Cyclical Civilizational Change and Shifts in Centers of Space

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* Article: WORLD SYSTEM CYCLES, CRISES, AND HEGEMONIC SHIFTS, 1700 bc TO 1700 ad. By Barry K. Gills and Andre Gunder Frank. Part III USING THE THEORY TO REANALYZE HISTORY, of: The World System: Five hundred years or five thousand? Edited by Andre Gander Frank and Barry K. Gills. Routledge, 1993

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(text has some typo's, also present in the online source material)


By Barry K. Gills and Andre Gunder Frank:

"It has not been sufficiently appreciated that a theory of cyclical change also includes a theory of shifts of centres in space. In other words, expansion and contraction processes have rarely been stable. This may involve infra-regional shifts in influence between competing centres within a single core area... [and also] oscillations in intra-core hegemony are interspersed by much larger scale shifts in arrangements of centres and their peripheries.... It is ultimately the temporal that is seen to dominate over the spatial shifts in the waxing and waning of particular centres. This is generally true of all the long cycle theories. (Rowlands 1987: 10)

Thus the cliche "rise and fall," which has been indiscriminately applied to nations, empires, civilizations, and now world systems is too imprecise. In the course of history, some nations, or at least groups of them, have gained relative power vis-a-vis others and have occasionally succeeded in setting the terms of their interactions with subordinates.... When this happens, it is called a "rise." Conversely the loss of an advantageous position is referred to as a "decline."... [There is a world system] rise when integration increases and ... decline when connections along older pathways decay. Such restructuring is said to occur when players who were formerly peripheral begin to occupy more powerful positions in the system and when geographic zones formerly marginal to intense interactions become foci and even control centres of such interchanges. (Abu-Lughod 1989: 334)


In this paper, we explore the relationship between economic cycles and crises of accumulation and their relation to hegemonic shifts in the world system. Our basic theoretical approach is that the fundamental cyclical rhythms and secular trends of the world system should be recognized as having existed for some 5,000 years, rather than the 500 years that has become the conventional timespan in other world system and long-wave approaches (Wallerstein 1974; Modelski 1987). We have already set out this approach both jointly and individually elsewhere (Gills and Frank chapter 3 above; Frank 1990a, b, 1991; Gills 1989). Our focus is upon accumulation of surplus or capital accumulation as the "driving force" of the expansion and dynamic of the world system. We see accumulation to have been continuous but cyclical over several thousand years. We believe that the world process of capital accumulation has gone through identifiable economic crises, which have also been reflected in political crises of hegemony, and vice versa.

This paper seeks to explore this dynamic and these relationships throughout the Afro-Eurasian oikumenae as far back is we can trace them. We believe that the pattern of world systemic accumulation, crises, and hegemonic shifts is also relevant to the present crisis and hegemonic decline in the world system.

In this introduction, we confine ourselves to a brief summary of some similarities and differences between our approach and some others. Our perspective and focus are on the world system and its history. For us, the essential defining characteristics of this world "system" are the area or "system" of effective surplus transfer and interpenetrating accumulation. As we discussed in chapter 3 above (p. 93):

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.... This interpenetrating 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.... This transfer [of surplus or political competition for the same] means that no part of the world system would be as it was and is without its relations with other parts and the whole.

Wallerstein and others argue that continuous capital accumulation is the differentiae specificae of the modern world-capitalist system, Wallerstein (1988: 108) has also identified other fundamental characteristics of the capitalist world-system, which supposedly distinguish it from all other previous historical social systems. These are: 1) core-periphery structures, 2) A/B phases of economic expansion/contraction (or reduced growth), and 3) hegemony-rivalry. Wallerstein argues that this trinity represents a pattern maintained over centuries... unique to the modem world-system. Its origin was precisely in the late fifteenth century" (1988: 108). Elsewhere, Wallerstein has further elaborated this trinity of characteristics I into six points (Wallerstein 1989a: 8-10), and still further into twelve1 {Wallerstein 1989b: 3-4). However, this elaboration makes little difference. We would only place further stress on another characteristic of the world system, which Wallerstein and others have also observed. That is its "economy/polity contradiction." The economic interlinkages and integration of the world economy are always more intensive and extensive than its political ones, which tend to be more fragmented and territorially bounded. Other scholars, including Chase-Dunn (1986), Abu-Lughod (1989), and Wilkinson (1987, 1989), have also identified these same characteristics earlier than 1500 and outside Europe or a Eurocentric world system.

We agree that these three patterns characterize the modern period of the world system. However, we argue that they are equally appropriate for the world economy/system before 1500, whether fully "capitalist" or not. With specific reference to Wallerstein's "characteristics," this argument is spelled out in chapter 6 below. In general, we identify these same characteristics over several thousand years throughout the world system in all our above-cited work, and also again in the present chapter.

However, in this paper we examine this economy/polity contradiction by concentrating on exploring "only" how apparently world system wide economic expansion/contraction affects hegemonic political developments, and vice versa. Related center/periphery structures, for instance, will also be implicit or visible along the way; but they are not explicitly dealt with here.

Much of world system theory to date has focused on identifying a succession of hegemons since 1500. This succession is usually conceived as a succession from one single power to another, and from "like to like" in terms of the role or function of the hegemon in the world system. Even so, all analysts also recognize periods without a single hegemon and/or with acute rivalry among would-be hegemons. We argue in this chapter that this same pattern can and should be traced much farther back through world system history.

Moreover, the emphasis on a single hegemon and/or the succession from one to another is perhaps misplaced. Like Fernand Braudel and Janet Abu-Lughod, we find many periods without a single all-encompassing hegemon, but rather with a set of interlinking hegemonies, which characterizes the entire world system at any given point in time. However, if we concentrate exclusively on the role and properties of that one predominant hegemon, we may miss the character and importance of the entire set of the interlinking hegemonies. For example, "the world system of the thirteenth century was organized on a very different principle. Rather than a single hegemon, there were a number of coexisting 'core' powers, both via conflictual and cooperative relations, became increasingly integrated" (Abu-Lughod 1989: 341).

Similarly in the sixteenth century, overemphasis on the role of Portugal in the world system leads to a distortion of the actual overall structure of interlinking hegemonies. Portugal may have been a leading or predominant maritime power, but certainly also coexisted and interlinked with a set of other very significant hegemonies, such as the Hapsburgs, the Ottomans, the Mughals, and the Ming. Therefore, die fixation on a single hegemon, and the succession from it to another, may exaggerate the role and importance of that hegemon to the detriment of an understanding of the role of others. We can best understand the political organization of the world economy by taking into account this wider framework of interlinking hegemonies.

Before going on to discuss hegemonic transitions, it is useful to discuss briefly hegemony itself. In our view, hegemony should be defined with an emphasis on accumulation. In this way, the definition of hegemony is more general, and therefore perhaps more flexible. As discussed in chapter 3 above, hegemony may be defined as a hierarchical structure of the accumulation of surplus among political entities, and their constituent classes, mediated by force. A hierarchy of centres 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.

From this perspective the primary object and principal economic incentive of a bid for hegemony is to restructure the regional if not overarching system of accumulation in a way that privileges the hegemon for capital/ surplus accumulation. Therefore, hegemony is a means to wealth, a means to accumulation, and not merely or perhaps even primarily a means to "power" or to "order." The political and economic processes involved in accumulation and hegemony are so integral as to constitute a single process rather than two separate ones. Therefore we need not be drawn into debate over infrastructural versus superstructural determinants of change, nor need we attempt to separate the state (and states) from the social formation or to derive one from the other.

