system, recording the way that movements and subcultures have been pared down to conform to the dominant economistic culture is needed. A redistribution of cultural resources, as well as a rethinking of questions of what and for whom cultural resources are being produced are advocated. New categories need to be produced to interpret the world. Transnational organizing may relieve the pressure felt by state-oriented movements to conform to the dominant economistic culture.
Review XXVII, 2, 2004
Amiya Kumar Bagchi, “The Axial Ages of the Capitalist World-System”
In arguing for a new periodization of the capitalist world-system, this article seeks to bring into the discourse the knowledge gained about the processes through which European capitalist powers achieved hegemony over the world-economy and its political system. While Smithian growth was characteristic of European capitalist states in their earlier phase, the Industrial Revolution allowed them to overcome the resistance of India and China and to dominate the entire world-economy. I also argue that it was not until the last quarter of the nineteenth century that the countries of the north Atlantic seaboard forged ahead of the rest of the world in respect of human development. The capitalist world-system based on northwest Europe went through not one but at least two axial ages separating it from the so-called developing nations of the contemporary world. There is also the grim possibility that we are in the middle of a third axial age that is pushing a large number of developing countries backward, in respect of both economic and human development.
Andrea Komlosy, “State, Regions, and Borders: Single Market Formation and Labor Migration in the Habsburg Monarchy, 1750-1918”
This article discusses the position of the Habsburg Monarchy within the capitalist world-system. The Empire is interpreted as a semiperiphery of a world-system emerging in northwest Europe, and also conceived as a distinctive world-economy. The focus here is on internal borders as a means of analyzing different regions and the disparities between them. The internal borders within the Habsburg Monarchy were the objects of much public discussion in the period under consideration. My analysis is that a border’s most important function is not that of closure and exclusion, but its capacity to establish interrelationships between one region and another, and to combine resources, without removing inequalities between regions.
Review XXVII, 3, 2004
Martin Aust, “Rossia Siberica: Russian-Siberian History Compared to Medieval Conquest and Modern Colonialism”
This article takes different interpretations of Russian-Siberian history as a starting point. Some historians consider the Russian conquest of Siberia to be pure colonialism. Others point to migration and tell the story of medieval-like colonization, i.e., aedificatio terrae. In chronological order, this article compares Russian-Siberian history to medieval colonization and modern colonialism. One might conclude that the Russian-Siberian encounter is part of modern colonialism from the 1550's until the middle of the nineteenth century. The Russian tsars extracted rich Siberian resources for their own sake. Men on the spot engaged in exploring Siberia, hunting animals for fur, and digging gold. After the emancipation of the Russian peasantry in 1861, peasant migration to Siberia increased. Up to the 1920’s more and more settlers from European Russia engaged in upgrading Siberian agriculture. This process resembles medieval colonization. The Soviet phase cannot be treated only by comparison to medieval colonization or to modern colonialism. Future historians will have to tell a third story of Siberia in the twentieth century.
Hans-Heinrich Nolte, “The ModernWorld-System and Area Studies: The Case of Russia”
The relations between world-systems studies and area studies are characterized by some basic methodological problems. First, it is necessary to show that world-systems studies can explain historical events in a certain region more adequately than an approach devoted to studying individual nations. Secondly, researchers in this area must learn a second set of languages, signs, habits, etc., especially those of the area studied. The researcher may also need to learn a third set, if he or she has been socialized in the center and the area studied is semiperipheral or peripheral. The first problem is exemplified for Russia by four cases: the introduction of Dutch iron technology in the seventeenth century, Russia’s role in European expansion, the opportunities of poor peasants during proto-industrialization, and lastly the political functions of the concept of “cultural types” invented by Danilevskij in the nineteenth century. The second problem is exemplified in shortcomings of German historiography about the German attempt to turn eastern Europe into a periphery during the Second World War, which included making room for imagined settlers and colonizers by carrying out genocides against Jews, Gypsies, Belorussians, and others.
