5000 Years of World System History:

            The Cumulation of Accumulation



         Barry K. Gills and Andre Gunder Frank









We argue that the main features of the

economic and interstate world system already

analyzed by Wallerstein (l974) and Modelski

(l987) for the "modern" world system, and for

earlier ones by Chase-Dunn (l986, l989) and

others, and in this book by Chase-Dunn and

Hall (Chapter 1) and Wilkinson (Chapter 4 and

also 1987) also characterize the development

of this same world system in medieval and

ancient times, indeed for at least the past

five millennia.  These features are 1) the

historical continuity and development of a

single world economy and inter-polity system;

2) capital accumulation, technological

progress, and ecological

adaptation/degradation as the principal motor

forces in the world system; 3) the

hierarchical center-periphery political

economic structure of the world system; 4)

alternate periods of political economic

hegemony and rivalry (and war) in the world

system; 5) and long political economic cycles

of growth/accumulation, center/periphery

positions, hegemony/rivalry, etc.  Our study

of the unequal structure and uneven dynamic of

this world system is based, like a three

legged stool, on economic, political, and

cultural analysis.

   This essay covers the following topics and

advances the following theses, beginning with

the most concrete historical ones and going on

to progressively more abstract theoretical





1.   The origins of our present world system

(WS) can and should be traced             back at

least 5000 years to the relations between

Mesopotamia and         Egypt. 

2.   The ecological basis of the WS accounts

for its origins and much of its           subsequent

historical development. 

3.   Economic connections among various parts

of the WS began much          earlier and have been

much more prevalent and significant than is

often       realized. 

4.   World system extension grew to include

most of the Asio-Afro-        European ecumenical

("Eastern" hemisphere) landmass and its

outlying    islands by 600 BC and incorporated

much of the "Western" "New World"         by 1500 AD,

although there is increasing evidence of

earlier contacts        between them. 




1.   Maritime routes furthered economic and

other connections among many        parts of the WS

and contributed to its expansion in important


2.   The Silk Roads, over both land and

maritime routes, formed a sort of         spinal

column and rib cage of the body of this WS for

over 2000 years.  3.         Central Asia has been

a much neglected focal point of WS history

both        as a logistic nexus among its

regions to the East, South and West and              

through the recurrent pulse of its own waves

of migration and invasion           into these


4.   The Three Corridors and Logistic Nexuses

in what is now called the           "Middle East,"

"Inner Asia," and some sea straits have always

played      especially significant bottle-neck

choke-point roles in the development of              

the WS. 











1.   Infrastructural investment accompanied

and supported most parts of the           WS from its

beginning and throughout its historical


2.   Technological innovation also played a

similar and related role            throughout the

historical development of the WS and mediated

in the      competitive economic and military

conflicts among its parts.

3.   Ecology, however, always and still

exercises an essential influence and           

constraint on this WS development. 





1.   Surplus transfer and interpenetrating

accumulation among parts of the           WS are its

essential defining characteristics.  This

transfer means that no        part of the WS would

be as it was and is without its relations with

other       parts and the whole. 

2.   Center-Periphery-Hinterland (CPH)

complexes and hierarchies among           different

peoples, regions and classes have always been

an important part       of WS structure.  However,

the occupancy of musical chair places within

   this structure has frequently changed and

contributed to the dynamics of            WS

historical development.

3.   "Barbarian" nomad - sedentary

"civilization" relations have long been              

and continue to be especially significant and

neglected aspects of CPH            structure and WS





1.   Modes of accumulation, more than modes of

production, are the           essential

institutional forms and variations of WS

historical development;       but they are not only

localized or regional.

2.   Transitions in modes of accumulation are

not unidirectional in WS            history and


3.   Public/private accumulation are both

collaborative and conflicting            

institutional forms and mixes of investment

and accumulation. 

4.   Economy/polity contradictions

characterize the WS throughout its             

history in that economic organization is much

wider and WS wide, while            political state

and even imperial organization is much more

local and         regional.





1.   Hegemony is the political and economic

(and sometimes also cultural)             domination

of peoples and regions in parts of the WS,

which is based on       the centralization of

accumulation in the same.

2.   Cycles of accumulation and hegemony are

causally interrelated and           characterize the

development of the WS throughout its history.



3.   Super-hegemony is the extension of

hegemony or the hierarchical        ordering of

primus inter pares hegemonies to centralize

accumulation on         a WS level.

Super-hegemony has been acknowledged for part

of the 19th       and 20th centuries, but may

already have occurred earlier as well. 

4.   Cumulation of Accumulation is the

culminating synthesis of the        ecological,

economic, technological, political, social,

and cultural      structures and processes in WS







1.   Historical materialist political economic

summary conclusions are       drawn from the

foregoing arguments. 

2.   Political, economic and cultural three

legged stools characterize the WS         through the

interrelations and mutual support of all three

aspects of        social history.  Therefore, any

historical materialist political economy of

   the WS must incorporate all three.

3.   Analytic and research agendas on the

structure and dynamics of WS        history over

5000 or more years must search for more system

wide        characteristics, changes, perhaps

even cycles, and development. 

















1. The Origins



The designation in time of the origin of the

world system depends very much on what concept

of system is employed.  We may illustrate this

problem by analogy with the origins of a major

river system.  For instance, look at the

Missouri-Mississippi river system.  In one

sense, each major branch has its own origin.

Yet the Mississippi River can be said to have

a later derivative origin where the two major

branches join together, near St. Louis,

Missouri.  By convention, the river is called

"The Mississippi" and it is said to originate

in Minnesota.  Yet the larger and longer

branch is called "the Missouri," which

originates in the Rocky Mountains in Montana.

Of course, all of these also have other larger

and smaller inflows, each with their own

point(s) of origin.  The problem is how to set

a fixed point of origin when in fact no such

single point of origin exists for the river

system as a whole.  In the case of the world

system it would be possible to place its

origins far up stream in the Neolithic period.

However, it may be more appropriate to discuss

the origins further down stream, where major

branches converge. 

   By the river system analogy, we may

identify the separate origins of Sumer, Egypt,

and the Indus as sometime in the fourth to the

third millenniums BC.  The world system begins

with their later confluence.  David Wilkinson

(1989) dates the birth of "Central

Civilization," through the political -

conflictual confluence of Mesopotamia and

Egypt into one over-arching states system, at

around 1500 BC.  Wilkinson's work is of very

great value to the analysis of world system

history.  Essentially, the confluence of

"Mesopotamia" and "Egypt" gave birth to the

world system.  However, by the criteria of

defining systemic relations, spelled out

below, the confluence occurs considerably

earlier than 1500 BC.  By economic criteria of

"inter-penetrating accumulation," the

confluence included the Indus valley and the

area of Syria and the Levant.  Thus, the

confluence occurred sometime in the early or

mid third millennium BC, that is by about

2700-2400 BC. 


2. The Ecological Basis


Historical materialist political economy

begins with the recognition that "getting a

living" is the ultimate basis of human social

organization.  The ultimate basis of "getting

a living" is ecological however.  The

invention of agriculture made possible the

production of a substantial surplus.  Gordon

Childe (1951) made famous the term "Neolithic

Revolution" to describe the profound effects

on human social organization brought about by

the production of an agricultural surplus.

The subsequent "Urban Revolution" and the

states that developed on this basis

contributed to the formation of our world


   From the outset, this social organization

had an economic imperative based on a new type

of relationship with the environment.  The

alluvial plains of Egypt, Mesopotamia and

Indus are similar in that their rich water

supply and fertile soil makes possible the

production of a large agricultural surplus

when the factors of production are properly

organized.  However, all three areas were

deficient in many natural resources, such as

timber, stone, and certain metals.  Therefore,

they had an ecologically founded economic

imperative to acquire certain natural

resources from outside their own ecological

niches in order to "complete" their own

production cycles.  Urban civilization and the

state required the maintenance of a complex

division of labor, a political apparatus, and

a much larger trade or economic nexus than

that under the direct control of the state.

Thus, the ecological origins of the world

system point to the inherent instability of

the urban civilizations and the states from

which it emerged.  This instability was both

ecological - economic and strategic.

Moreover, the two were intertwined from the


   Economic and strategic instability and

insecurity led to efforts to provide for the

perpetual acquisition of all necessary natural

resources, even if the required long distance

trade routes were outside the direct political

control of the state.  This was only possible

through manipulated trade and through the

assertion of direct political controls over

the areas of supply.  The internal demographic

stability, and/or demographic expansion, of

the first urban centers depended upon such

secure acquisition of natural resources. 

   However, in a field of action in which many

centers are expanding simultaneously, there

must come a point when their spheres of

influence become contiguous, and then overlap.

As the economic nexus of the first urban

civilizations and states expanded and

deepened, competition and conflict over

control of strategic sources of materials and

over the routes by which they were acquired

tended to intensify.  For example, control

over certain metals was crucial to attaining

technological and military superiority vis a

vis contemporary rivals.  Failure to emulate

the most advanced technology constituted, then

as now, a strategic default. 

   The ultimate rationale for the origins of

the world system were thus embedded in the

economic imperative of the urban based states.

A larger and larger economic nexus was built

up.  Specialization within the complex

division of  labor deepened, while the  entire

nexus expanded territorially "outward." In the

process, more and more ecological niches were

assimilated into one interdependent economic

system.  Thereby, the world system destroyed

and assimilated self-reliant cultures in its


   By the third millennium BC, the

Asio-Afro-European economic nexus, upon which

the world system was based, was already well

established.  Thereafter, the constant shifts

in position among metropoles in the world

system cannot be properly understood without

analysis of the ecological and technological

factors "compelling" certain lines of action.

The rise and decline of urban centers and

states can be made more understandable by

placing them within the world systemic

context.  This also involves paying attention

to their role in the economic nexus,

particularly with regard to the sources and

supply of key commodities and natural

resources.  The logic of the political

structure of the world system is one in which

the security of the member states, and their

ability to accumulate surplus, is perpetually

vulnerable to disruption.  This situation

created a dynamic of perpetual rivalry.  Thus,

attempts are made to extend political control

over strategic areas of supply in the overall

economic nexus.