Only on some historic occasions can we say that, among these interlinked hegemonies, there was one hegemonic power which is in some sense in an overall predominant economic or military position. As noted earlier in chapter 3 we call that a "super-hegemon" which engages in "super-accumulation" in the world system. In that case, we can and must analyze hegemonic transitions on the scale of the world system as a whole. Super-accumulation is defined as "a privileged position ... [in the world system as a whole], 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." This position of super-accumulator may be translated into further political (and economic) power via a bid for "super-hegemony" in the world system. That is, a super-hegemon is the hegemon among hegemons. The focus of super-accumulation has shifted over time and space in the development of the world system and it is indeed one of our central research goals to explain why and how these shifts occurred when and where they did, and to explore the effects on the world system as a whole. In the past, the focus of attention on transitions between modes of production deflected attention from the great significance of these hegemonic transitions. The concepts of super-accumulation and super-hegemony allow us to study both the single succession of super-accumulating super hegemons and the overall context of the interlinking hegemonies within which this occurs.

If coexisting, interlinked hegemonies, in their ups and downs, appear to be occurring simultaneously (i.e. "synchronized"), this might be evidence that there exists some connection among them and their respective patterns that may be more than the sum of the parts. The identification of correlations in events, like those which Frederick Teggart (1939) established between Rome and China (and which we shall examine below), may be empirical evidence also of their mutual connections and perhaps for the existence of a world system wide process and rhythm. This rhythm affects all parts of the world system simultaneously, though differently (not necessarily all at exactly the same moment), and thus accounts for the synchronization we observe. Therefore, this rhythm should be regarded as specific to the world system and not simply to the pans. Not should this rhythm be regarded as a mere coincidence in parallel patterns among various regions.

Thus, a framework of analysis built upon understanding the mutual relations of the entire set of coexisting and interlinking hegemonies, generates a different set of questions than one based upon the idea of a succession of single hegemonies. In our suggested framework, the dynamic interaction of the constituent hegemonies is the central focus. In particular, we highlight how the "internal" cycles of each hegemonic structure are affected by and in turn affect the "internal" cycles of other hegemonies, and how these are related to any world system wide economic and political cycles. For instance, do different hegemonies go "up" or "down" together? If so, is there an explanation for this in an independent variable such as a world systemic economic cycle? If the cycles of the different hegemonies are not synchronized, then how does that affect each of them and the overall organization of the world system? For instance, if one hegemon is in a phase of consolidation and is centralizing accumulation and expanding while another is in a phase of disintegration, decentralization of accumulation, and contraction, how do they affect one another? Clearly, the overall set of interlinking hegemonies is always characterized over the long term by the dynamic "rise and fall" among the coexisting and yet rival hegemonies.

We suggest that there may be a very long-term and world system wide general rhythm in the pattern of hegemonic transition. At several points in world history we find a period of simultaneously consolidating hegemonies. That is, several hegemonies are expanding simultaneously over the scope of the world system as a whole. During such a period, there is usually a high level of infrastructural investment. This facilitates higher-intensity economic exchange both within and among these hegemonic entities. This economic exchange occurs through world system logistical interlinkages (Gills and Frank chapter 3 above). Thus, such periods of simultaneously expanding hegemonies seem to be generally characterized by economic expansion in the world economy as a whole. In contrast, hegemonic stability theory (Keohane 1980) argues that one stabilizer, one hegemon, provides a framework within which the rules of the international economy are enforced and that this situation facilitates economic order and expansion. However, Keohane also argues that once an international regime is established, cooperation among the principal powers in the world may continue (Keohane 1984). Thus Keohane, perhaps without realizing it, moves closer to a conception of interlinking hegemonies as the solution to the problems he confronted in the single-hegemon-succession model.

In the down phase, we find a period of simultaneously disintegrating hegemonies. In this period there is usually a general decline in infrastructural investment, and disruption and decline in the intensity of economic exchange. Logistical interlinkages suffer from disruption, decline, or under-utilization. The period is characterized by economic and political contraction in many regions, and decline (or reduced economic growth) over the world system as a whole. In this period, there is usually also a series of social and political conflicts and wars related to this contraction and hegemonic disintegration. Hegemonic states become increasingly dysfunctional. Nonetheless, some hegemonic powers do develop in an otherwise generalized down phase. The cases we will identify in our historical review below lead us to suspect two things about these hegemonic powers. First, it might be argued that the ascendance of these hegemon(s) is due not only, or perhaps even not as much, to their own "internal" strength, as it is to the absolute and relative weakness of their neighbors and rivals. For instance, American postwar hegemony was built on the exhaustion of its rivals in the Second World War. This weakness may in mm be due in part to the inauspicious time for capital accumulation in that down phase. Secondly, the hegemonic power does not last very long, possibly also because of the generalized obstacles to capital accumulation during the down phase.

The world-historical rhythm, the world system cycle, is an alternation between these two phases. Moreover, the two phases may be causally linked, in such a way that the "up" phase conditions the eventual onset of the "down" phase, and in turn the "down" phase conditions the emergence of the following "up" phase. If that is the case, the world economy/ system never "collapses" or "falls." Rather, it alternates cyclically between periods of relatively high (hegemonic) integration and concomitant economic prosperity, and periods of relatively less integrated hegemonies and concomitant economic retrogression or contraction.

Of course, we should not expect all the world (system) to have been going up and down at the same time. Indeed, it is precisely because some enterprises, regions, and states get out of phase that the transformation and development of and in the system can take place. In the modern period, and still today, some - indeed, often the - most privileged region and/or hegemonic power was/is unable to take full advantage of an expansionary A phase. Concomitantly, a peripheral or, more often, semiperipheral region is able to grow in a B phase of contraction or slow-down, that constrains the (previously) more central ones at whose expense the new one "develops." So it has been historically in the world system in medieval, classical, and ancient times. Therefore, we try below to identify such long A phases of expansion and B phases of contraction and their related hegemonic transitions in an exploratory and tentative way. Accordingly, also, for the time being a number of question marks must remain, especially with regard to the exact timing of the periods.


Our entire analysis of the world system, and of hegemonic transitions within it, is derived from the competitive process of capital accumulation through markets, power, and a combination of both. However, the very existence of large-scale markets and capital accumulation before 1500, or even before 1800, is widely disputed. Nonetheless, other scholars have also claimed to demonstrate the existence of markets and capital accumulation in the ancient economy. The assertions of Karl Polanyi, Moses Finley, I.M. Diakanoff, and others regarding the nonexistence of markets and capital accumulation in the ancient economy are well known. However, Gordon Childe and other scholars in his tradition, as well as an increasing number of archaeologists like Robert Adams, have recently provided ever more empirical evidence and analytic arguments to demonstrate that market production, distribution, and accumulation are age-old.

Philip Kohl (1989) and also Morris Silver (1985) have critically re-examined the theses of Polanyi et a/., and found them to be inaccurate. Silver systematically scrutinizes key assertions by leading scholars like Polanyi. The latter contends that as late as the seventh century, no sign of market development was forthcoming in Greece. For at least a thousand years before that time, the continental empires of Mesopotamia, Asia Minor, Syria and Egypt and the seafarers of Ugarit and Crete carried on large scale trade without... the market as the regulator of supply and demand. (1981: xli, 146)

Silver argues instead that in the case of Assyrian trading stations in Anatolia, for instance, "the evidence on price formation ... is fully consistent with the operation of market forces of the usual kind" (1985: 74). Likewise, Silver refutes both Polanyi (1981) and S.C. Humphreys (1978: 56) in regard to their view of the grain trade in the ancient economy (Mesopotamia for Polanyi, Rome for Humphreys) as primarily a function of the collection of taxes, tribute, and state redistribution. Silver assembles evidence from the primary sources that indicates the widespread existence of private warehouses and merchant middlemen in the ancient grain trade, including even in "redistributional" Egypt (1985: 80-4). Likewise, Silver finds evidence, following Piotr Steinkeller, for third-millennium concern loans made by private persons (1985: 84).

