Assumptions of World System Approach and their Relevance to Political Analysis
Marx and Lenin and their followers conceived the capitalist system in international terms. Robert Wuthnow developed this theme in an article entitled, “The Modern science and World System”, published in 1979 in the journal, Theory and Society. Wuthnow elaborated on the concept that developments in modern science and technology have ushered in a highly integrated world system.
Immanuel Wallerstein in his work entitled Modern World System studied the capitalist agriculture and the origins of the European World economy n the sixteenth century. In his introduction, he defined the obstacles in his previous political perspective. He abandoned his earlier attention on the sovereign state or the national society, by pointing out that “neither one was a social system….One could speak of social change in the social systems.” What Immanuel Wallerstein wanted was to try to transcend the boundaries of disciples as he exploited an “undisciplinary” standpoint. He thus combine d all the social sciences into a historical and holistic perspective.
Samir Amin in his work entitled Accumulation on a World Scale pursued a similar approach, utilizing on explicit Marxist framework and building a radical paradigm of understanding. Amin, like Wallerstein, was also historical and holistic as he attempted to go beyond national capitalist and socialist systems to work out and present his thesis. Thus, Samir Amin declared , “There are not two world markets, one capitalist and the other socialist, but only one, the capitalist world market.” His theory of accumulation on a world scale is a theory of capitalist formations between the centre and the periphery of a world system.
Subscribing to a theory of economic structuralism, Immanuel Wallerstein established his idea of class in the capitalist world economy. His argument may be summarized in the following words. The concept of class is historically related to the capitalist world economy or the modern world system.
The world system consists of three basic elements: (1) a single market, (2) s branch of state structures called nations that affect the market operation; and (3) three levels of core, semi-periphery and periphery involving the appropriation of surplus labour. Class conflict grew out of the interrelationship among the three levels.
Wallerstein argues, ‘Those on top always seek to ensure the existence of three tiers in order to preserve their privilege, whereas those on the bottom seek to reduce three or to two, the better to destroy this same privilege. This fight over the existence of the middle tier goes on continually, both in political terms and in terms of basic ideological constructs.” In this rift and struggle, classes are formed, consolidated, disintegrated, and reformulated as capitalist evolves and develops.
The capitalist world economy is the centre of this ongoing struggle. He further adds, “The capitalist world economy as a totality – its structure, its historical evolution, its contradictions – is the arena social action. The fundamental political reality of that world economy is a class struggle which however takes constantly changing forms; overt class consciousness versus ethno-national consciousness, classes within nations versus classes across nations.”
Samir Amin also visualizes capitalism as world system upon which national entities may be dependent. Class, production, struggle and transition all must be studied and examined in the perspective of world system. Thus, a shift from capitalism to socialism must be ensued in the periphery. He says, “Under the present conditions of inequality between nations, a development that is not merely development of underdevelopment will, therefore, be both national, popular democratic and socialist, by virtue of the world project of which it forms part.”
The other issue is whether the object of analysis be exchange or production. Amin uses concept as the mode of production transcend market categories while centering his observation on the world system, centre and periphery. Amin followed in the tradition of Marx who observed the crises produced by financial and trade cycles in the capitalist system, but who also focused on the development of productive capacity in capitalism. Amin also conceived of the possibility of emergence of class conflict in cloistered chambers of separate national contexts but as occurrences in a wider perspective of the world system. Given the periphery’s integration with the world market, the perimeter suffers from the dearth of capacity and economic resources to challenge foreign monopolies. With the transfers of value from the periphery to centre, the world might be taken to be analyzed in terms of bourgeois and proletarian nations. Amin clarifies the point by saying that class struggle in the modern world system will take place not only inside nations but also across nation.