Immanuel Wallerstien presents a theory that the World System is a capitalistic shifting of power of core states over selected peripheries. In order to support this theory you must look back on he history of capitalism as it stated to grow. Also you must understand what a core and periphery are. A core is a dominating state or nation by means of economics, military, and social structure. and the periphery is the state or nation in which is dominated or exploited by the core state or nation. Back in the 19th century we can see a large rise in capitalist backed imperialism ways of thinking in the expansion of the British empire, and its status as a dominating global power. We can also see the expansion of Portugal in to Africa in the 15th century. Although Portugal was a monarchy at the time it showed underling capitalistic motives. In exploring these two times in European history we can see how the area of Europe has for centuries be the dominant power, and core state. Also how Although it exploited areas, for there resources, it brought its peripheries into the modern world.
As recently as 1940, world maps showed large areas colored pink, representing regions dominated by the British. Much of Africa was pink, along with India, Malaya, Hong Kong, and other scattered territories in Asia and the Americas. The existence of an empire on which the sun never set helped instill in the individual British citizen tremendous nationalism, and the need to become personally a devoted imperialist (or peoples who wish to extend and maintain control or influence over weaker nations or peoples). For more than 100 years, the fact that Britain was an empire had changed the British mans life, and had instilled in him the fact that he was superior to most other peoples especially those of other colors and backgrounds. This was also the period when it was felt that it was the “white mans burden” to take care of all those countries whose inhabitants were less worthy than the white Anglo-Saxon. This way of thinking was called Social Darwinism.
This was an age when even though England, in some respects, tried to act “fatherly” towards some of the countries it had seized, it still felt a strong amount of racism towards the people of those countries. In 1849, General Wolsely wrote from the Gold Coast, “The Africans are like monkeys. They are a good-for-nothing race.”1 In 1849 Thomas Carlyle2 pronounced Europeans wiser than Africans and said inferior races must obey the superior. It was an idea that by 1900 most English men and women held, one that fit the paternalism of the governing classes and the prejudice of the lower classes. The Empire had created a nation of imperialists.
The commercial spirit has always existed in human society. What was peculiar to the nineteenth century was its “overbalance.” Capitalism, imperialism, and colonialism were the themes of the day. A generation of university teachers, schoolmasters, clergymen, poets, journalists, and fiction writers concentrated their minds and energies on popularizing the cult of the new imperialism. The intellectual and social trends were many and complex, ranging from Social Darwinist works like Benjamin Kidds “The Control of the Topics”3 to Kiplings poems.4 There was, of course, the persistent call by Christian evangelicals to go forth and convert the pagans. Continuous, too, since the eighteenth century, were humanitarians anxious to end slavery or protect the aborigines.5
In the middle classes, the passion for wealth was closely connected with the desperate need for respectability. By 1880, a generation had passed into manhood with an outlook which made them ideally suited to govern the empire. In itself, wealth alone was hardly enough to make a Victorian respectable. When everyone at the time was busy making money and working to better themselves, someone with money who just laid back and enjoyed the pleasures of life was not a winner. It was said that to be a merchant prince was a far finer thing than to be a gentleman. This means that to be a working merchant, making a living, and getting high in the social ladder, was a more respectable thing to be than just a gentleman. Soon, every single person, no matter what age, was trying to advance in society. “Now that a man may make money, and rise in the world, and
associate himself, unreproached, with people once far above him it becomes a veritable shame to him to remain in the state he was born in, and everybody thinks it is his duty to try to be a gentleman.”6
See, the whole train of thought for everyone of the time, especially men, since the women were mostly housewives, was to live to better themselves by gaining social status and respect from the higher powers.
Except for “God,” the most popular word in the Victorian age vocabulary must have been “work.” Capitalism was the main force behind imperialism. Capitalism had created a wealthy and powerful elite of investors, traders, and manufacturers, anxious to make profits. Capitalism had also, by its unequal distribution of wealth, given so little purchasing power to the workers that they could not buy all the goods produced. This underconsumption forced the elite to search for markets abroad and so to persuade their government to acquire territories abroad as markets for goods, places for investment, and sources of raw materials. Millions of British citizens had emigrated, populating the dominions ruled by Britain. They had jobs ruling India, trading in China, preaching in Africa, and making fortunes in Latin America. The border between the middle class and the upper class could now be easily broken. The increasing wealth of the bourgeoisie and the decreasing wealth of the aristocracy made the line that separated the classes very weak, and now anything was possible if you worked for it.7
We can see that the middle class started to compete with the upper class, as far as jobs and wealth. The lower class in England also benefited from the colonization and imperialism of the 1800s. Living conditions for the poor families had improved and the numbers of poverty stricken homes were shrinking. The general mass of working people had acquired some degree of comfort. Wages had risen and prices had fallen, so that there was a double gain which, on an artisans income, might make a great difference. Since there was much more trade from abroad, foreign goods were now brought in and was cheap and plentiful. Town workers were better fed now than before. Men could buy clothing of a better quality now than before. Rents were relatively low, and overall, it seems that the standard of living for both the poor, working class, and upper middle class had risen many degrees higher. This improvement in material welfare helped encourage private enterprises for other basic needs of the community. People wanted better sanitation, light, water, and power. More jobs opened up in the pursuit of these needs.