3. Economic Connections



New historical evidence suggests that economic

connections through trade and migration, as

well as through pillage and conquest, have

been  much more prevalent  and much  wider in

scope than was previously recognized.  They

have also gone much farther back through world

history than is generally admitted.  By the

same token, manufacturing, transport,

commercial and other service activities are

also older and more widespread than often

suggested.  The long history and systemic

nature of these economic connections have not

received nearly as much attention as they

merit (Adams 1943).  Even more neglected have

been these trade connections' far reaching

importance in the social, political, and

cultural life of "societies" and their

relations with each other in the world system

as a whole.  Even those who do study trade

connections,  as for instance Philip Curtin's

(l984) work on cross-cultural trade diasporas,

often neglect  systematic study of the world

systemic complex of these trade connections. 



   Historical evidence to date indicates that

economic contacts in the Middle East ranged

over a very large area even several thousand

years before the first urban states appeared.

The Anatolian settlement Catal Huyuk is often

cited as an example of a community with long

distance trade connections some seven or eight

thousand years ago.  Jericho is another often

cited example.  Trade or economic connections

between Egypt and Mesopotamia were apparently

somewhat intermittent before 3000 BC, and

therefore possibly not systemic.  However,

both Egypt and Mesopotamia very early on

developed economic connections with Syria and

the Levant, which formed a connecting corridor

between the two major zones.  The putative

first pharaoh of unified Egypt, Narmer, may

have had economic connections to the Levant.

Certainly by 2700 BC, Egypt had formal

political and economic relations with the city

of Byblos on the Levantine coast.  Byblos is

probably the earliest port of economic contact

mentioned in both Egyptian and Mesopotamian

historical sources. 

   For both Egypt and Mesopotamia, war and

trade with Syria and the Levant  involved the

search for access to strategic and other

materials, such as timber, metals, oils, and

certain luxury consumption goods.  The

apparent goal of Akkadian imperial expansion

was to gain the benefits of putting all of the

most strategic routes in one vast corridor

from the Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf

under its sole control.  There is evidence

that Akkad maintained maritime economic

connections with the Indus, known as

"Meluhha," via ports in the Persian Gulf.

Thus, Akkad consolidated a privileged position

in the overall economic nexus.  The city

states of Syria and the Levant became the

objects of intense rivalry between Egypt and

Mesopotamia.  Oscillation occurred in the

control of these areas: from the first and

second dynasties of Egypt, over to Akkad, then

to the third dynasty of Ur.  By the nineteenth

century BC, Egypt again exercised influence

over most of the Levant as vassal states.  It

is clear that throughout a considerable

historical period, even to the time of the

Assyrian and then the Persian empires, Syria

and the Levant played a crucial role as

logistical inter-linkage zones and entrepots

within the world system.  They linked the

Mesopotamian, Egyptian, and Indus zones in one

world system. 



4. World System Extension


Accumulation is a major incentive for, and the

ultimate cause of, economic, political, and

military expansion by and inter-linkage within

the world system.  Therefore, the process of

accumulation and its expansion is also

importantly related to the extension of the

boundaries of the world system.  Two

additional analogies of expansion may be

useful to understand the process: the glacier

analogy and the ink blot analogy.  By analogy

to a glacier, the world system expanded along

a course of its own making, in part adapting

to pre-existing topology and in part itself

restructuring this topology.  By analogy to an

ink blot, the world system also spread

outward, beyond its area of early confluence.

Probably the most spectacular single instance

of this expansion was the "discovery" of the

New World and later Oceania.  David Wilkinson

(1987) also sees Central Civilization as

expanding into other areas and societies and

incorporating them into itself.  In one sense,

the process is one of simple incorporation of

previously unincorporated areas, on analogy

with the expansion of an ink blot.

   However, the incorporation of some regions

into the world system also involved processes

more like merger than mere assimilation, as

when two expanding ink blots merge.  For

instance, the incorporation of India, and

especially of China, appear to be more merger

than assimilation.  Mesopotamian trade with

the Indus was apparently well established at

the time of the Akkadian empire.  Repeated

evidence of economic contact with India

exists, though with significant periods of

intermittent disruption.  These disruptions

make it difficult to set a firm date for the

merger of India with the world system.

Chinese urban centers and states appear to

have developed essentially autonomously in the

archaic Shang period.  However, the overland

routes to the central world system to the west

were already opened by the end of the second

millennium BC, particularly as migratory

routes for peoples of Central and Inner Asia.

The actual historical merger of Chinese

complexes into the world system comes only

after state formation in China reached a more

advanced stage, in the late Zhou period.  A

series of loose hegemons began with Duke Huan

of Qi (685-643 BC) and a process of

unification of smaller feudatories into larger

territorial states occurred.  According to

Wolfram Eberhard (1977), the eventual victory

of the state of Qin and the creation of the

first centralized empire in China was

influenced by Qin's strong trade relations

with Central Asia.  These economic connections

allowed Qin to accumulate considerable profit

from trade.  The Wei and Tao valleys of the

Qin state were "the only means of transit from

east to west.  All traffic from and to Central

Asia had to take this route" (Eberhard, 1977


   The maintenance of maritime and overland

trade routes, and the peoples located in the

areas between major zones, play key logistical

interlinkage roles in the process of merger.

In the formation of the world system, the

interaction of high civilization with tribal

peoples, especially in Inner and Central Asia,

but also in Arabia and Africa, played a

crucial but largely neglected role, to which

we shall return below.








1. Maritime Routes


The advertising blurb of the just published

The Sea-Craft of Prehistory by Paul Johnstone

(1989) reads "the nautical dimension of

prehistory has not received the attention it

deserves....  Recent research has shown that

man travelled and tracked over greater

distances and at a much earlier date than has

previously been thought possible.  Some of

these facts can be explained by man's mastery

of water transport from earliest times."

Generally the sea routes were cheaper and

favored over the overland ones.  Some

particularly important maritime routes are

discussed below.



2. The Silk Roads


The Silk Roads formed a sort of spinal column

and rib cage - or more analogously perhaps,

the circulatory system - of the body of this

world system for some 2000 years before 1500

AD.  These "roads" extended overland between

China, through Inner and Central Asia, to the

"Middle East" (West Asia).  From there, they

extended through the Mediterranean into Africa

and Europe.  However, this overland complex

was also connected by numerous maritime silk

"road" stretches through the Mediterranean,

Black Sea, Red Sea, Persian Gulf, and along

many rivers.  Moreover, the predominantly

overland Silk Road complex was complemented by

a vast maritime Silk Road network centered on

the Indian Ocean through the Arabian Sea and

Bay of Bengal, and on the South China Sea.

These maritime Silk Roads in turn were

connected by overland portage across the Kra

isthmus on the Malay Peninsula, as well as by

ship through the Malaccan Straits between it

and Sumatra, etc.       The Silk Roads of course

derive their name from China's principal

export product to the West.  However, the

trade of items and peoples extended far beyond

silk alone.  Indeed, the silk had to be paid

for and complemented by a large variety of

other staple and luxury goods, money and

services, including enslaved and other people

who performed them.  Thus, the Silk Roads also

served as the trade routes, urban and

administrative centers, and military,

political, and cultural sinews of a vast and

complex division of labor and cultural



3. Central Asia


If one looks at a map of Eurasia, it becomes

clear that Central Asia (in present

Afghanistan and Soviet Central Asia) was well

positioned to act as the ultimate nodal

center.  Central Asia was the crossroads of a

world system in which China, India, Persia,

Mesopotamia, the Levant and the Mediterranean

basin all participated.  For instance, Central

Asia played a key role in the joint

participation in the world system of Han

China, Gupta India, Parthian Persia and the

Roman empire.

   However, Central and Inner Asia were also

more than the meeting points of others.  Inner

and Central Asia also originated their own

cycles of outward invasory/migratory movements

in all directions.  These cycles lasted an

average of approximately two centuries and

occurred in roughly half millennium intervals.

For instance, there were waves of invasions

from 1700-1500 BC, 1200-1000 BC, around 500

BC, around 0, from 400-600 AD and

1000-1200/1300 AD.  Each inner wave pushed out

outer waves, except the last one of Chinggis

Khan and his successors to Tamerlane after

him, who overran all themselves. 

   Whether or not all these invasions

responded to climatic changes, presumably they

were both cause  and effect  of  changes in

rates of  demographic growth and  decline,

which  may  in turn have climatic causes.

However, they were also caused by - and in

turn had effects on - the ecological,

socioeconomic and political relations with

their civilized neighbors.  Thus, Inner and

Central Asia and its pulse require special

attention in world system history.  How

central was Central Asia to world system

history?  To what extent was Central Asia, and

not primarily the other civilized areas,

something of a motor force of change in the

whole system?  How was the rise and decline of

various cities (Samarkand!) and states in this

area related to system wide developments in


   The place and role of Central Asia is as

important as it is neglected.  The entire

development of the world system has been

profoundly affected by the successive waves of

invasion from the Eurasian steppes on the

perimeter of the agro-industrial zones.  This

"system implosion" is such a major phenomenon

that it cries out for systemic study and

explanation.  These system implosions were not

deus ex machina, but integral to the overall

developmental logic of the world system's

expansionary trajectory.  In particular, the

invasions and migrations from Inner and

Central Asia were always instrumental in

transforming the economic, social, political

and cultural life of their neighboring

civilizations - and in forming their racial

and ethnic complexions.  Nor has the

enormously important role of Central Asia as

an intermediary zone in the world system

received the systematic analysis which its

functions merit.  Other nomadic and tribal

peoples, for instance on the Arabian Peninsula

before Mohammed and in much of Africa, also

participated in world system history and world

accumulation in ways which have not been

acknowledged except by very few specialists. 


