Understanding the World System Theory

Understanding the World System Theory

Author: Josh Valdez


The World System Theory is essentially a power relationship between countries in the world. The countries that are in power get what they need from those weaker countries that produce what they power countries need.  This strategic mutualism results in powerless countries also receiving what they need. This theory has broken countries into three different groups; the core, periphery, and semi-periphery nations. Core nations thrive mostly due to their vast economic diversity backed by a strong central government. Many of these nations are bureaucratic countries with a strong military that is sponsored widely with tax payers within the core country. These nations influence others by the industrial and technological advances that are undertaken and successful. Due to such industrialization core nations rely heavily on importation of raw materials and resources provided by both periphery and semi periphery nations in exchange for protection or money. (Jenson, 2016) Some of the most prevalent core countries that benefit from both semi-periphery and periphery nations are the United States, Canada, Australia, and a vast part of Western Europe. An example of this mutually benefiting relationship would be analyzing the agreement between the United States and Israel where the United States promises protection and military reinforcement in exchange for advanced military training and support during the war in the Middle East. (Washington Institute, 2002)

Semi-Periphery nations find themselves in the middle ground between receiving imported needs from periphery nations, and also exporting manufactured or raw materials to core nations. There are caught in a state of development where they don’t have a dominance in world trade leaving them influenced by core countries or having influence over periphery nations. They are largely capitalist countries who play a huge part in stabilizing and largely contributing to the world’s economy. These nations focus heavily on exporting and manufacturing giving them major potential however are weighed down my unmanaged poverty and lack of economic power. (Jenson, 2016) Some examples of the nations that represent the semi-periphery would be China, India, Brazil, and Mexico. These are nations that display characteristics of both the core and periphery nations not only in an economic standpoint but also in a political standpoint. They play a huge role in world development when communicating change and advancements between the core and periphery nations.  If the semi periphery nations did not exist it would slow the development and advancement in both the core and periphery nations. This would be due to the impacted influence it has over the periphery nations to invoke change and industrialize learned from the core nations. (Boundless)

Periphery nations are known as ones in economic and government turmoil. These are nations that the world always sees in revolution and civil war due to the large incorporation present within the country. Due to this disorganization or weak government and weak economic statuses it resorts to providing the grunt work to both the core and periphery nations. This is typically done by either providing cheap labor or exportation of raw material to core nations. There is a high prevalence of social inequality present resulting in weak institutions and industry due to insufficient tax base or immature infrastructure development.  (Jenson, 2016) These nations are widely focused on agricultural or in mining operations in order to insure they can produce the demands of the core and semi-periphery nations.  These nations widely include most of Africa, much of Asia, and countries in South America like Peru and Chile. These countries are faced with the possibility of raising their nation from periphery to semi-periphery or core nations is they are willing to stabilize their government, advance their technology, and strengthen both education and health systems (Kradin, 2002).


Boundless. 2016. “Boundless Sociology.” Retrieved Nov. 1, 2016 (https://www.boundless.com/sociology/textbooks/boundless-sociology-textbook/global-stratification-and-inequality-8/sociological-theories-and-global-inequality-72/world-systems-theory-429-537/)

Jenson, Tiffany. 2016. “Social Movements.” Presented at BYU-Idaho, Fall Semester, Rexburg, Idaho. Retrieved Oct. 27, 2016 (https://byui.brightspace.com/d2l/le/content/163518/viewContent/2625109/View)

Jenson, Tiffany. 2016. “World Systems Theory.” Presented at BYU-Idaho, Fall Semester, Rexburg, Idaho. Retrieved Oct. 27, 2016 (https://byui.brightspace.com/d2l/le/content/163518/viewContent/2585069/View)

Kradin, Nikolay N. 2002. “Nomadism, Evolution and World-Systems: Pastoral Societies in Theories of Historical Development. Journal of World-Systems Research VIII: 368-388.

Washington Institute. 2012. “Friends with Benefits: Why the U.S.-Israeli Alliance is Good for America.” Retrieved Nov. 2, 2016 (http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/friends-with-benefits-why-the-u.s.-israeli-alliance-is-good-for-america)

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