Diakanoff argues that "Commodity circulation did exist... but commodity production as such did not - i.e. there was no system having as its object the creation of profit by the production of commodities specifically for the market. Hence no accumulation of capital took place" (1974: 523). Silver bluntly responds that "The evidence points in the opposite direction" (1985: 107) and cites considerable evidence for the existence of production for export particularly in the archaic metals trade. Most importantly, he marshals evidence for widespread investment in capital goods in the ancient economy, motivated by market opportunities.

Evidence is abundant of the accumulation of human and material capital, including circulating capital not directly involved in the production process - warehouses, specialized pack animals, navigational channels, and large, purpose-built cargo vessels - and fixed capital -tools of artisans and agriculturalists, machines for lifting water, irrigation channels, metallurgical facilities, industrial installations for wine, oil, cloth, and ceramics, terracing and other forms of land improvement and reclamation, specialized animal stock, and significant investments in tree and vine stock. (1985: 163)

Silver concludes his critique of Polanyi and others as follows: The relatively high costs of communicating, contracting, and transporting did not prevent the emergence in Near Eastern antiquity of recognizable markets for goods and factors of production.... The direct evidence for trade, occupational specialization, supply-demand-determined prices, investment in material and human capital, and other "modem" phenomena is uneven with respect to time and place but is, nevertheless, abundant. The availability of a large labour force for seasonal work in agriculture and irrigation canal repair testifies to significant economic differentiation and division of labour. Indirect evidence of the importance of trade is also provided by major transformations in the economies of Sumer, Pharaonic Egypt, and southern Babylonia to take advantage of new commercial opportunities. (1985:165)

Similarly, Philip Kohl argues that "Farber's detailed study of prices during the Old Babylonian period shows a consistent pattern for the long-term fluctuations of the relative prices of basic commodities such as barley, oil, land, and slaves, revealing a sharp rise in prices and wages during the reign of Abieshuh (early seventeenth century b.c.)" (1989: 226). Commenting on Kohl, Joan Oates also observes that Recent works have increasingly emphasized the inadequacy of such views [as those of Polanyi] for interpreting the growing data for long distance trade in the early historic periods in the Near East. Indeed, cuneiform studies now confirm the presence of a profit motive already in the mid-3rd-millennium-B.C. (pre-Sargonid) documents, while textual evidence from the immediately succeeding Sargonid period clearly supports the view that by this time there was a true commodity market. Recent analyses also recognize the importance of entrepreneurial activity together with the interdependence of trade and production. Thus the main theses of Kohl's article are not new, but, his intelligent and perceptive contribution [on which we will rely below] is much to be welcomed. (1978: 408)


Thus, there is ample ground to enquire into the process of capital accumulation in ancient times. The same goes for the possible cycles of accumulation and of hegemony and their interrelationships. The question arises to what period of history our approach is applicable. To answer that question, we rely on what Frank calls John K. Fairbank's second rule, which helps avoid arbitrary and conventionally mistaken beginnings: "The rule seems to be, if you want to study the mid-period ..., begin at the end of it and let the problems lead you back. Never try to begin at the beginning. Historical research progresses backward, not forward" (1990a: 162-4). Only time and diligent effort will tell how far back this historical research can progress. However, history itself did develop forward in time; and so should our exposition of it. If only for the sake of convenience, then, we will begin our historical account in the third millennium bc. However, this historical review can be no more than an exploratory and suggestive preliminary effort by non-specialists. No doubt, specialists in various periods and regions will be able to find fault with some of our datings, inclusions, and exclusions. We hope they will - and thereby also help reformulate some of our questions or even our putative "certainties."


Elsewhere, we have provisionally traced the origins of the world system back to the interlinking hegemonies in the confluence of Mesopotamia and Egypt in the third millennium bc. These have traditionally been regarded as self-contained systems, whose development was only internally determined. Yet, during a short time around 3000 bc, apparently sophisticated, complex systems ... appeared across an area stretching from the Nile and Aegean in the west to central Asia in the east. It is not impossible that these regional developments may represent a loosely integrated and related series of changes ... that may in part be attributable to an interplay between local and external forces. In this regard, one possible effect of their outcome may have been a "primitive accumulation of capital" and its role as a force for such change. Such conclusion would include a measure of "market forces" in these periods. Between the late fourth and third millennia, ... faint, highly buffered "market mechanisms" may have operated for different periods of time and in different regions along these networks. (Marfoe 1987: 25, 30, 34)

Indeed, we could argue that the later states system of pre-Sargonid Mesopotamia was in fact also a framework of interlinking hegemonies, which included such important locally hegemonic cities as Mari, Ebia, Elam, Lagash, Ur, Nippur, Kish, Uruk, and Akkad. It was out of the context of the hegemony-rivalry process among these interlinking hegemonies that the Akkadian empire emerged. In Sumer, agricultural yields declined over a long period from 2400 to 1700 bc; and (consequently?) population also decreased after 1900 bc. The neighboring Harappan civilization in the Indus Valley declined, (ft virtual extinction, by 1500 BC after having maintained trade and ****** during its maturity with ***** Mesopotamia. Egypt suffered a "time of drought and floods, starvation, political fragmentation, and foreign incursions from 2250 to 1950 bc. We do not, and may never, know just how connected these events were. However, Philip Kohl suggests that "if one refuses to despair, the only way to proceed is first to comprehend the whole area that was engaged in some form of regular interregional exchange during the Bronze Age" (1989: 232), which included southern Central Asia, the Harappan civilization in the Indus Valley, the Persian and Anatolian plateaus, Mesopotamia between them, and Egypt. Among these, "profit-motivated trade extended far beyond the political borders of any state and connected ... [all of these] into a single world system" (1989: 227):

Foreign trade in the mid-third millennium was an exceedingly complex process, involving the movement of finished luxury commodities, raw materials, and staple products, and was probably conducted both by state agents and by private entrepreneurs.... It does show that developments in southwestern Asia were not limited to the alluvial plains and that widely separated communities were linked by complex, well-defined exchange networks. (Kohl 1978: 466)

A AND B PHASES, 3000-2000 BC?

However, "the period of maximum foreign trade in finished products and raw materials prior to the first attempts at direct political control did not last long" (Kohl 1978: 473). Kohl cites Oppenheim to stress that for Mesopotamian Sumer "the frequency and intensity of contact had reached a peak early in the third millennium b.c." (465-6) After that, "International" relations changed over the greater Middle East during the first half of the third millennium with the collapse of the proto-Elamite "hegemony" in southern and Central Iran ... according to archaeological evidence from Central Asia, Baluchistan, southeastern Iran and the Indus Valley ... across the Iranian plateau, in the Gulf area (particularly the Oman peninsula), Mesopotamia, the Anatolian plateau and the Caucasus.... But it is unclear what happened to foreign relations in the later third and early second millennia with the collapse of Akkadian rule and the subsequent rise of and demise of the highly centralized Ur III dynasty. Dales (1976) explained the collapse of proto-urban settlements throughout the Indo-Iranian borderlands (during the so-called urban phase) as due to the cessation of long-distance overland trade and development of direct maritime trade between Mesopotamia and the Indus Valley. His theory only represents an unproven hypothesis but deserves serious consideration. (Kohl 1984: 242)

The competition for control over resources was inherent in the organization of trade. Thus conflict is generated around the attempt by each power to subordinate rivals and thereby establish their own hegemony (Childe 1942:102; Gills and Frank chapter 3 above) from the earliest period in the world system. The organization of trade and the effects of hegemonic conflict to that end can in itself represent a "contradiction" and an obstacle to further economic expansion. Too much conflict can be mutually exhaustive and economically ruinous. Too much domination by one hegemon may bring an increase in trade, but the benefits of the trade may be very disproportionate to the members of the system. That is, the hegemon may reign parasitically while other areas suffer deprivation. Childe recognizes the organization of accumulation as a contradiction.