4. The Three Corridors and Logistic Nexuses


Three magnets of attraction for political

economic expansion stand out.  One is sources

of human (labor) and/or material inputs (land,

water, raw materials, precious metal, etc.)

and technological inputs into the process of

accumulation.  The second is markets to

dispose of one zone's surplus production to

exchange for more inputs, and to capture

stored value.  The third, and perhaps most

significant, are the most privileged nexuses

or logistical corridors of inter-zonal trade.

Bottleneck control over the supply routes of

raw materials, especially of metals and other

strategic materials, plays a key role in

attracting powers to such areas.  This may

also provide a basis upon which to make a bid

for expansion of imperial power.  Especially

here, economic, political and military

conflict and/or cultural, "civilizational,"

religious and ideological influence all offer

special advantages.  That is, special

advantages for tapping into the accumulation

and the system of exploitation of other zones

in benefit of one's own accumulation.

Therefore, it is not mere historical

coincidence that these three nexus areas have

recurrently been the fulcra of rivalry,

commerce, and of religious and other cultural

forms of diffusion. 

   Certain strategically placed regions and

corridors have played such especially

important roles in world system development.

They have been magnets which attracted the

attention of expansionist powers and also of

migrants and invaders.  Major currents of

thought also migrated through them.  This

attention is based on their role in the

transfer of surplus within the world system,

without which the world system does not exist.

Certain metropoles have become attractive in

and of themselves due to their positions along

trade corridors, the growth of a market within

the metropolitan city, and the accumulated

wealth of the metropole itself.  The rise and

fall of great regional metropolitan centers

and their "succession" reflects extra-regional

changes in which they participate.  For

example, the succession of metropoles in Egypt

from Memphis to Alexandria to Cairo reflects

fundamental underlying shifts in world system

structure.  So does the succession in

Mesopotamia from Babylon to Seleucia to


   Three nexus corridors have played a

particularly pivotal and central logistical

interlinkage role in the development of the

world system. 


1.  The Nile - Red Sea corridor (with canal

or overland connections between           them and to

the Mediterranean Sea, and open access to the

Indian      Ocean and beyond). 

2.  The Syria - Mesopotamia - Persian Gulf

corridor (with overland routes            linking the

Mediterranean coast through Syria, on via the

Orontes,    Euphrates and Tigris rivers, to the

Persian Gulf, which gives open access           to the

Indian Ocean and beyond).  This nexus also

offered connections           to overland routes to

Central Asia. 

3.  The Aegean - Black Sea - Central Asia

corridor (connecting the            Mediterranean

via the Dardanelles and Bosporus to the

over-land "Silk         Roads" to and from Central

Asia, from where connecting routes extended

   overland to India and China). 



   The choice between the two primarily sea

route corridors mostly fell to the Persian

Gulf route.  It was both topographically and

climatically preferred to the Red Sea route.

Moreover, the Persian Gulf corridor had

connecting routes overland to Central Asia,

which came to serve as a central node in the

transfer of surplus among the major zones of

the world system.

   These three nexus corridors represented not

only mere routes of trade.  Repeatedly, they

were integrated zones of economic and

political development and recurrently the

locus of attempts to build imperial systems.

As the world system expanded and deepened,

attempts were made by certain powers to place

either two or all three corridors under a

single imperial structure.  Thus, such a power

would control the key logistical interlinkages

which have been central to the world system.

For instance, the Assyrian empire attempted to

control both the Syrian - Mesopotamian

corridor and the Nile - Red Sea corridor, but

succeeded only briefly and sporadically.  The

Persian empire likewise controlled both these

corridors for a time, and it also had partial

control over the Aegean - Black Sea - Central

Asian corridor.  Thus the Persian empire is

the first historical instance of a "three

corridor hegemony."  Alexander the Great's

grand strategic design for a world empire or

"world system hegemony" included plans to

control all three corridors, plus the Indus

complexes and the west Mediterranean basin.

His successors split the Macedonian conquests

almost precisely into realms parallel to the

three corridors.  They allowed the Indus to

fall out of Seleucid influence to the Mauryan

empire and the west Mediterranean basin to

control by Carthage and Rome.  During the

Hellenistic period, the recurrent rivalries

between the Ptolomaic and Seleucid dynasties

are indicative of continued struggles between

the corridors for privileged position in the

world system's accumulation processes.  Even

the Roman imperium did not entirely unify the

three corridors however, since Mesopotamia was

denied to Rome first by the Parthians, and

later by the Sassanian Persians.  They used

their control of this area to extract

considerable profit from the trade between

Rome, India, and China. 

   Of course, each of these three main

corridors had competing/complimentary

alternative variants and feeder routes of its

own.  For instance, there were several silk

roads between East and West and different

feeder routes in East and Central  Asia and

to/from  South  Asia.  There were also routes

connecting Northern and Western Europe through

the Baltic Sea via the Dnieper, Don, Volga,

and other Ukrainian and Russian  routes.

There were routes connecting the Adriatic to

continental Europe, and the east Mediterranean

to the west Mediterranean.  Similarly,

topological and other factors also favored

some locations and routes as magnets of

attraction and logistic nexuses in and around

Asia.  They deserve much more attention than

they have received in world history.  As the

Asio-Afro-European nexus expanded and

deepened, the number and role of these routes

and choke points increased.  At the same time,

their relative importance changed vis a vis

each other as a result of world system

development.  Locations such as the Straits of

Malacca and of Ceylon had significant

logistical roles for very long periods of

world system development. 

   The three overland and sea route corridors

and their extensions were the most important

nexuses between Europe and Asia for two

millennia before the shift to transoceanic

routes in the fifteenth and sixteenth

centuries.  This historic shift from the

centrality of the three corridors to that of

transoceanic logistical interlinkages was

probably the single most important logistical

shift in world history and world system

development.  However, rather than creating it

a la Wallerstein (l974), the shift occurred

within the already existing world system. 








1. Infrastructural Investment and Accumulation


Accumulation implies infrastructural

investment and technological development.

Infrastructural investment takes many forms in

many sectors, such as agriculture,

transportation, communications, the military,

industrial and manufacturing infrastructure,

and bureaucratic administration.  There is

investment even in ideological (symbolic)

infrastructure, both of the cult of the state

and of religion.  In the state form of

accumulation, the state seeks to create social

wealth in order to extract it.  By laying the

basis for increases in production and

facilitating accumulation, the state increases

its own access to surplus and therefore its

potential capabilities vis a vis rival states.

This in turn helps it to protect "what we've

got" and to get more.  In the private form,

the propertied elites likewise create wealth

in order to extract it and invest in

infrastructure to facilitate production and

thereby accumulation.  The ultimate rationale

of such investment would in all cases be to

preserve, enhance, and expand the basis of

accumulation itself.  The development of

infrastructure and the technology it embodies

feed back into the generation of surplus and

accumulation.  This growth of surplus in turn

feeds back into further growth and development

of infrastructure and technology in cumulative

fashion.  The pattern is spiral, whereby the

world system itself grows and becomes more

firmly "established" via infrastructural

investment and accumulation. 


2. Technological Innovation


Technological progress in techniques of

production, organization and trade, both

military and civilian, has long played an

important, and often neglected, role in the

history of the world system and in the

changing relations among its parts.

Technological advance and advantage has been

crucial throughout history in armaments,

shipping and other transportation as well as

in construction, agriculture, metalworking and

other manufacturing methods and facilities.

Progress, leads, and lags in all of these have

had significant contributory if not causative

effects on (and also some derivative effects

from) the regional and other relations of

inequality within the world system.  Some

examples were examined by William McNeill

(1982) in The Pursuit of Power.          

Infrastructural investment is linked to

technological change and to organizational

innovation.  Technological change in archaic

and ancient periods, and even in medieval

periods, was mostly slower than in modern

industrial times.  However, the essence of

patterned relationships between technological

innovation, infrastructural investment cycles,

and the cycles of accumulation and hegemony

(discussed below) probably have existed

throughout history.  When and what were the

most significant technological innovations in

world system history?  Which innovations

brought about restructuring of accumulation

and of hegemony in the world system?  Which

altered the logistical interlinkages?  The

diffusion of technology across the world

system is another major area for systematic

and systemic analysis. 

   In the general period of the

contemporaneous Roman/Byzantine, Par-

thian/Persian Sassanian, Indian Mauryan/Gupta

and Chinese Han empires, cumulative

infrastructural investments integrated each of

these empires into a single world system.

This high level of systemic integration was

achieved   via the  well-developed logistic

nexuses  and the simultaneity of imperial

expansion.  At the end of that period, the

entire world system experienced a general

crisis.  Hinterland peoples from Inner and

Central Asia invaded Rome, Persia, India and

China.  They caused (or followed?) a decline

in infrastructural investment and (temporary)

serious disruption of the world system's

logistical interlinkages compared to the

previous era.

   How is infrastructural investment linked to

productivity and increases in productivity to

the processes of accumulation in the world

system?  Technological innovation and

technological change has been pervasive in

world system development.  Gordon Childe

(1942) pioneered a materialist analysis of the

effects of technology on the ancient economy.

Logistic capabilities, for instance those of

maritime trade, depend on technological

capability.  So does the dynamic of military

rivalry.  Indeed, the expansion of the world

system depended from the outset on

technological capabilities.  Invasions from

the "barbarian" perimeter to the civilized

centers depended upon the technological and

military superiorities of the barbarians.

Such invasions did not cease until "civilized"

technological developments made the attainment

of military superiority by the barbarians

virtually impossible.  By asserting a new

military-technological superiority, the

Russian and Manchu empires finally put an end

to the strategic threat of Inner Asia in the

seventeenth and eighteenth centuries AD. 

   The industrial revolution gave European

powers the military capability to destroy or

subordinate contemporary empires in the world

system such as the Mughal in India, the Qing

in China, and the Ottoman in the three

corridors region. 


3. Ecology


Technology has always been intimately

associated with the ecological interface of

the world system and its natural resource

base.  For instance, the technologies of

farming created a secular trend to place more

and more area under agricultural production,

thus to increase the sources of agricultural

surplus.  Particular technological innovations

have dramatically affected the ecological

interface, particularly those of

industrialized production.  Since the

introduction of these technologies, the trend

has been their extension across more and more

of the world system, often with devastating

ecological consequences. 

