Continuities and Transformations in the Evolution of World-Systems

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* Article / chapter: Continuities and Transformations in the Evolution of World-Systems. Christopher Chase-Dunn. In: Globalistics and Globalization Studies 2013, pp. 36–55


"I employ three different time horizons in the discussion of continuities and transformations: 1. 50,000 years; 2. 5,000 years; 3. 500 years."

Contextual Quote

"The main idea is that sociocultural evolution can only be explained if polities are seen to have been in important interaction with each other since the Paleolithic Age. Hall and Chase-Dunn (2006) propose a general model of the continuing causes of the evolution of complexity, technology and hierarchy within polities and in linked systems of polities (world-systems). This is called the iteration model and it is driven by population pressures interacting with environmental degradation and interpolity conflict. This iteration model depicts basic causal forces that were operating in the Stone Age and that continue to operate in the contemporary global system."

- Christopher Chase-Dunn [1]


"This paper discusses continuities and transformations of systemic logics and modes of accumulation in world historical evolutionary perspective and the prospects for systemic transformation in the next several decades. It also considers the meaning of the recent global fi nancial meltdown by comparing it with earlier debt crises and periods of collapse. Has this been just another debt crisis like the ones that have periodically occurred over the past 200 years, or is it part of the end of capitalism and the transformation to a new and different logic of social reproduction? I consider the contemporary network of global counter-movements and progressive national regimes that are seeking to transform the capitalist world-system into a more humane, sustainable and egalitarian civilization and how the current crisis is affecting the network of antisystemic movements and regimes, including the Pink Tide populist regimes in Latin America and the anti-austerity movements. I describe how the New Global Left is similar to, and different from, earlier global lefts. The point is to develop a comparative and evolutionary framework that can discern what is really new about the current global situation and that can inform collectively rational responses."


The Evolution of Hegemony in the Modern World-System

Christopher Chase-Dunn:

"Since the fifteenth century the modern system has seen four periods of hegemony in which leadership in the development of capitalism was taken to new levels.

The first such period was led by a coalition between Genoese finance capitalists and the Portuguese crown (Wallerstein 2011[1974]; Arrighi 1994).

After that the hegemons have been single nation-states: the Dutch in the seventeenth century, the British in the nineteenth century and the United States in the twentieth century (Wallerstein 1984a). Europe itself, and all four of the modern hegemons, were former semiperipheries that first rose to core status and then to hegemony. In between these periods of hegemony were periods of hegemonic rivalry in which several contenders strove for global power.

The core of the modern world-system has remained multicentric, meaning that a number of sovereign states ally and compete with one another. Earlier regional world-systems sometimes experienced a period of core-wide empire in which a single empire became so large that there were no serious contenders for predominance. This did not happen in the modern world-system until the United States became the single super-power following the demise of the Soviet Union in 1989."