Thus, in Childe's theory, "If the economy of the Early Bronze Age cities could not expand internally owing to the over-concentration of purchasing power ... the urban economy must - and did - expand externally" (1942: 139). Childe explains the development of center-periphery relations through the need for the center to induce the periphery to render up a surplus. The task of the center, in trade relations, was to "persuade their possessors to exchange the needed raw materials for manufactures" (1942: 140). According to Childe this trade was from the beginning a political trade between elites in the center and elites in the periphery.

Childe provides a fascinating economic explanation for the creation of the first world system imperium under Sargon of Akkad. First, he points out the underlying economic rationale of all Sargon's key conquests, e.g. "reaching the Cedar Forest (Lebanon)," and the "mountain of Silver" (Taurus), and causing the ships of Meluk, Magan (Oman, source of copper) and Dilmun (Bahrein?) "to anchor at the quay in front of Agade." Sargon's son continued the project of economic imperialism by taking possession of "as far as the Silver mines and from the Mountains of the Lower Sea he carried off their stones" (1942: 142-3). His grandson Naram Sin broke through to the Mediterranean in Syria by destroying the power of Ebla. Childe argues that his seizure of vast booty and employing it to adorn the capital and pay the armies constituted "the forcible distribution of the wealth hoarded in conquered treasuries" which thus "spread purchasing power in Mesopotamia. Production was thereby stimulated. . . . War captives swelled the supply of service .... Merchants could profits.... The middle class profited from imperialism, Money economy spread" (1942: 143).

Such economic imperialism was possible for the center by virtue of its superior metal weaponry, division of labor, political organization, and the organization of trade. It placed a constant systemic pressure on the hinterlands and the periphery to maintain at least a defense capability in military terms, and at the maximum to emulate the center in economic and political organization, and perhaps even innovate in order to surpass the center.

Thus the territorial space of the world system expanded. As Childe formulates it: As a result of one activity or another on the part of the original nuclei, new cities, new centres of civilization arose around the original foci and beyond them barbarians abandoned neolithic self-sufficiency ... And of course each Bronze Age city or township became itself a new centre of demand irradiating, if only by reflected light, an ever-widening hinterland. (1942: 144)

The world economy then already encompassed barbarian Europe, as well as West Asia, Central Asia, and even India and perhaps China. Expansion in this period may be attested to by the increase in the number of cities. However, this period of simultaneous consolidation culminated in Hittite-Egyptian rivalry over Syria and the Levant, which was at that time the key node of the logistical interlinkages in the world system.

The recurrent waves of invasion out of Inner Asia into the belt of civilizations around its perimeter may provide us with a clue as to possible cycles in early world system history, which extend back even into the archaic period. Childe argues that soon after 2300 bc, the hegemony of Akkad and the great state structures of Egypt and Indus and the economic systems they dominated "disintegrated." The era of prosperity was followed by "dark ages" during which Gutian invaders ruled in Mesopotamia. Childe says this was a period in which "imperial monopolies" were overthrown and "hoarded wealth collected in treasures was brutally restored to circulation, or simply annihilated, great households were broken up" (1942: 151). In Egypt too, the collapse of central state power of the Old Kingdom gave way to decentralized power and concomitant economic chaos and contraction. But these did not constitute total collapse, and merchant classes and trade recovered, as eventually did the states. The city of Ur established a wide hegemony and the "security for foreign trade" to allow economic recovery and expansion. However, this imperial recovery was eclipsed also in a period marked by a wave of Invasion from the hinterland. The Amorites displaced the Sumerian ruling classes. A second "dark age," that is, a period of economic dislocation and contraction, took hold.

The phases in Egypt and Mesopotamia were not synchronized, and so just as Ur collapsed. Middle Kingdom Egypt recentralized and entered a period of economic expansion. Some two centuries later, Egypt again succumbed to disintegration and invasion by the Hyksos. The next recovery in Mesopotamia accompanied the Amorite hegemony of the city of Babylon, which was however in turn overturned by new invasions of Kassites, Hittites, and the Elamites, and a new period of economic contraction followed, accompanied by a multipolar system of interlinking hegemonies.

B PHASE, 1700-1500/1400 BC

In the period 1700-1500 or 1400 bc, the world system seems to have undergone a simultaneous crisis of the interlinking hegemonies then in existence. While the Hittites and Kassites conquered Anatolia and Mesopotamia, the Hurrians and Hyksos overran the Levant and Egypt, the Aryans inundated the Indus, where Harappan civilization was on its last legs. At the same time, the Shang charioteer aristocracy established itself in north China. This period of simultaneous disintegration of hegemonies was accompanied by inevitable economic disruptions. Silver notes the onset of the "dark age" (1600-1347 bc) and says that "During this era urban life and legal documents relating to private commercial activities decline steeply" (1985: 161). The dark age is also marked by the "disappearance.... of all vestiges of social reform - or experiments - of the Hammurabi era" after his death about 1750 bc (Oppenheim and Reiner 1977: 159).


The next period, and especially the fourteenth-thirteenth centuries bc, was another period of economic recovery. The dominant but interlinking hegemonies were the Hittite empire, based in Anatolia and dominant in northern Mesopotamia, and the empire of New Kingdom Egypt. The period was clearly marked by the prominence of interlinking hegemonies, including Babylon, Assyria, and Mitanni, all of which took a full part in the well-developed diplomatic discourse of the period. There was for a time something like a concert of powers among these interlinking hegemonies. The Mycenaean trade supplanted the Minoan in the east Mediterranean. The application of iron to the weapons industry facilitated a new period of hegemonic expansion.

B-PHASE CRISIS, 1200-1000 BC

The next world systemic crisis came with the wave of the "sea peoples" and other invaders during the especially important "dark age" in the twelfth and eleventh centuries bc. Both Egypt and the Hittites had employed mercenaries in their earlier wars, thus familiarizing hinterland warriors with both the wealth and the weapons of the center. Childe says, "So the Bronze Age in the Near East ended round about 1200 bc in a dark age.... Not in a single State alone but over a large pan of the civilized world history itself seems to be interrupted; the written sources dry up, the archaeological documents are poor and hard to date" (1942: 185). As Liverani observes, this scarcity of surviving documentation "is not fortuitous... [but] is itself an effect of the crisis (eclipse of scribal schools and the palace administrations)" (1987: 71).

At the same time, the Mycenaeans in Greece and the Levant were overrun by new waves of invasions, which included the Dorians, Aramae-ans, and Phoenicians. The Hittite empire disintegrated. The Kassite dynasty in Babylonia collapsed to Chaldeans and Aramaeans. After the reign of Nebuchadnezzar I (1124-1103 bc) began the "dark age of Mesopotamia." A century later, "between 1024 and 978 b.c. Babylon had seven kings divided between three dynasties in a 46 year period" (Roux 1966: 260). In Egypt, Libyan mercenaries and Nubians seized power. Even in distant China, the Shang gave way to the more barbarian Zhou. "Nevertheless the continuity of civilization [in/of the world system?] was not completely or universally interrupted" (Childe 1942: 185).

Even though Mario Liverani says of himself, "I belong to that group of scholars who consider ... internal factors ... to be pre-eminent," he nonetheless recognizes that "[in] the collapse of Near Eastern civilization at the end of the Bronze Age ... it is true that the crisis is rather extended and takes place at roughly the same time over a large area" and that in his particular area of study "at the apex of the crisis... a shock of external origin is certain for the Syrian coast" (1987: 69).

Kohl aptly summarizes: The original Bronze Age world systems did not simply collapse, but left a complex, web-like legacy of political, economic, and, in the broadest sense, cultural interconnections which, in turn, were acted upon and influenced later historical developments. (1989: 238)


By about 1000 bc the economic recovery of the region was under way again and there followed a period of considerable economic expansion and hegemonic consolidation. The Iron Age was spreading, and in its first 500 years of expansion, more was achieved than in the previous 1500 years of the Bronze Age, according to Childe (1942: 187). The world economy also achieved a new and higher level of integration. The world system expanded territorially on a new scale to encompass a vast hinterland in Eurasia with deeper penetration of the periphery than before. This was indeed the Eurasian oikumene.