   There have been instances when

environmental conditions brought about major

changes in world system development.  For

instance, the salination of soils and silting

up of irrigation works affected the relative

economic strength of certain zones.  For

example, already before and even more after

the sacking of Baghdad by the Mongols in 1258,

Mesopotamia experienced relative decline.

This was partly due to such environmental

factors, and partly to shifts in logistical

interlinkages in the world system. 

   Certain areas have been extremely difficult

to incorporate into the world system for

primarily ecological and/or topographical

reasons.  These difficulties (still)

characterize, for instance, the Tibetan

plateau, the Amazonian basin, the Great

Northern Arctic of Canada and the Soviet

Union, and Antarctica.  The social ecology of

the peoples of Inner Asia, which Owen

Lattimore (1940) contrasted to that of

sedentary agricultural peoples, was a major

factor in the world system's development for

most of world history.  The present ecological

crises of industrial civilization remind us

that ultimately ecology and the natural

environment set limits on the expansion of the

world system and on sustaining production and

accumulation.  If there have been any

ecological cycles, rhythms, or trends, we

should investigate what they are and how they

have affected world system development.







1. Surplus Transfer and Interpenetrating




The capture by elite A here (with or without

its redistribution here) of part of the

economic surplus extracted by elite B there

means that there is "interpenetrating

accumulation" between A and B.  This transfer

or exchange of surplus connects not only the

two elites, but also their "societies'"

economic, social, political, and ideological

organization.  That is, the transfer, exchange

or "sharing" of surplus connects the elite A

here not only to the elite B there.  Surplus

transfer also links the "societies'"

respective processes of surplus management,

their structures of exploitation and

oppression by class and gender, and their

institutions of the state and the economy.

Thus, the transfer or exchange of surplus is

not a socially "neutral" relationship, but

rather a profoundly systemic one.  Through

sharing sources of surplus, the elite A here

and the classes it exploits are systemically

interlinked to the "mode of production," and

even more important, to the mode of

accumulation in B there.  By extension, if

part of the surplus of elite B here is also

traded, whether through equal or more usually

unequal exchange, for part of the surplus

accumulated by elite C there, then not only B

and C but also A and C are systemically linked

through the intermediary B.  Then A, B and C

are systemically connected in the same

over-arching system of accumulation. 

   This means that surplus extraction and

accumulation are "shared" or

"interpenetrating" across otherwise discrete

political boundaries.  Thus, their elites

participate in each others' system of

exploitation vis a vis the producing classes.

This participation may be through economic

exchange relations via the market or through

political relations (e.g., tribute), or

through combinations of both.  All of these

relations characterize the millenarian

relationship, for instance, between the

peoples of China and Inner Asia.  This inter-

penetrating accumulation thus creates a causal

interdependence between structures of

accumulation and between political entities.

Therefore the structure of each component

entity of the world system is saliently

affected by this interpenetration.  Thus,

empirical evidence of such interpenetrating

accumulation through the transfer or exchange

of surplus is the minimum indicator of a

systemic relationship.  Concomitantly, we

should seek evidence that this interlinkage

causes at least some element of economic

and/or political restructuring in the

respective zones.  For instance, historical

evidence of a fiscal crisis in one state or a

zone of the world system (e.g., in third

century Rome) as a consequence of an exchange

of surplus with another zone would be a clear

indicator of a relationship at a high level of

systemic integration.  Evidence of change in

the mode of accumulation and the system of

exploitation in one zone as a function of the

transfer of surplus to another zone would also

constitute evidence of systemic relations.

Evidence of political alliances and/or

conflict related to participation in a system

of transfer of surplus would also be

considered evidence of a systemic relation-

ship.  According to these criteria, if

different "societies," empires, and

civilizations, as  well as other  "peoples,"

regularly exchanged surplus, then they also

participated in the same world system.  That

is "society" A here could and would not be the

same as it was in the absence of its contact

with B there, and vice versa. 

   Trade in high value luxury items, not to

mention precious metals in particular, may,

contra Wallerstein (1974, 1989), be even more

important than lower value staple trade in

defining systemic relations.  This is because

the high value "luxury" trade is essentially

an inter-elite exchange.  These commodities,

besides serving elite consumption or

accumulation, are typically also stores of

value.  They embody aspects of social

relations of production, which reproduce the

division of labor, the class structure, and

the mode of accumulation.  Precious metals are

only the most obvious example, but many

"luxury" commodities have played a similar

role, as is admirably argued by Jane Schneider

in chapter 2 above.  Thus, trade in both high

value "luxury" items and staple commodities

are indicators of interpenetrating


2. Center-Periphery-Hinterland (CPH)


Center-periphery-hinterland (CPH) complexes

and hierarchies among different peoples,

regions and classes have always been an

important part of world system structure.

However, the occupancy of musical chair places

within this structure has frequently changed

and contributed to the dynamics of world

system historical development.  To what extent

(and why?) have the world system and its parts

been characterized by center-periphery and

other structural inequalities?  Wallerstein

(1974 and other works) and Frank (l978 a,b,

1981) among others, have posed questions and

offered answers about the center-periphery

structure of the world system since 1500.

Ekholm and Friedman (l982), Chase-Dunn and

Hall (Chapter 1) and others are trying to

apply similar analyses to world systems before

1500.  The "necessity" of a division between

center and periphery and the "function" of

semiperipheries in between are increasingly

familiar, not the least thanks to the

widespread critiques of these ideas.

Chase-Dunn and Hall (Chapter 1) survey the

propositions and debates.  Wilkinson (Chapter

4) examines center-periphery structures all

over the world for 5,000  years.  Rowlands,

Larsen, and Kristiansen (1987) analyze center

and periphery in the ancient world.  Indeed,

now this entire book is dedicated to examining

precapitalist center-periphery relations.  We

argue, however, that these relations also

characterize this same world system for

several millennia back.

   Chase Dunn and Hall (Chapter 1) and

Wilkinson (Chapter 4) have already made the

argument that center-periphery hierarchies

characterize systemic development much further

back in world historical  development than

1500 AD.  In fact, center-periphery relations

characterize development since the origins of

the state and systems of states.  However, we

agree with Thomas Hall (l986 and chapter 7

below) that we need a more comprehensive

"center-periphery-hinterland" (CPH) concept

than most  other scholars have used.  Hall

(l986) refers to "contact peripheries."  This

hinterland is not directly penetrated by the

extracting classes of the center, but

nevertheless    it has systemic links with the

center-periphery zone and its processes of

accumulation.  Wallerstein's use of the term

hinterland to mean external to the world

system is insufficient because it neglects the

structural and systemic significance of zones

which are "outside" of, but nonetheless

related to, the center-periphery complex.  We,

of course, wish to stress the contribution to

accumulation among all participants,

especially through the transfer of surplus,

made by these hinterland-periphery-center

"contacts."  These CPH relationships have been

insufficiently analyzed.

   The CPH complex does not refer to mere

geographical position, nor only to unequal

levels of development.  CPH also refers to the

relations among the classes, peoples and

"societies" that constitute the mode of

accumulation.  The CPH complex is the basic

social complex upon which hegemony, as

discussed below, is constructed in a larger

systemic context.  More research is necessary

on how "geographical" position in a hegemonic

structure affects class position in the CPH

complex.  We could expect to find that the

class structure of a hegemonic state may be

significantly altered by the surplus that this

state accumulates from its subordinates in the

CPH complex.  For example, the subsidy to the

plebeian class of Rome may be taken as an

example of such systemic effects.  Conversely,

we might expect a CPH complex to give rise to

increased exploitation of producers in

subordinate positions. 

   The "hinterland" contains natural

resources, including human labor, which are

tapped by the center-periphery.  However, what

distinguishes the hinterland from the

periphery is that the peoples of the

hinterland are not fully, institutionally,

subordinate to the center in terms of surplus

extraction.  That is, they retain some degree

of social autonomy.  If a hinterland people

come under political means of extraction by

the center, then the process of

"peripheralization" begins.  Nevertheless,

despite a degree of social autonomy from the

center, the hinterland is in systemic

relations with the center.  The frequency of

center-hinterland conflict is one indicator of

such systemic relations.  The hinterland may

also have functional roles in logistical

interlinkage.  In this sense, the hinterland

may facilitate the transfer of surplus between

zones of the world system.  These roles of

hinterlands merit as much theoretical

attention in determining positional shifts and

systems change as those of semiperipheries.

   The center (or core) - periphery -

hinterland concept is not intended to replace,

but to extend, Wallerstein's (1974 and

elsewhere, Arrighi and Drangel 1986) core -

semiperiphery - periphery formulation.

However, the semiperiphery has always been a

weak and confusing link in the argument.  The

hinterland "extension" may confuse it still

further and may counsel reformulation of the

whole complex.  For instance at a recent

conference (with Wallerstein, Arrighi and

Frank among others), Samir Amin suggested that

the semiperiphery has functionally become the

real periphery, because it is exploited by the

center; while the "periphery" has been

marginalized out of the system, because it no

longer has anything (or anybody) for the

center to exploit for its own accumulation.

As argued above however, historically the

hinterland has also contributed to core

accumulation in the CPH complex. 

   Thus, CPH complexes are integral to the

structure of the world system in all periods.