As the century ended, national loyalty reached fever pitch in Britain as it did in France and Germany, and its favorite mode of expression was imperialism. It touched all classes, every religious faith, all political parties. This aggressive stance was motivated by many things; racism, greed, and the belief that it was up to the white man to rule the world.
This period of time exemplifies Walerstiens theory in that there was a define core and many peripheries. The core Britain exploited its colonies in the Americas and in India, for the own economic benefit. For example in the Americas the was a large supply of cotton and tobacco, and the British’ imported both. The took advantage of the people of these colonies by using cheap labor reaping all the profits by selling these goods in Britain. The social impact on the core (Britain) was a higher standard of living: better education, cheaper housing, finer cloths, and plenty of food. It seemed to have an opposite affect on the American colonists, the dealt with hard labor conditions, poverty, and economic struggles. Thus setting the stage for the American revolution.
However the idea of expansion into new territories with colonies, and then exploiting the land and its people is not a new Idea. We can see it happening back in the fifteenth century, when the Portuguese started expanding into Africa.
Essentially the Portuguese expansion was rooted from the desire to find better trade roots to the east. Upon there conquest of this new land they found it to be rich in resources and people. They also realized how easily they could conquer this land for there own benefit, and exploit its inhabitants. These expeditions were not cheap however. In order to fund them …Prince Henry drew on the Order of Christ…8 The Exploration started with the selling of Africans captured during raids into slavery (which also help funding). Then in the 1440s the Portuguese discovered the gold riches of Africa and started taking that as well. By 1447 they had consumed enough gold to make a new gold coin called the cruzado (crusade).9 Over the next seven decades the portuguese had covered over 1500 miles of territory stretching the the southern tip. The portuguese also stated large sugar plantations in Africa mainly on the island of So Tom off the southern tip. They used its African slaves to work these fields. The exploration and expansion was at an all time high do
Purchasing African natives to work these new plantations began another lucrative financial venture for the Portuguese: the slave trade.11 The slave trade became a prominent idea and a very lucrative one Ten or fifteen slaves are given for one of these horses, according to their quality.12 The idea of slave trade was probably the biggest exploration of Africa. Not only had the Portuguese taken there land, gold and other resources, now they were taking the people as property. Not only were they using them for work in Africa to further expand, grow crops and produce goods, they brought them back to Portugal to work on there portuguese land. This also ties in the idea of White supremacy, which carried on into the 18th century and beyond.13
From this era of European expansion we can see that Europe in this case Portugal was a core state, Dominating Africa, clearly the periphery in this case. Exploiting everything Africa had to offer: gold, land, sugar, and even its people became part of Portugal’s commerce in trade. There was not much good happening for Africa as a periphery. Except for the fact that the wealthy inhabitants we getting wealthy off of the new trade with the portuguese. As for the portuguese they were winning all around. They acquired a new gold resource, cheap or free labor (depending on how you look at it), new land and they were becoming very wealthy.
In conclusion both these examples of core and periphery states exemplified the idea that is suggested by Walerstiens theory of World Systems. In that both have a core and a periphery, were the core benefited and the periphery did not. Although in both cases the peripheries had benefits not yet foreseen, what the core did aside form exploit them was it brought them to the forefront of this Capitalistic world system. Although it might not have been the easiest way for these peripheries, nevertheless it got them started. For example look at America. During the colonial days it was a periphery; used for its rich growing land, and for territory. Now it is One of the most dominate core states in the world. This also lends to Wallerstiens theory that the core states are forever shifting in the changing times. In todays America as once it was taken advantage of now it takes advantage of its peripheries, for cheap labor, commercial use, and military strategy. So in this thing we call the World System, I think it would be better put as an inherent law of nature of the human race.
Porter, Roy, The Creation of the Modern World: The British Enlightenment.
W.W. Norton & Company, pp. 73-80, 162, 301, 450-461
Alvise da Cadamosto, “Description of Capo Bianco and the Islands Nearest to It,” in J. H. Parry, European Reconnaissance: Selected Documents (New York: Walker, 1968),
Manos, Margaret, ed. The Earth and its Peoples: A Global History, Brief Edition. (Boston, Mass.: Houghton Miffin Company, 2000), pp. 299-306