A-PHASE E, 1000-800 BC

During this period of expansion beginning about 1000 bc, the Phoenician cities and their oligarchies of merchant-princes, who supplanted their Canaanite predecessors, benefitted considerably. They took control from the moribund Mycenaeaas and exercised at least commercial (core) hegemony over the markets of the Aegean, which permitted the Phoenicians to accumulate great wealth in the process. Industrial production, financial and trading power, were concentrated in Tyre, Sidon, and other Phoenician cities of the Syrian-Levantine coast, which were ruled by commercial interests.

During this same period after 1000 bc, politically the main beneficiary from the confusion and weakness of the previous system-wide crisis on the mainland was the emerging Assyrian empire. The Assyrians came to dominate northern Mesopotamia. Nonetheless, Assyrian power was under challenge from two rivals.

There was a shift in the centre of gravity of exporting countries. Assyria, which was a great consumer, had no iron mines; for a time, especially during the earlier half of the eighth century b.c., it was denied access to the mining centres of the southern coast of the Black Sea and Transcaucasus by the neighbouring kingdom of Urartu. Inevitably it turned its attention to Iran.... [which obtained this metal from regions inaccessible to Assyria]. (Ghurshman 1954: 88)

Thus, The first half of the first millennium b.c. was a turning point in human history. The centre of "world politics" or of the age shifted. .. [from alluvial valleys in the south] more to the north ... that the struggle for world power was centred ... [on] three principal actors in the drama: the Semitic Assyrians with their vast empire; Urartu, a powerful kingdom of Asiatic origin, tenacious opponents of the Assyrians ... and finally the Aryans, the Iranians who, after a long and arduous struggle, triumphed over their two adversaries and, with the spoils, founded the first World Empire [under the Achaemenid kings from the fifth century onwards]. (Ghurshman 1954: 75)

B PHASE, 800-550

The cities and states of northern India still developed with the spread of iron technology from the eighth century bc onward. However, elsewhere by the eighth century some economic expansion seems to have slowed down again, and by the mid-seventh Assyria was seriously overextended and in decline. The Assyrian empire collapsed in the late seventh century bc. The Massagetae drove the Scythians westward through Central Asia and these in turn pushed the Cimmerians and the Medes west- and south- ward at the expense of the Assyrians. This gave way to a period of rivalry among the Babylonians, Medes, and Persians. In China, the pretense of formal Zhou hegemony gave place to independent states which entered into a new phase of rivalry.

The expansion of Greek and Phoenician colonization during this period might be taken as an indicator of the economic pressure these areas were under. For instance, Carthage was founded c. 814 bc, after Tyre came under increasing pressure from Assyrian tribute demands. The economic decline of Tyre and other Phoenician cities of the core is a feature of this period. Likewise, Greek colonization was a feature of increasing competition and market saturation. Hesiod speaks of "potter competing with potter and carpenter with carpenter."

The interrelated integration of distant regions into a single world system was reaching a new stage again. "The idea of humanity as a single society, all of whose members owe one another common moral obligations, is an ideological counterpart of an international economy based on the interchange of commodities between all its parts, such as became effectively manifest in the second phase of the Iron Age," as Childe put it (1942: 212). Perhaps it was also this increased new economic and ideological unity which stimulated the rise and spread of new universalist religions across Eurasia. This was the beginning of what Karl Jaspers called the Axial Age of interconnection and transformation.

A PHASE, 550-450 BC

Teggart (1939) already observed the temporal "correlation" in the rise and subsequent spread of several major new world religions in the sixth century bc. Among them were Zoroastrianism, Jainism, Pythagorianism, Buddhism, 'Confucianism, Taoism, Ionian philosophy, the Hebrew prophets Ezekiel and second Isaiah. McNeill (1964: 338) observed that the rise of these religious movements may have been a response to common needs, such as protection from exploitation by the propertied classes and the state elite. Indeed, the emergence of universalist religions may also be an indication of the high level of real economic interlinkage and perhaps the attainment of a new level or stage of economic integration, which had already characterized the previous period.

The sixth to fifth centuries bc were another period of economic and political expansion. The expansionary impulse seems to have appeared first in Greek cities such as Aegina, Corinth, and the Ionian cities, which introduced mass production of cheap but high-quality commodities for export using factory-production techniques. The wealth of Lydia, and its introduction of coinage, is another indication of this expansion. The Greek core was ascending as the Phoenician core was declining. This period witnessed the rise of the Achaemenid Persian empire, which stabilized much of West Asia by reimposing a more unified political order in that part of the world economy and system. The Achaemenids from Darius to Xerxes achieved at least a regional position of "super-accumulation" in the world system, on the basis of the imperial tribute system. The Persian empire exceeded even the Assyrian in the degree to which it succeeded in incorporating the most important economic zones of the world system.

There was at this time a shift in the center of gravity of the world economy of very great historical importance. The key area of logistical interlinkage in the world economy/system shifted from Syria and the Levant to Central Eurasia. Achaemenid control of Central Asian cities, such as the great city of Bactra, and the north-west India trading center of Taxila were very important elements in consolidating Persian super-accumulation. The Persian investment in infrastructure included the 1,677-mile Royal Road, which Darius built from Ephesus to Susa, and the road from Babylon to Onospana (near Kabul). Persian cities, like their Assyrian predecessors, were cosmopolitan; and its armies were multinational.

It was in this period that the great caravan cities of Syria - Aleppo, Hama, Horns (Emesa), and Damascus, in particular - truly came into their own, receiving goods from the Silk Road as well as spices and perfumes from Arabia's Incense Road and other luxuries brought by sea from India. Arameans ... were such active traders on these caravan cities that their speech became the commercial language. (Franck and Brownstone 1986: 65)

The successful accumulating classes of the sea-faring merchant cities also stimulated the many significant scientific advances and the invention of the alphabet and of coinage in this period. Coinage and the prevalence of manufactures in trade, conducted via cheap maritime transport, among these cities made the manufacture of mass-consumption commodities for the market more prevalent than elsewhere. Increasingly export manufacture occurred in factory workshops under the control of a capitalist utilizing slave labor, the cheapest form of labor available. The Persian imperial economy was more centralized and accumulation by the imperial state placed a heavy burden on the economy as a whole.

In Persia wealth was increasingly concentrated in the great estates of the nobility, and mass consumption through purchase in the market was limited. Personal debt increased in these economies and real wages fell until it reached crisis proportions in the fourth century bc. The Persian empire sought to compensate by making use of the wealthy cities and their money economy to the "West," as in the case of Sardis, the Ionian cities, and the Phoenician cities; but the Persians failed to complete the conque. In particular, the Persians recruited the Phoenfleets of Tyre and Sidon in their repeated attempts to subdue the western Greeks. It is often overlooked that the battle between Persia and Hellas was also a commercial war between Hellas and Phoenicia. For instance, when the Athenian fleet crushed the Phoenician-Persian fleet at Salamis in 480 bc, Athens immediately seized control of the Hellespont and reopened its vital corn trade in the Black Sea.

Nonetheless, it is clear that Persian hegemony was also interlinked with Athenian. At the same time, the Greek regions in the West had generated a surplus of warriors and the export of mercenaries to the East. In the West also, the prevalence of slave labor acted as a constraint on expansion of domestic demand but stimulated external expansion - toward the East. Geoffrey de Ste Croix explains the "natural foreign policy" of Athens as "driven by her unique situation, as an importer of corn on an altogether exceptional scale, towards a policy of 'naval imperialism', in order to secure her supply routes" from the East (1981: 292-3).