They must be studied, not only comparatively,

but also in their combination and interaction

in the world system.  It is important to

examine how center - periphery zones expanded

into the hinterland in order to  understand

the way in which accumulation processes were

involved.  The rationales of expansion and

assimilation in the hinterland  appear to be

related to the "profitability" of such

expansion, in terms of tapping new sources of

surplus.  They also help resolve internal

contradictions in the center-periphery

complex  brought  about  as a result of

exploitation and demographic pressure.  Class

conflict in the center-periphery complex is

affected by the expansion of accumulation into

the hinterland.  Demographic trends are an

important factor; the hinterland provides new

resources to sustain the growing population of

the center-periphery zone.  The physical

geographical limits of hinterland

peripheralization by the center seem to be set

by both logistical capabilities and by a

cost-benefit calculus.  Areas are occupied

primarily if they can be made to pay for the

cost of their own occupation or are deemed to

be strategically necessary to protect another

profitable area.  Conversely, such areas are

again abandoned if, or when, their occupation

proves to be too costly.  Fortification at

such systemic boundaries has a dual function

of keeping the barbarians out and keeping the

producers in.  That is, such fortification

impedes military disruption of the zone of

extraction and also impedes the escape of

dependent-subordinate producers into the

"free" zone.


3. "Barbarian" Nomad - Sedentary

"Civilization" Relations


It is important to examine how systemic links

between center and hinterland are formed.  How

does the hinterland interact over time with

the center-periphery complex and thereby

affect changes in the structure of that

complex itself, and vice versa?  A

particularly important aspect of this question

is the nature of the historical relations

between the so-called tribal "barbarians" and

the so-called "civilized" "societies."  How

are the barbarians "assimilated" into

civilization and yet also transform

civilization?  Throughout most of world

history, this barbarian-civilization

relationship has been crucial to the

territorial expansion of the state,

imperialism, and "civilization."

   The work of Arnold Toynbee (1973), Thomas

Hall (1986, 1989), Eric Wolf (1982), William

McNeill (1964) and Owen Lattimore (1940, 1962)

illuminate many aspects of how these

center-periphery-hinterland hierarchies are

created, deepened, and systemically

transformed.  Toynbee's "system implosion" is

of particular interest.  Robert Gilpin (1981)

follows Toynbee to show how an older center is

eventually encircled and engulfed by new

states on the periphery, which implode into

the center.  Thus, a "center-shift" takes

place by way of an implosion from the former

periphery to the center of the system.  For

instance, this occurred with the creation of

the Qin empire at the end of the Warring

States period in China.  It also happened with

the creation of the Macedonian empire at the

end of the classical period in Greece.  In

even earlier examples of such hinterland

impact, the "tribal" Guti, the Amorites, the

Kassites, and the Akkadians were intimately

involved in the political cycles of archaic

Mesopotamia.  Each of these peoples made a

transition from hinterland roles to that of

ruling class in the center.  Moreover, these

invasions of the center by the hinterland

took place for systemic reasons, not just

gratuitously.  Eberhard (1977) and Gernet

(l985) analyze how Inner Asian nomads

repeatedly invaded China to appropriate its

productive structure and economic surplus.

Frederick Teggart's (1939) study of

correlations of historical events in Rome and

China analyzes the systemic causal connections

across the whole Asio-Afro-European economic

nexus, which caused hinterland-center conflict

in one zone to affect relations in another

zone.  The sequencing of conflicts follows a

logic that corresponds to both logistical

elements in the nexus, struggles over shares

of accumulation, and social tensions due to

the expansionary pressure of the

center-periphery complex into the hinterland.













1. Modes of Accumulation



If we are to study any "modes" at all, we

might better study the modes of accumulation,

instead of the "mode of production."  In the

world system, production is the means to an

end.  That end is consumption and accumula-

tion.  It may be useful to study the

differences, the mutual relations,

combinations or the "articulations" of

"public" (state) and "private" and

"redistributive" and "market" modes of

accumulation.  It is doubtful that any of

these modes, or other modes, have ever existed

alone in any pure form anywhere.  However, we

should study not only how modes of

accumulation differ and combine with each

other "locally," but also how they

interconnect with each other throughout the

world system as a whole.  Thus, world system

history should both differentiate and combine

modes of accumulation: horizontally through

space as well as vertically through time.  The

"articulation" of modes is a way of analyzing

how the mode(s) of accumulation in one zone of

the world system is(are) affected by systemic

links with other zones' mode(s) of

accumulation.  Can the overall world system be

characterized by a single mode of

accumulation?  If not, why not?

   Shifting the focus of analysis from

production to accumulation need not abandon

analysis of the class structure.  In fact, a

focus on the relations of accumulation should

sharpen the analysis of class relations.

Geoffrey de Ste Croix (1981) argues that the

key to every social formation is how the

"propertied classes" extract the surplus from

the working classes and ensure themselves a

leisured existence.  He defines a mode of

production based on the means by which the

propertied classes obtain most of their

surplus.  This approach is an alternative to

trying to determine what form of relations of

production characterize the entire social

formation.  That is, he focuses on the

dominant mode of accumulation.  Ste Croix

delineates several means of extracting

surplus: wages, coerced labor (in many

variants), rent, and through the state (via

taxes, corvee labor, and through

"imperialism").  Interestingly, Ste Croix

explains the fall of the late Roman empire as

due primarily to gross over-extraction of

surplus, over-concentration of wealth in the

hands of the upper classes, and the

over-expansion of the bureaucratic and

military apparatus (1981 pp 502-503).  The

latter is similar to Paul Kennedy's (1987)

argument about military-economic overextension

in The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers.

This analysis implies a link between cycles of

accumulation and cycles of hegemony, to which

we will return below. 

   Equal, or perhaps even greater, analytical

emphasis is necessary on horizontal

inter-elite conflicts over apportioning

"shares" of the available social surplus.

This struggle has its focus in the ultimate

political determination of the mode of

accumulation.  To say that the elites of

different zones of the world system share in

each others' system of exploitation and

surplus extraction through interpenetrating

accumulation, is not to deny possible

differences between these zones in terms of

the mode of accumulation.  The exchange or

transfer of social surplus both affects and is

affected by class structure.  However,

interpenetrating accumulation affects both the

producing strata and the

extracting-accumulating strata, though in

different ways. 


2. Transitions in Modes of Accumulation



Perhaps the single greatest weakness in

historical materialism to date has been the

failure to theorize transitions between modes

in a world systemic context.  Traditional

Marxist interpretations of world historical

development relied heavily on a schema of

transitions between modes of production in a

predetermined unilinear progression.  This

overly simplistic framework of analysis has

long since been abandoned and revised by most

historical materialists.  We propose instead

to study transitions between modes of

accumulation.  However, they did not occur

merely within each "separate" zone of the

world system.  Rather they were the key

determinants of transition in both the "parts"

and especially the whole of the world system.

Therefore, the research task is not to search

solely or even primarily for indigenously

generated determinants of transition between

modes, but rather to analyze the overall

interactions of each zone of the world system

with the dynamic of the entire world system.

This is true of both the economic and the

political aspects of modes of accumulation. 

   It would also be a mistake to attempt too

strict an analytical separation between

"agrarian" and "industrial" modes of

accumulation in the world system.  Even in

very archaic phases of the world system, the

economic nexus included non-agricultural

sources of production and accumulation.  The

role of industry and commerce before the onset

of "industrialization" in the modern world

system require much more study than they have

received.  The associated social and political

relations of accumulation have changed very

significantly across world historical time,

but not in any predetermined or unilinear

progression of modes of accumulation.  The

precise nature and timing of such transitions

is still an open empirical question. 


3. Public/Private Accumulation


In principle, there are four possible

permutations of private and public




 1.  Dominant Private Accumulation (the state

"facilitates" private accumula            tion).

 2.  Dominant State Accumulation (private

accumulation "facilitates" state         


 3.  All Private Accumulation. 

 4.  All State Accumulation. 


   Type 1, dominant private accumulation, may

correspond to mercantile states and to modern

democratic states.  Type 2, dominant state

accumulation, may characterize a number of

bureaucratic states and empires as well as

certain modern authoritarian regimes.  Type 4,

all state accumulation, might be characterized

by states such as ancient Sparta, the  Inca

empire, and some modern (state) "socialist"

states.  Type 3, all private accumulation,

raises the theoretical question of whether

private accumulation is in fact possible at

all without the state, or at least without the

presence of the state somewhere in the overall

economic nexus.  There may be niches in the

world system's economic nexus where all

private accumulation may occur, but it has

been difficult to identify instances of this.



   State accumulation is typically

characterized by a much larger scale and much

greater potential capabilities to extract

surplus than any sole private accumulator is

capable of organizing.  That is why

"imperialism" is such an attractive means of

accumulation.  State accumulation centralizes

accumulation more than private accumulation.

For this reason, these two modes of

accumulation and their respective elites are

locked into a perpetual conflict over

apportioning the shares of the surplus.  Both

private accumulating classes and the state

elite, as a "state-class," struggle to form a

coalition of class fractions.  Such a

"hegemonic bloc" of class fractions allows

them to cooperate to utilize the political

apparatus to establish the dominant mode of

accumulation.  The oscillation between

predominance by the private accumulators and

the state class in a social formation is a key

dimension of the cycles of accumulation,

discussed below. 


4. Economy/Polity Contradictions


There is a contradiction between a relatively

unbounded economic nexus and a relatively

bounded political organization of this

economic nexus in world system development.

The total economy of the major states and

centers of the world system is not under their

sole political control.  This tension is

universally recognized today as affecting the

structure of modern  capital accumulation.

However, this phenomenon is not new.  This

economy-polity contradiction is characteristic

not only of the so-called contemporary age of

"interdependence," but has in fact always been

a factor in world system development.

   Even though since its origin the world

system has developed logistical interlinkages

that create a single overarching economic

system, the political organization of the

world system has not developed a parallel

unity.  Why is that?  For the modern world

system, Wallerstein (1974 and other works)

argues that the capitalist mode of production

structurally inhibits the creation of a single

"world-empire."  That is, in this view the

resolution of the economy/polity contradiction

in the modern world system by a single

overarching political entity is inhibited by

its capitalist mode of production.  However,

it appears that even in other modes of

accumulation, it has not been possible to

create a single political structure for the

entire world system.  Attempts to do so have

been failures.  The Mongol attempt in the 13th

century perhaps came closest to success.  The

question of why the world system has never

successfully been converted into one political

entity should be seriously posed.  The answer

may be structural, or simply a matter of

logistical and organizational limitations.