Eva-Maria Stolberg, “The Siberian Frontier and Russia’s Position in World History: A Reply to Aust and Nolte”
This article focuses on the Russian conquest of Siberia as the final point of a European colonization effort that was the heritage of the Roman empire and lasted a thousand years. Whereas Britain, France, and Spain expanded overseas, Russia pushed to the east. Through the coexistence of Russian colonists and its indigenous population, Siberia presented a cultural bridge between Europe and Asia. In the era of the Enlightenment Siberia become a mental laboratory where images of the Non-European were molded that had a decisive impact on Russian intellectuals and that defined the colonial discourse in the Russian empire. With railroad construction, peasant settlement, an influx of East Asian migrants, and a gold rush in the nineteenth century, the historical development of Siberia shared many similarities with the American West that makes the Turner frontier hypothesis applicable for Russia’s “Wild East.”
Review XXVII, 4, 2004
This article is a discussion of the concept of rationality in relation to issues raised by ecological concerns. It uses the Weberian distinction of formal and substantive rationality to insist on the importance of the latter category in this discussion. It analyzes the debate in three frameworks: the intellectual issues, the moral choices, and the political possibilities.
Richard Wilk, "The Extractive Economy: An Early Phase of the Globalization of Diet and its Environmental Consequences"
In this article I draw on historical research on the origins of the global food system, which grew in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to provide a standard set of foods to extractive workers all over the world. Dishes based on these rations—salted meats, wheat flour, pulses, and sugar, were gradually localized, and in many cases became the "traditional" foods of the twentieth century. This ration system was initially developed to support large military organizations and sailing fleets, but was gradually extended to include a global workforce engaged in extractive industries such as mining, logging, and fishing, as well as railroad construction. The production of foodstuffs to feed these workers transformed the economies and ecologies of North America, and many parts of Europe and South America. Like later periods of globalization, the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century wave of globalization brought serious environmental impacts that are extremely heterogeneous and dispersed, and have rarely been linked to each other because of the complexity of commodity chains and trade relationships.
Marina Fischer-Kowalski, Fridolin Krausmann & Barbara Smetschka, "Modeling Scenarios of Transport Across History from a Socio-Metabolic Perspective"
The focus of this article is the scale of freight transport, in dependence on the overall material turnover of society, and the size of metabolically interdependent population and territory, across various ideal-type historical modes of subsistence. By a newly developed formal model (calibrated on empirical relations from early ninteenth-century central Europe), we are able to calculate transport volumes, under certain model assumptions, for hunter and gatherer societies and for agrarian societies. For the latter, we can demonstrate that the volume of transport necessarily rises faster than both the size of the society (in terms of population of urban centers and their hinterland) and its material wealth, and this not only constrains but limits the possible size of urban populations. The core mechanism behind these limits is the agrarian energy metabolism: In order to overcome distances, agrarian societies need more land to feed the human and animal labor power required for transportation. So they have to enlarge their territory, thereby again increasing distances to be overcome. Fossil fuels provide a double benefit: they allow people to span larger distances, and to manage reproduction within a smaller area. So under industrial conditions, size-constraints for urban centers and for freight transport disappear and transport volumes “explode.”
J. R. McNeill, “Yellow Jack and Geopolitics: Environment, Epidemics, and the Struggles for Empire in the American Tropics, 1640-1830"
When sugar came to tropical Atlantic America in a big way, starting in the 1640's, it began a new chapter in the story of ecological transformation of the Americas. Here I will argue that it created new environmental conditions extremely propitious for the propagation of yellow fever, and that in so doing, it created a new set of governing conditions for international relations in the American tropics. A lot of Latin America stayed Latin despite Anglo (and others') ambitions because of these new ecological and epidemiological conditions. However, a lot of tropical America acquired independence after the 1770's because of canny exploitation of these conditions. Those little Amazons, the female mosquitoes Aedes aegypti, vectors of yellow fever, underpinned the geopolitical order of the American tropics from 1660 to 1780. After 1780 they undermined it.
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