B PHASE, 450-350 BC

Athens profited most from the fifth-century empire. Nonetheless, it also declined when it failed to raise sufficient revenues to sustain its naval forces. Widespread rebellions broke out in the Athenian empire after 450 bc. Then, as de Ste Croix argues, Greek democracy, as represented by Athens, did not just "die out." It was "deliberately extinguished by the joint efforts of the Greek propertied classes, the Macedonians and the Romans" (1981: 293). Rostovtzeff (1941) argued that the economic decline of the cities from the late fifth century can be explained mainly as a result of a contraction of the foreign market for Greek exports due to the diffusion of industry in the periphery and thus to import substitution. However, de Ste Croix questions this explanation and instead maintains that the answer may lie in the class struggles of the period. That is, "not so much that Greece as a whole was poorer in the fourth century as that the wealthy class was now able to appropriate a greater share of the small available surplus than in the late fifth century" (t981: 294-5). He cites the growing export of Greek mercenaries in the fourth century as evidence of their inability to make a living at home. In this crisis in Greece, "the obvious solution, urged early in the fourth century by Gorgias and Lysias, and most presently by Isocrates ... was a grand Greek crusade against the Persian Empire, which would wrest from the barbarians enough land in "Asia to provide a comfortable livelihood for these men and any other Greeks who were in need" (1981: 295). The Persian-Greek wars were the result. They presaged a hegemonic transition in the eastern Mediterranean.

In a real sense the resolution of the crisis in the Hellenic economy and its class struggles spilled over into a momentum that led to the conquest of Persia, which was further testimony to their intimate interlinkage. The fourth century bc was awash with class conflict in the cities of the West, and with popular demands for the cancellation of debts and redistribution of land. These were symptomatic of an underlying economic contraction; or slow-down in expansion which precipitated increased class conflict. Rostovtzeff characterized the fourth century as one marked by increased proletarianization, landlessness, unemployment, and food shortage. It was marked by a contraction in the market for manufacturers and the ruin of "free" petty producers. Wealth was overconcentrated in the hands of the commercial and landed ruling classes. Livy notes a series of famines ins. Italy in 490, 477, 456, 453, 440, and 392 bc. The Celts invaded Italy and sacked Rome, while setting up the kingdom of Galatia in Asia Minor. They hegemonic disintegration of this period is in evidence n-om the Peloponnesian wars and the successful revolt of Egypt against Persia c. 400 bc **, the breakaway of the Indus from the Persian empire c. 380 bc.

We have been (mis)taught to view this period and its wars only through?) the eyes of the Greeks, who were subsequently but mistakenly denominated as "western". Bernal (1987) and Amin (1989) have recently justly criticized this Eurocentric perspective. Historically, of course, Greece was a (semi-?)peripheral extension of West Asia, and during this period the Greeks were oriented eastward to the then hegemonic center in Persia." The "heroic" resistance of Athens and the Delian League to Persian conquest, with funds from the silver mines of Laurion and the treasure of the trading cities, was pan of a hegemonic transition and a preface to a subsequent hegemonic shift after the Greek cities were unified under Macedonian hegemony. The crisis made way for the new "orientalizing" of Hellas under the Macedonian monarchy, the defeat of democracy and the subsequent spread of Hellenistic ruling classes to all of the former domains of the Persian empire. Alexander destroyed the Phoenician economic rival of Tyre and imposed Greek domination over the area. Thus, the great Persian Imperium was overturned by the challenge from the (semi-)periphery in the "West." In this manner, the economic and social crisis of the Wests found a temporary resolution in the conquest of the East.

A PHASE, 350-250/200 BC

The next phase of expansion included the reconquest of the Persian empire by Alexander the Great. It was intended to be the prelude to an even larger hegemonic project, which would incorporate the Indian cities of the Indus as well as the Roman and Carthaginian spheres in the west Mediterranean. The logic of this plan was to extend the Persian imperium even further to incorporate the economic zones of the West under one all-encompassing super-regional hegemonic unity in the world system. Alexander's campaign in Central Eurasia, and in Bactria and north-west India in particular, indicates once again the importance of control over this area. Alexander tried to establish transregional super-hegemonic power as the basis for would-be transregional super-accumulation. Alexander's political project died with him in 323 bc, and his empire suffered subsequent political fragmentation into three separate political spheres of interest. Nonetheless, much of the infrastructural interlinkage was maintained and strengthened; and economic expansion appears to have continued. There were renewed hegemonic consolidations. In Hellenistic domains a mixture of the polis and oriental despotism was concocted to resolve class contradictions and facilitate economic expansion. Greek science was applied to increases in productivity as never before.

In China, the process of rivalry, accompanied by economic expansion and the introduction of new administrative and productive techniques, culminated in a hegemonic consolidation in the third century bc by the Qin dynasty. Moreover, trade contacts between China and India also increased during this period.

The late fourth and third centuries bc were a period of hegemonic consolidation also in northern India. The Mauryans began their rise in the fourth century bc. However, their vast empire consolidated hegemony in Jaorthem India and the Ganges basin in the third century bc, after the *** of Alexander. The Mauryans gained control of the Indus from Seleucus Nicator, gained control of the key trade city of Taxila, and extended their influence into Central Asia up to the borders of Bactria. The Mauryans constructed the 2,600-mile Great Trunk Road from the Mrategic city of Pataliputra on the Ganges to the far north-west, near the Nty of Taxila. The state maintained the infrastructure of roads, signposts, guardhouses, water wells, causeways, ferries, etc., and shelters were pro-traded for traders and other travelers.

B PHASE, 250/200-100/50 BC

However, the Mauryan empire had declined by the beginning of the second century. Then, control over western Central Eurasia passed from Mauryan and Seleucid hegemony to the independent Bactrian kingdom. Bactria stood |at the hub of the economic exchange that included Taxila, Antioch, and Alexandria. In eastern Central Asia and China and begins around 200 bc, the struggles for territory and influence among the Chinese, Xiongnu, pad Yuezhi would soon exert effects also into western Central Asia , as we will observe below. However, we should note that China I' under the Han dynasty experienced a period of hegemonic consolidation economic expansion in this period and is therefore not synchronized with the economic B phase in areas to its west.

In the Mediterranean region also, the second century bc was again marked by signs of crisis and contraction and slower expansion of the market. In Egypt, the second century was characterized by all the signs of economic decline, such as over=taxation, official corruption, increased debt, and unrest and brigandage. The Rosetta stone characterizes the period by: "pressure of taxes, rapid accumulation of arrears and concomitant confiscations, prisons full of criminals and debtors, public and private, many fugitives scattered all over the country and living by robbery, compulsion applied in every sphere of life" (Childe 1942: 254). In Greece and Italy free peasantry was declining in favor of capitalist landowners. Prices rose relative to wage increases. Class struggle in the Hellenistic hegemonies came into interaction with the power of Rome, an interlinked hegemony. Rome's own internal class struggles were resolved by recourse to imperialism and expansion of the market in barbarian western Europe. Slave revolts occurred widely in Attica, Macedonia, Delos, Sicily, Pergamon, and in Italy. The power of the Roman oligarchy proved great enough to quell unrest in Italy, override the land reform of the Gracchi, and interject itself into the political affairs of the declining Hellenistic states of the East. The logic of Roman political power moved inexorably toward another "orientalizing" solution in the defeat of the lower classes and the centralization of imperial and monarchic power. The widespread use of slave labor accelerated by Rome's imperial expansion placed a further obstacle to increase in productivity through scientific innovation of labor-saving technology.

It was at the end of, and out of, this B-phase crisis that Rome emerged as the predominant, but by no means the sole, hegemon in this part of the world system. Geoffrey de Ste Croix (1981: 328) argues that "sheer rapacity" for surplus extraction was a key motive for Roman expansionism. In his view, the purpose of Roman rule was to increase the rate of exploitation and to concentrate capital accumulation in the hands of the Roman oligarchy. The effect of Roman rule was not a great profit for the Roman state as such, but rather a tremendous profit for private Roman citizens acting on behalf of Rome. In the second and first centuries bc Rome parasitically exploited its new domains. The civil wars, financed with wealth accumulated, from the empire, culminated in a true centralized bureaucratic imperial state made possible by Julius Caesar and consolidated by Octavian.