Whatever the answer to this question about

politics in the world system, it need not deny

and may even strengthen the thesis of its

essential economic unity. 













1. Hegemony



Hegemony is a hierarchical structure of the

accumulation of surplus among political

entities, and their constituent classes,

mediated by force.  A hierarchy of centers of

accumulation and polities is established that

apportions a privileged share of surplus, and

the political economic power to this end, to

the hegemonic center/state and its

ruling/propertied classes.  Such a hegemonic

structure thus consists schematically of a

hierarchy of CPH complexes in which the

primary hegemonic center of accumulation and

political power subordinates secondary centers

and their respective zones of production and


   The rise and decline of hegemonic powers

and cycles of hegemony and war are lately

receiving increasing attention, e.g., by

Modelski (l987), Thompson (1989), Wallerstein

(1974, 1988), Wight (l978), Goldstein (l988)

and others, and even best seller status

(Kennedy 1987).  Most of these studies confine

themselves to the world system since 1500.

However, (we argue that) the world system

began earlier and was previously centered

outside Europe.  Therefore, the same, and even

more questions, about hegemonic rise, decline,

cycles, and shifts apply - and even more

interestingly - to the larger and older world

system, prior to Europe's rise to

super-hegemonial economic and  political power

within it.  Where and when were there

hegemonic centers in the world system before

1500, and in what sense or how  did they

exercise  their hegemony?  David Wilkinson

(1989) has made a systematic study of world

states and hegemonies that could serve as the

starting point for an answer. 

   The following are some other important

questions.  As one hegemonic center declined,

was it replaced by another and which and why?

Were there periods with various hegemonic

centers?  Did they "coexist" side by side, or

with how much systemic interconnection?  In

that case, did they complement each other, or

did they compete with each other,

economically, militarily, or otherwise until

one (new?) center achieved hegemony over the

others? Rather than continuing to look merely

comparatively at contemporary hegemonic

structures in different zones of the world

system or to investigate the dynamic of each

region separately, we must look at systemic

links among all the constituent political

organizations of the world system.  Of course,

these especially include contemporaneous

hegemonic structures. 

   Hegemony takes a variety of historical

forms.  They vary from highly  centralized

integrated bureaucratic empires, to very

loosely structured commercial or maritime

hegemonies.  In the latter, much of the

surplus is captured not via direct political

coercion, but via commodity exchange, albeit

via unequal exchange.  How and why do these

various forms of hegemony occur at particular

times and places? How do they reflect the

interests of the actors which choose them and

the prevailing conditions in the world system

at the time?

   Given the absence in the historical record

of any single "world system hegemony," we must

look to the rise and decline of hegemonies in

each of the major zones of the world system in

order to construct an overall picture of the

hegemonial cycles, rhythms and trends in the

various regions and their possible relations.

For instance, the oscillation between unitary

hegemonies and multi-actor states systems has

already been recognized as a key pattern of

world historical development (Mann 1986,

Wilkinson 1989).  These oscillations and the

succession of hegemonies in each part of the

world system should not be analyzed only on a

comparative basis, but from a world systemic

perspective.  Only in this way can the

dynamics of the world system's economy/polity

contradiction be more fully understood. 

   All this suggests that the primary object

and principal economic incentive of a bid for

hegemony is to restructure the overarching

system of accumulation in a way that

privileges the hegemon for capital/surplus

accumulation.  Simply put, hegemony is a means

to wealth, not merely to "power" or "order."

That is, "power" in the world system is both

economic and political at all times.  In fact,

economic power is political power, and vice

versa.  Turning Michael Mann (1986) on his

head, the ends of power are above all control

over accumulation processes and the

determination of the dominant mode of

accumulation.  The processes of accumulation

are more fundamental to world system history

than Mann's forms of social power per se.  The

political and economic processes in the world

system are so integral as to constitute a

single process rather than two separate ones.

Success in accumulation plays a critical role

in success in a bid for hegemony.  This is

true not only of modern states, but even of

archaic ones.  For instance, the victory of

the state of Qin in the Warring States period

in Chinese history depended greatly on its

innovations in tax structure, infrastructural

investments, bureaucratic administration, and

trade links to the world system.  All of these

gave the Qin very real advantages in

accumulation and in military capabilities over

its more traditional "feudal" rivals. 



2. Cycles of Accumulation and Hegemony


The perpetual "symbiotic conflict" between

private accumulating classes and state

accumulating classes is indicative of cycles

of accumulation.  The oscillation between

unitary hegemonies and multi-actor states

systems is indicative of cycles of hegemony in

the world system.  Cycles of accumulation and

cycles of hegemony are probably causally

interrelated.  This causal inter- relationship

appears to date from very early in world

system history in various parts of the world


   These cycles and their interrelationship

are the central phenomena of the world

system's longest cumulative patterns.  These

cycles have partly been analyzed by Gills'

(1989) analysis of synchronization,

conjuncture, and center-shift in the cycles of

East Asian history.  Briefly, prior to the in-

dustrialization of production, the phase of

accumulation in which private accumulating

classes become dominant seems to be closely

associated with the decline of hegemonies and

their political fragmentation.  That is,

decentralization of accumulation affects the

decentralization of political organization.

These processes may be called "entropic."

Phases of accumulation in which the

bureaucratic state elite is dominant seem to

be associated with the consolidation of

hegemonies.  That is, the centralization of

accumulation affects the centralization of

political organization and vice versa.

However, rising and declining hegemonies also

call forth opposing (and also temporarily

supporting) alliances to thwart existing and

threatening hegemonial powers.  Shifting

alliances seem to promote some kind of

"balance of power."  All this may seem

obvious, but the cyclical dynamic of hegemony

(also through political conflict and shifting

alliances) in relation to the process of

accumulation has not previously been given the

attention it deserves. 

   Implosion from the hinterland upon the

center appears to be most likely to occur in

entropic phases of the system.  The

hinterland, and perhaps the periphery, take

advantage of weakness or entropy in the center

to restructure the structure of accumulation.

This may occur by usurping political power at

the center, or by "secession" from the center


   Too much attention has been given only to

the political and strategic aspects of long

cycles of war and leadership to the exclusion

of the underlying dynamics of accumulation.

General war, as Modelski (1987) argues, does

indeed produce new sets of victors who go on

to establish a new order.  However, one should

not merely examine the political and military

aspects of these cycles.  The new victors,

without exception, also proceed to restructure

the structure of world accumulation.  This,

and not mere political realignments or "order"

alone, is the ultimate end of such general

conflict.  The intense military rivalry that

precedes hegemony may stimulate production,

but much of the economic benefit is consumed

in the process of rivalry and war.  Typically,

a new hegemony is followed by a period of

infrastructural investment and economic

expansion, which is "the hegemonic prosperity

phase" of accumulation.  A unified hegemony

usually reduces or even eliminates previous

political obstructions to the greater

integration of the economic nexus.  This has a

tremendous impact on the process of


   We must contemplate the existence, and

study the development of a wider world system

farther back in world history to find answers

to a host of questions about the dynamics of

states systems and cycles of accumulation and

hegemony.  Particularly important are

questions about the existence of world system

wide accumulation processes and shifts in the

centralization of accumulation from one zone

of the world system to another.  How do such

shifts affect cycles of hegemony? What are the

real patterns and "laws" of the world system's

overall expansion, transformation, and decay?



3. Super-Hegemony


The historical process of economic surplus

management and capital accumulation is so

interregional and inter-"societal" as to lead

to the conclusion that it constituted a

process of world accumulation in the world

system over the millennia.  A privileged

position therein, in which one zone of the

world system and its constituent

ruling-propertied classes is able to

accumulate surplus more effectively and

concentrate accumulation at the expense of

other zones, could be called "super-hegemony."

Thus, super-hegemony is also a class position

in the overarching world accumulation

processes of the world system.  Thus, while

there may at one time be different hegemonic

powers in the regional subsystems, only one of

them would be "super-hegemonic" if and when it

is "more equal than the others" some of whose

accumulation it manages to channel to itself

and to centralize in its own super-hegemonic

"super-accumulation."  A research agenda is to

examine the causes of possible super-hegemony,

positional shifts from one zone to another,

and the degree to which super-hegemony is

transformed into further economic and

political power within the world system.

While hegemony is built up of CPH complexes,

super-hegemony occurs in the largest field

possible, that of the entire world system and

all of its constituent hegemonic structures.

   Thus, super-hegemony links all the

constituent hegemonies into one overarching

systemic whole.  Of course, the degree of

institutional integration among distinct

hegemonies is not as great as the degree of

integration within each hegemony.

Nevertheless, contemporary and/or contiguous

hegemonies are not autonomous if

inter-penetrating accumulation exists.  In the

entire class structure of the world system, in

whatever mode of accumulation, the

super-hegemonial class position is the most

privileged and the ultimate "center of

centers" in the world accumulation process. 

   To what extent did this overarching

super-hegemony rest or operate on more than

the mere outward exercise of political power

and the radiation of cultural diffusion? In

particular, to what extent and through  what

mechanisms did such overarching super-hegemony

include centralized (super-hegemonial) capital

accumulation? Was accumulation fed through the

inward flow and absorption of economic surplus

generated in and/or transferred through other

(sub)-hegemonial centers?  The answers to both

questions are in general affirmative, and we

can find ample confirmative historical

evidence if we only look for it.  For

instance, William McNeill (in conversation

with Frank) suggests that China itself

accumulated capital by absorbing surplus and

capital from the West in the several centuries

before 1500 AD.  Was China therefore

super-hegemonial? Prior to China, India was

possibly super-hegemonial in the world system.

In the period of the eighth and ninth

centuries AD, the Abbassid Caliphate, with its

great metropole at Baghdad, may have been

super-hegemonial.  The development of European

domination over the Mughal, Qing and Ottoman

empires should, however, also be understood in

terms of the conjuncture of European expansion

and these regions' entropic phases of

accumulation and hegemony.  In the nineteenth

century, Great Britain is a candidate for

super-hegemonial status, followed by the

United States in the mid-twentieth century,

and possibly Japan in the very late twentieth

and early twenty-first century. 

