Friday, September 11, 2009

The World System, Then and Now...

In the first two chapters of Before European Hegemony, Janet Abu-Lughod gives us her explanation of how The World System from 1200 A.D. – 1350 A.D. came to fruition. There is no concrete date of when this trading system start, and the author even point’s out Karl Marx’s ambiguity about when the system was formed (p. 9). However, Abu-Lughod estimates that the sixteenth century could possibly be an appropriate era for the beginning foundations of European dominance. In an attempt to discuss this system in more detail, Abu-Lughod gives a detailed breakdown of the different “statuses” of the countries and how those “statuses” determined how they would interact with one another. Making up the lowest level status were the countries that were small, lacking development and had incredibly high exportation rates. These were known as the “Periphery” countries. Taking a step up the chain, we had our “Semi-Periphery” countries. These countries had power over smaller, less fortunate countries but also had absolutely no power in comparison to the higher status countries. Ranking with the highest status in the system were the “Core” countries. The countries had already began to dominate over other smaller countries, and also were the most developed. Abu-Lughod does make it a point that in the beginning there was no single country that had complete authority over another.

What I found most interesting about this system, after reading the first few chapters, was how comparable it is to the system we have in the world today. In our Global Society today, I think it is safe to say that we still have Core, Semi-Periphery, and Periphery countries that exist. We have Core countries like the United States, Japan, Russia, and China; Semi-Periphery countries like France, England; and then our Periphery countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the list goes on and on. I think what the biggest different between now and then is that some countries can be considered as having dominance over others. For example, the United States definitely has used its power to dominate over much smaller countries, particularly in the Middle East where they would like to see democracy established.

One thing I would like a little further clarification on is the domination of countries during the early stages of the World System. Abu-Lughod makes it clear that unlike today, there was no single country dominating over another, but isn’t that exact what the Core countries were doing?


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