A PHASE, 100/50 BC-150/200 AD

The late first century bc and the first and second centuries ad again were a period of major economic expansion, international trade and political relations, as well as inter-hegemonic rivalries. The Roman empire entered a period of internal (hegemonic) peace and economic prosperity and expansion. By the first century ad, the entire world system was politically organized into an unbroken belt of interlinking hegemonies, stretching from Rome in the Mediterranean basin, to Parthia in Mesopotamia and' Persia, the Kushan in Central Asia, and the Han in China. Only northern* India was not under a single hegemonic state, but Kushan commercial influence extended deep into the Gangetic plain. Indians expanded into "Farther India" in Southeast Asia.

Among the various explanations that have been proposed to account for the intensification of Indian trading activity in Southeast Asia at about the beginning of the Christian era, perhaps the most credible is that formulated by George Coedes (1964; 44-49), who attributes the reorientation of Indian commercial interests to "changing political conditions in the Mediterranean and Central Asia" which created a shortage of gold in India, which the Indians sought to meet by looking for gold in Southeast Asia. (Wheadey 1975: 232-3)

For this period and the Afro-Eurasian oikumene as a whole, Hodgson noted that mercantile trade was extended and industry fostered; for instance, both the import of silk from China and its working within the empire. Cities increased in wealth and importance; [after 226] the Sassanian monarchs were notable as founders of cities and protectors of trade. The mercantile development represented in part a response to the ever quickening pattern of trade throughout the Afro-Eurasian Oikoumene. Direct trade by sea and land between China and the Indo-Mediterranean regions opened up.... Trade elsewhere in the Southern Seas (the seas of the Indian Ocean and eastward) had likewise expanded, as had trade both north of the Mediterranean in Europe and south across the Sahara, The people from the Nile to the Oxus not only took full advantage of their crossroads. They helped develop new fields of trade. (1974, I: 142)

The Parthians built an empire in the first century bc that stretched from the Euphrates to the borders of Bactria, and briefly controlled Taxila in the early first century ad. They were later faced with the competition of the Tocharians (the Yuezhi), who may have set up the Kushan empire, which took control of Taxila in 60 ad.

It is still in dispute whether it was the above-mentioned Yuezhi them-I'selves or others whom they in turn pushed south-eastward who founded the Kushan empire. It is certain, however, that in the second and first centuries bc, the Central Asian Xiongnu had conflicts with their neighbors ** to the east and to the west. It is in dispute "who started" the conflict the south-east with the Chinese, (Suzuki [1968] traces the ups and ** between 200 bc and 200 ad of Xiongnu relations with the Chinese.) lese responded by building the Great Wall, but then taking control of e Tarim basin and the "silk road" through it well beyond that wall, and io by seeking an alliance against the Xiongnu with the latter's neighbors the west, the Yuezhi. Nonetheless, or perhaps in part therefore, begin ** about 177 bc under Meodun, the Xiongnu drove the Yuezhi still further westward as far as present-day Afghanistan. Grousset comments on this colossal impact of the first Hunnic thrust on the destinies of Asia. In driving the Yueh-chih from Kansu [in north-western China], the Hsiun-nu had started a sequence of repercussions which were felt as far away as Western Asia and India. Afghanistan was lost to Hellenism: the last vestiges of Alexander's conquest in these regions had been wiped out; Parthian Iran had been temporarily shaken and the tribes thrust back from Kansu had found an unlooked - for empire in Kabul and northwest India. The same process continues throughout our history which is our present study. The slightest impulse at one end of the steppe inevitably sets in motion a chain of quite unexpected consequences in all four comers of this immense zone of migrations. (1970: 32)

Just to the west of the Oxus, Kushan unification of Central Asia and north-west India between the first and third centuries ad also "facilitated commercial cultural and ideological transmission through a vast region, extending from East Asia to the borders of Europe" (Liu 1988: 2-3). "Through all India the merchant community prospered.... Not surprisingly, the religions supported by the merchants, Buddhism and Jainism, saw their heyday during these centuries" (Thapar 1966: 109).

The Kushan inherited and continued to utilize profitably the extensive infrastructure established under the prior period of Mauryan hegemony. This included the trunk road from Taxila to Pataliputra. The Kushan elite were particularly keen to administer matters relating to control of trade routes and commercial activity and trade. During the Kushan period, both Central Asia and northern India experienced urban prosperity, i.e. economic expansion. "Eurasian trade - with the world, and from Central Asia to China - was more vital to its treasury than those of previous Indian dynasties" (Liu 1988; 7). Liu points to a shift in the locus of accumulation in the region as a whole as a result of Kushan orientation to this Eurasian trade. The Kushan political center of the Mauryan hegemony on the middle Ganges "fell into relative oblivion during this period" (1988: 7). Liu claims that trade between the Mediterranean area and India occurred long before the Christian era and was mainly handled by Arabian intermediaries. Regular direct trade began at the end of the first century bc in the reign of Augustus. It was made profitable by learning to use monsoon winds in the Arabian Sea to establish regular maritime commerce between Alexandria and ports on the Indian coast such as Barbarican and Barygaza. Liu, citing evidence in the Periplus, maintains that Roman merchants acquired a regular supply of silk and furs from these ports. Furthermore, this fact suggests that the main path of the Silk Route during the first two centuries ad coursed through Central Asia to the Indus valley. Going directly to the sea coast along the Indus or detouring through Mathura, it connected with the Roman world by sea.... The discovery of the monsoon made the sea route the easiest way to avoid Persian competition. (1988: 19)

This indicates ongoing competition among routes in the context of a set of rival interlinking hegemonies. Indeed, "During Kushan rule conflicts between Rome and Parthia, especially under the reign of Trajan (98-117 ad), made the route through the Indus and seaports of the west coast essential for Roman trade to Central and East Asia" (Warmington 1928: 94-5). Well known are the Parthian efforts to control and derive monopoly profits from their intermediary position along the silk road(s) between China and Rome. Even though this trade was not in daily necessities, it "nevertheless sustained many caravan cities and seaports from the Mediterranean to East Asia (Liu 1988: 178). During these same first and second centuries ad, the expansion of international trade, diplomatic missions, and political relations also tied Funan and other parts of Indochina and Southeast Asia more closely to China on the one side and especially to India on the other (Coedes 1968).

Liu also emphasizes how shifts in trade routes affected the locus of accumulation. "The shift of trade routes caused the rise and fall of these cities as effectively as warfare or other political crises" (Liu 1988: 178). From the first century ad, direct Roman trade with India and Africa struck a heavy blow at the urban centers of Arabia, especially those of south Arabia and Yemen, which were dependent on the incense trade (Bowen and Albright 1958).

Thus, this period of interlinking hegemonies was characterized by constant rivalries among the competing hegemons and pretenders in Rome, Armenia, Parthia, Kushan, and farther east.

B-PHASE CRISIS, 150/200-500 AD

From the third through the fifth centuries ad, the previous period of expansion and consolidating hegemonies was followed by a major world systemic crisis on a Pan-Eurasian scale. During this world systemic crisis the Han and Roman, as well as the intermediary Kushan and Parthian hegemonic structures simultaneously disintegrated. Frederick Teggart (1939) examined international political economic linkages through Central Asia for the Roman period when war occurred on the routes in the Tarim Basis [in what is now China's western Xinjian region] disturbances broke out in Parthia and either in Armenia or on the border of Syria. Evidently then, war in the Tarim occasioned an interruption of traffic on the silk route, and this interruption aroused hostilities at points along the route as far west as the Euphrates. (1939:240)

Teggart correlated and compared the timing of wars and barbarian invasions in Rome and China and concluded that. Thus the effects of wars which arose out of interruptions of the great "silk route" through Persia are plainly visible in the internal history of Rome.... Seemingly there could be no better illustration of interdependence of nations than the consideration that a decision of the Chinese government should have been responsible for a financial panic in the capital of the Roman empire. (1939: x)

However, even Teggart seems to have considered wars and other political disturbances more as the cause of interruptions of trade, rather than the other way around. Yet, it may also be argued with equal or greater reason that many uprisings, wars, alliances, and other political developments were themselves stimulated if not caused by changing local, regional, or even system-wide economic conditions and interests.