   Thus, super-hegemony need not be limited

only to the capitalist world economy, but may

have existed at other times in the history of

world system development.  Super-hegemony is

more flexible than empire, or imperialism.

Super-hegemony operates not only through

political and inter-state level(s) of

diplomacy, alliance, and war, but also and

maybe more importantly, through


   If super-hegemony existed before recent

times, how, when and why did the

super-hegemonial center of the world system,

the most favored locus of accumulation, shift

around the world system?  What effects did

such shifts in super-hegemonial centers have

upon and what "functional" role, if any, did

they play in the world system's development?

For instance, the super-hegemony of the

Abbassids in the eighth century was reflected

in their ability to defeat Tang China at Talas

in 751, their treaty of alliance with the Tang

in 798 AD, and their continued ability to

control Central Asia.  Perhaps the

super-hegemony of Britain contributed to its

ability to arbitrate the balance of power on

the continent of Europe and to defeat bids to

impose a unitary hegemony, such as that by

Napoleon?  The super-hegemony of the United

States after 1945 allowed it to restructure

the international order and greatly expand its

economic and military influence in the world

system.  It remains to be seen whether or how

Japan might translate super-hegemonial status

in world accumulation processes into further

political and economic power in the world

system in the twenty-first century.


4. Cumulation of Accumulation


How long, then, has there been an overarching

and interpenetrating world system process of

capital accumulation, which affected the

structure of the structures of which it is

composed?  In other words, how long has there

been a cumulative process of capital

accumulation on a world system scale? The

(occasional and temporary) existence of

super-hegemony also implies super accumulation

at those times, as noted above.  Even in the

absence of super-hegemony, however, the

process of accumulation in one zone of the

world system would not have been the same

without the linkages to the process of

accumulation in another zone or zones of the

world system.  Therefore, even competing

hegemonies and linked structures and processes

of accumulation could have contributed to the

world system wide cumulation of accumulation.

Indeed, such an overarching structure of

accumulation and the resulting process of

cumulation of accumulation implies that there

may be a unitary "logic" of systemic


   The cumulation of accumulation in the world

system thus implies not only a continuous, but

also a cumulative, historical process of

ecological, economic, technological, social,

political, and cultural change.  Cumulation of

accumulation involves or requires no

uniformity among these processes throughout

the system or its parts, no unison among its

parts, no unidirectionality of change in

either the parts or the whole, and certainly

no uniformity of speed of change. 

   On the contrary, both the historical

evidence and our analysis suggest unity

through diversity (to use the phrase Mikhail

Gorbachev used at the United Nations).  The

unity of the world system and its cumulative

process of accumulation is based on the

diversity of center-periphery-hinterland, mode

of accumulation, and hegemonic differences we

have emphasized.  Of course they also rest on

the variety of social, gender, racial, ethnic,

cultural, religious, ideological and other

differences, which characterize wo/mankind.

Historical change in both the whole (system)

and its parts takes place in many

"progressive" and "retrogressive" directions,

and not unidirectionally or even in unison

between here and there. 

   For this reason among others, historical

change also takes place and even cumulates,

not uniformly, but at changing rates,

sometimes fast, sometimes  slowly, sometimes

(degenerating)  in reverse.  Indeed, as in

physical transformations and in biological

evolution, historical change suddenly

accelerates and/or bifurcates at critical

junctures.  More than likely, contemporaries

are rarely aware that they are living and

acting in such "special" periods -- and many

who think so at other times, are not.

Hindsight seems to throw more light on history

than foresight or even contemporary side-sight

or introspection.  Yet even historical

hindsight has a long way to go, especially in

grasping the dynamics and variability of

historical change.  We briefly return to these

problems below under the title of "dynamics."

















1. Historical Materialist Political Economic

Summary and Conclusions



In this paper we made three key arguments.

The first is that the world system pre-dates

the development of modern capitalism, perhaps

by several thousand years.  The second is that

accumulation processes are the most important

and fundamental processes of the world system

throughout its development.  The third

argument is that, though the mode of

accumulation underwent many historical

transformations, there has been a continuous

and cumulative process of accumulation in the

world system.  Therefore, we argue that a new

research agenda is needed to focus more

analysis on these cumulative processes of

accumulation over the entire historical

development of the world system - of some five

thousand years at least.  The secular trends,

cycles, and rhythms of the modern capitalist

world system thus become more contextually

understandable within the much longer cycles,

trends, and rhythms of the historical world

system, and particularly of its process and

cycles of accumulation. 

   We based our argument upon a new set of

criteria for defining what constitutes a

"systemic" interaction.  The transfer or

exchange of economic surplus is the

fundamental criterion of a world systemic

relationship.  Diplomacy, alliances and

conflict are additional, and perhaps

derivative, criteria of systemic interaction.

Thus, we introduced the criterion of

"interpenetrating accumulation" into the

definition of the world system.  By applying

these criteria we saw the origins of the world

system recede by several millennia.  The world

system had its ultimate origins in the

development of an archaic Asio-Afro-European

economic and political nexus, which first

developed in the area now known as West Asia,

the Middle East and the Eastern Mediterranean

about 2500 BC.  Once in existence, this world

system continued to develop, expand, and

deepen.  It eventually either assimilated

and/or merged with all other center-periphery-

hinterland zones to form our modern world

system.  Its relatively unbounded economic

nexus is perpetually in contradiction with a

more bounded political organization of the

economic nexus.  Cycles of accumulation and

cycles of hegemony, like center-periphery-

hinterland relations, have characterized the

world system and its subsystems from its


   World system history forms a genuine

continuum within which cycles of accumulation

and cycles of hegemony are the two most

fundamental phenomena.  These two cyclical

phenomena are intercausally systemically

interrelated to one another.  They are the

basis of our assertion that there are

cumulative accumulation processes in the world

system over such an extended time frame. 

   Significant aspects of our argument were

anticipated - alas, without our taking due

note thereof - by Kajsa Ekholm and Jonathan

Friedman (E & F) under the title "'Capital

Imperialism and Exploitation in Ancient World

Systems" a decade ago (1982, original 1979).

It may be useful briefly to review some major

points of agreement and disagreement with




1. Emergence and development of the World

system.  E & F argue that 



      Our point of departure is that the

   forerunner of the present kind of world

   system first emerged in the period

   following 3000 B.C. in Southern

   Mesopotamia.  Here we can describe the

   first example of the rise of a center of

   accumulation within a larger economic

   system and the development of an

   imperialist structure....the expansion

   of the E.D. [Early Dynastic] system

   eventually incorporates the entire

   region from the Indus to the

   Mediterranean in a regular trade

   network....(89, 97).



   Our argument is that the general

   properties of imperialist-mercantilist

   expansion are common to ancient and

   modern worlds irrespective of specific

   local forms of accumulation (92).



   We agree that the world system began long

before "the modern world system," and we also

see its emergence in Mesopotamia.  However, in

our view the formation of the world system was

more the result of interregional relations

between Mesopotamia and other regions in the

"Middle East" and the Indus Valley.  We also

agree that the world system then expanded and

took on certain  "general properties,"  which

still define it today (see below).



2. Capital Accumulation.  E & F and we agree

on the centrality of capital accumulation in

this long historical process and system(s) and

that "capital" exists not only under "capitalism."



   The accumulation of capital as a form of

   abstract wealth is a truly  ancient

   phenomenon.... "Capital" is not tied to

   a specific form of exploitation.  It is,

   rather, the forerunner, or perhaps

   identical to, merchant capital in its

   functioning....(pp. 88, 100).



However, E & F define capital as:



   ...the form of abstract wealth

   represented in the concrete form of

   metal or even money that can be

   accumulated in  itself and converted

   into other forms of wealth, land, labor,

   and products (p. 100).



   Our concepts of capital and its

accumulation are broader than theirs.  We

stress the existence and combination of both

state and private capital, and we include non-

monetary forms of the production, extraction,

transfer, and accumulation of surplus.  We

also pay more attention than they do to the

interregional dimensions of accumulation and

supra regional super accumulation.  Moreover,

we stress  the cumulative, albeit cyclical,

process of capital accumulation -- which also

contributes to continuity in the world system.





3. Center-periphery Structure(s).  E & F, like

we, argue that



      The system to which we refer is

   characterized, not only by an

   accumulation of capital, but by the

   emergence of an imperialist pattern:

   center/periphery structures are unstable

   over time; centers expand, contract, and

   collapse as regular manifestations of

   the shift of points of accumulation.

   These phenomena are, we think, more

   general than modern capitalism....(88).



   We agree, but our CPH complex extends this

center-periphery structure to include the

hinterland, when it also contributes to

accumulation in the center and to

transformation in the system as a whole.

Moreover again, we stress the  systemic

relations among various CPH complexes, which

make up the world system as a whole.



4. Economy/Polity Contradictions, Hegemony and

System Transformation.  E & F and we agree

that systemic economic relations tend to be

more extensive than political ones.



   The existence of a production/resource

   area wider than that of a political unit

   which must be maintained is the

   fundamental weakness of such systems




This contradiction gives rise to instability

in and transformation of the system:



   Center/periphery structures are

   drastically unstable because of the

   vulnerability of the centers in the

   external (supply/market) realm which is

   so difficult to control....Evolution is,

   as a result, a necessarily discontinuous

   process in space.  Centers collapse and

   are replaced by other areas of high

   civilization.  The development of total

   systems is not equivalent to the

   development of individual societies.  On

   the contrary, the evolution tends to

   imply the shift of centers of

   accumulation over time....(93).



   Again, we agree; but we discuss these

relations and transformations as cycles of

hegemony.  We also relate hegemony to the

center-periphery complex and to accumulation

within it.  However, we also urge the study of

possible overarching system-wide super-

accumulation and super-hegemony.



5. World systems or World system?  E & F seem

to be unsure about which it is.  Elsewhere,

they definitely say systems, (eg Ekholm 1980).

Here E & F say:



   Our point has been to stress the

   fundamental continuity between ancient

   and modern world- systems.... We are,

   perhaps talking about the same world

   system.  The forms of accumulation have

   not changed so significantly.  The forms

   of exploitation and oppression have all

   been around from the earliest

   civilization although, of course, they

   have existed in different proportions

   and varying combinations....There are,

   to be sure, a great many differences,

   but the similarities are, perhaps, a

   more serious and practical problem (105,



   That is our point as well.  However, we now

wish to stress the fundamental similarity and

continuity not so much between ancient and

modern world systems.  We are definitely

talking about common characteristics and

continuity within the same world system.

   Therefore, there is good reason,

justification, and merit to do an historical

materialist political economy of world system

history.  Almost all historical and (other)

social scientific analysis of the world and

its parts before 1500 AD (and most of them for

the time since then also) have neglected these

systemic aspects of world historical political

economic processes and relations.  Some

scholars (e.g., Tilly 1984) have considered

doing such a world system history and have

rejected the task as inadvisable or

impossible.  Others, like Farmer (1977, 1985),

Chase-Dunn (1986), Ekholm (1980), and Ekholm

and Friedman (1982) have started down this

road, but have apparently taken fright and

stopped or even turned back.  A few scholars,

especially Childe (1942), McNeill (1964,

1990), Stavarianos (1970), and most recently

Wilkinson (1987, 1989) have made pioneering

advances toward writing a world system

history.  Frank (1990) examines their and many

other theoretical and historical

considerations and rejects their reservations

as unfounded.  He then proposes why and how

these and other pioneering works should be

extended and combined to do a history of the

world and its world systemic historical

materialist political economy along the

present lines. 


2. Political, Economic and Cultural Three

Legged Stools


A historical materialist political economy of

cumulation of accumulation in world system

history does not exclude or even downgrade

social, political, cultural, ideological, and

other factors.  On the contrary, it relates

and integrates them with each other.  Nor need

such a study be "economic determinist."  On

the contrary, this study would recognize the

interaction  and support of at least three

legs of the social stool, without which it

could not stand, let alone develop.  These

three legs are: the organization of political

power; the identity and legitimation through

culture and ideology; and the management of

economic surplus and capital accumulation

through a complex division of labor.  Each of

these is related to the other and all of them

to the system as a whole and its


   A historical materialist political economic

analysis of the historical development of this

world system should incorporate ecological,

biological, cultural, ideological, and of

course political factors and relations.  Thus,

there is justification and merit in also

seeking to explain many political institutions

and events and their ideological

manifestations through the ecological and

economic incentives and limitations that

accompany if not determine them.  In

particular, we should pay much more attention

to how the generation and capture of economic

surplus helps shape social and political

institutions, military campaigns, and

ideological legitimation.  Economic

institutions, such as Polanyi's (1957) famous

reciprocity, redistribution and market, appear

mixed up with each other and  always with some

political organization.  Many political

institutions and processes also have economic

aspects or "functions."

   The three component aspects, the three legs

of the stool, are embedded in the mode of

accumulation.  No mode of accumulation can

function without a concomitant ideology of

accumulation; an economic nexus founded on a

complex division of labor in which class

relations facilitate extraction of surplus;

and finally a political apparatus, which

enforces the rules and relations of

accumulation through the ultimate sanction of

"legitimate" coercion.  The ideology and

political apparatus are integral aspects of

the mode of accumulation.  They are not super

- structurally "autonomous" from each other or

from the characteristics of the economic

nexus.  However, ideology and political

competition and emulation sometimes appear to

take on at least a semi-autonomous character.

Even if we grant this, it does not invalidate

the alternative assertion that overall they

are not autonomous from the economic nexus. 

   We reject any vulgar unidirectional schema

of causality whereby the economic nexus must

necessarily determine the ideology and

political apparatus of a mode of accumulation

because they are not in fact separate.  We

suggest an alternative concept of the mutual

inter-causality among the three aspects of a

mode of accumulation which is historically

specific to each case.  Indeed, particularly

in periods of transition between one mode of

accumulation and another, ideological and

political forces can play an extremely

significant role in determining the structure

of the economic nexus that emerges from the

transition.  It is in these periods especially

that broad based social movements intercede in

world (and local) history.  These social

movements are often neglected altogether, or

they are considered but not sufficiently

analyzed in their structural and temporal

world systemic context.  We can well depart

from vulgar economism, but not necessarily

from a form of "economic" determinism, if by

economic we mean giving the political economic

processes of accumulation their due.



3. Analytic and Research Agendas on the

Structure and Dynamics of           World system



Most important perhaps are the dynamics of the

world system, that is how the world system

itself operates, behaves/functions, and

transforms (itself?).  Are there trends,

cycles, internal mechanisms of transformation

in the pre-(and post-) 1500 world system?

When and why does historical change accelerate

and decelerate?  What are the historical

junctures at which quantitative turns into

qualitative change?  What are the bifurcations

at which historical change takes one direction

rather than another.  And why?  Perhaps

general systems theory offers some answers or

at least better questions also for this

(world) system.  For instance, Prigogine and

Sanglier(1988) analyze how order is formed out

of chaos, and how at critical times and places

small changes can spark large alterations and

transformations in physical, biological,

ecological and social systems. 

   Recent studies by, for instance, Ekholm and

Friedman (1982), Chase-Dunn (1986), and others

are looking into both structural and dynamic

properties of partial "world" systems before

1500.  However, it may be possible to trace

long (and within them shorter) cycles of

accumulation, infrastructural investment,

technological change, and hegemony much

farther back in world system history.  Not

only may they have  existed, but they may

often have had considerable relative

independent autonomy from policy and politics

per se.  Indeed as in more recent times also,

much of this policy was, and is, instead more

the effect of and response to largely

uncontrolled cyclical changes.  Moreover,

policy tends to reinforce more than to

counteract these cycles and trends.  This

cyclical process and policy response may be

seen in the decline of various empires,

including the present American one. 

   In particular, to what extent has the

process of capital accumulation and associated

other developments been cyclical?  That is,

were there identifiable subsystemic and

system-wide acceleration/deceleration,

up/down, swings in structure  and process? And

were any such swings cyclical, that is

endogenous to the system, in the sense that up

generated down and down occasioned up again?

This kind of question has been posed, and some

answers have been offered for the world system

(or its different economic and political

interpretations) since 1500.  For instance,

Wallerstein (l974) and Frank (l978) find long

cycles in economic growth and technology.

Modelski (l987) and Goldstein (l988) find long

cycles in political hegemony and war.

Wallerstein also posits a life cycle of

expansion  and foreseen decay of the system.

Toynbee (l973), Quigley (l961), Eisenstadt

(1963), and others have made comparative

studies of the life cycles of individual

civilizations before 1500.  So have

archaeologists like Robert M. Adams (1966).

But to what extent were there also world

system wide fluctuations and cycles, and what

role have they played in the transformation

and development of the world system?

   Infrastructural investment apparently

occurs in cyclical or phased  patterns,  and

in  direct correspondence with the cycle/phase

of accumulation and of hegemony.  Newly formed

hegemonic orders are usually associated with a

subsequent intense phase of infrastructural

investment, followed by general economic

expansion and a concomitant increase in

accumulation.  Therefore, it could also be

fruitful to search for a long lasting

continuous up and down cycle of


   Thus, infrastructural investment cycles

would be related to cycles of accumulation and

cycles of hegemony in the world system.  Are

there also cumulative aspects of

infrastructural investment that affect

subsequent world system development?  We

incline to an affirmative answer.  However, we

do not believe that this cumulation

necessarily takes place in or through a single

"capital-imperialist" mode of production, and

still less one based on the primary use of a

political apparatus to exercise imperial

political power for this accumulation, as

apparently posited by Ekholm and Friedman

(1982).  Other competitive "economic"

mechanisms operating within the very CPH and

hegemonic structure of the world system can

also further the process of cumulation in the

world system.  How did private and state

investment interact in world system

development?  For instance, what is the role

of private infrastructural investment in

creating and sustaining the complex logistical

interlinkages of the world system?  To what

extent does state infrastructural investment

create and sustain the logistical

interlinkages of the world system? How does

the conjuncture and synchronization of phases

among contemporary hegemonies affect the

respective cycles of infrastructural


   If we view the entire five or six millennia

development of the world system as a unified

cumulative continuum and seek to explain its

most significant trends, cycles, and rhythms,

based on an historical materialist political

economy, then a "world system history" should

follow.  Such a world system history should

not merely be a comparative history of the

world or even a comparative history of world

systems.  An historical materialist world

system history would regard class formation,

capital accumulation, state formation, and

hegemonic construction throughout the world

system as being integral aspects of the one,

cumulative, process of world historical world

system accumulation and development.  This

history would not be Eurocentric, and should

avoid any other form of centricism.  A

comprehensive world system history would be


   We mean humanocentric in two senses.  One

is that world history must encompass the

structure  and development of the system,

which importantly determines the lives of all

humanity, and not just a (self)selected part

of it. Second, world (system) history should

leave room for how people shape their own and

world history.  Most history is written top

down by and/or for the victors in historical

struggles.  Of course, the hierarchical and

center-periphery structure  and mechanisms of

social transformation in the system merit

attention, as we have emphasized.  However,

human history and the world system itself

also emerges out of multiple bottom up social

movements and other struggles.  Some were

successful in their time and place.  Many were

defeated.  Both intervened in forming and

transforming world system history.  More

specifically, popular dissatisfaction and its

socio-political expression helped shape and

transform societies and empires from reform

movements in ancient Sumer and peasant

uprisings in "dynastic cycle" China to today.

The scholarly difficulty of incorporating

these social movements into a world system

history is only exceeded by the political

importance of doing so.  Yet we must try;

since it is the very structure and development

of the world system, which (cyclically?)

generates and continually regenerates the

social (movement) and other struggles -- and

vice versa.  A Luta Continua!







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