Thus first the ** and then again the decline of Han China (and their Central Asian Xiongnu neighbors), Kushan India, Parthian Persia, and western imperial Rome occurred at very much the same time. The political-economic decline of these empires was also manifested in the notable simultaneous decline of Central Asian and maritime trade among them. The fourth and fifth centuries ad seem to have been a period of major Eurasian (system) wide economic and political decline, indeed. This apparently interrelated series of declines is another important instance of what we see as a major world system wide crisis. Therefore, we wish however briefly to examine some of its regional manifestations in greater detail.

The hegemonic disintegration of the Han preceded that of Rome, becoming acute by the late second century ad. The third and fourth centuries in China were a period of economic retrogression, with a significant decline in internal and external trade and demonetization of the economy. Many cities disappeared altogether and the monetary economy practically collapsed. The political center of gravity shifted from the former capital of Chang'an to Louyang, and the economic center of gravity from the Guan-zhong region to the Henan region, and thereafter to the Yangtse (Yangzi) Valley. Nevertheless, cities linked to the Eurasian trade continued to exist and prosper, such as the centers in the western Hexi area (the modem Gansu corridor) (Liu 1988: 42-3). Wealthy merchant houses existed in this period of general urban decline and the Northern Wei dynasty seems to have been particularly favorable toward merchant activity up until the early sixth century.

The Kushan empire in north India and Central Asia disintegrated, and I. India's political center of gravity shifted back to the middle-Ganges plain during the Gupta period (c. 300-500 ad). The Gupta empire in north India in the fourth century, and was destroyed by the White Huns in the *** century. During the Gupta period landed property gained value and land grants by the king increased in significance, while the urban economy in general showed clear signs of decline (Liu 1988: 21). Nonetheless, during the Gupta period some trade between India and China and between India and the West continued. The Ujjain region in the Gupta period prospered from international trade and Barygaza was still an active port (Liu 1988: 32-3). However, this trade was diverted, It seems reasonable to conclude that even when north India suffered a general urban decline in the Gupta period, certain cities along the trade route from Kashmir to the north Indian plain prospered political changes in the post-Kushan period disturbed the Eurasian commercial network from the Roman empire to China but did not destroy it. A major shift took place in the north-west, where the route through Kashmir connecting India to Central Asia gained importance. As the seaports in western India continued to flourish the new Kashmir route brought both western India and the Ganges plain closer to China. (Liu 1988: 35)

Liu maintains that from the third to the fourth centuries a series of political changes in Asia and Europe disturbed the trade network connecting China and the West through the west-north-western Indian routes (Liu 1988: 21, 35,178). These upheavals appeared across all of Eurasia: China was divided for three centuries after the disintegration of the Han empire (220 ad), except for a brief unification of north China under the Qin (280-316 ad). The Kushan empire (which controlled Kashmir, Bactria, Kabul, and northwest India) collapsed under the weight of White Hun deprivations in the fourth century. As a result, many urban centres in Central Asia declined or became depopulated during the fourth and fifth centuries. Major cities like Bactra and Taxila and many lesser ones experienced significant decline, "became desolate" and ended up "all in ruins" (Liu 1988: 32, 27). Bactria "might have temporarily lost its nodal function because of the pressure of Sassanians, and subsequent damage done by the Hephthalites or White Huns" (Liu 1988: 27). The Roman empire disintegrated and led to the establishment of the eastern Byzantine empire (395 ad).

It is noteworthy that the Gupta empire rose to power and privilege at the expense of regional predecessors during a period of generalized economic crisis, which had weakened its predecessors in the Indian region.

At about the same time, this was true too of the Sassanians, who replaced the Parthians in Persia. For in the third century also the Sassanian empire took control of the former domains of the Parthians and the Kushan in Persia and Central Asia. However, Sassanian power also was in ascendancy, as Roman and Han power declined. The Gupta perhaps less, and the Sassanians perhaps more, successfully managed to retain some power asj son of super-accumulating monopoly rent from their positions along the way while other economic and political powers had already waned or went under in the generalized world system economic and political crisis. However, neither Gupta nor Sassanian power lasted very long. Perhaps that was not only because they suffered from repeated batterings by the White Huns in the fourth-sixth centuries. Perhaps Gutpa and Sassanian power was also a sort of flash in the pan, precisely because they were only able to take advantage of their rivals' economic and political decline in a period of economic downswing; which would also limit and ultimately destroy their own capabilities. (An apparently similar major such instance may have been the rise of the Assyrians at the beginning of the first millennium bc. Another would be the rapid rise and decline of the Mongols in the thirteenth- and fourteenth-century world-economic downturn so which we will turn in due course. Probably, there were other similar instances in between, as well as before and after this period, which merit' greater attention.)

Returning to the third and fourth centuries, they were a period of. significant economic contraction in the Roman empire. This included contraction in the market and currency devaluation (even demonetization) and reversal of urbanization, especially in the western provinces of the empire. Childe argues that by ad 150 the "frontiers of the civilised world" had been reached and that the external market could expand no more. Thus, "Unable to expand the whole system began to contract... by 250 ad all semblance of prosperity vanished" (1942: 273, 275). The hegemonic disintegration forces of the third century were severe, but the empire was| formally kept together. Huge quantities of bullion flowed to the east to make up for Rome's chronic structural deficit on its trade in luxury goods with Asia, thus increasing the pressure on the Roman treasury to debase the coinage. The aristocratic ruling class was discouraged by its own ideology from investing in industry, and preferred for reasons of status to invest: in land and commerce. The competition of slave labor with free labor' depressed wages in the latter and thus depressed the expansion of the' market.

Geoffrey de Ste Croix explains the long decline of the Roman economy as the result of the Roman political system and its class structure, which facilitated a most intense and ultimately destructive economic exploitation of the great mass of the people, whether slave or free, and it made radical reform impossible. The result was that the propertied class, the men of real wealth, who had deliberately created this system for their own benefit, drained the life-blood from their world and thus destroyed Graeco-Roman civilization over a large part of the empire. (1981: 502)

Economic collapse, particularly in the form of fiscal crisis, came first in Britain, Gaul, Spain, and north Africa in the fifth century, and in much |of Italy, the Balkans, Egypt, Syria, and Mesopotamia in the sixth and seventh centuries. However, the eastern or Byzantine part of the Roman Jempire never suffered such a severe collapse as its western European part. I Western Europe suffered perhaps more than any other region in the World system from the economic retrogression effected by this world systemic crisis. Moreover, many centuries passed before western Europe |recovered, and then only partially. A unique amalgamation of late Roman land Germanic institutions took. form in the west-European provinces of ** Roman empire. The institutions of feudalism were in place by the time of the death of Charlemagne in 814, and western Europe declined into the "Dark Ages." However, we agree with the evidence and arguments of scholars like Dopsch (1923/4) and Lombard (1975) to the effect that even in Europe, trade and markets never declined as much as the more dominant tradition of Max Weber and Henri Pirenne had taught us. Nonetheless, Europe became an economic backwater in the world system, with concomitantly backward and primitive political institutions. Thus, it would |be largely bypassed by the next world economic upturn, which began in |the sixth century. When it finally did begin to recover, it was as pan of lit process of reintegration into the world economy whose center was then, ilocated in the East."