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9 - World Systems

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 June 2012

Thomas J. McCormick
Affiliation:
Professor Emeritus of History, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Michael J. Hogan
Affiliation:
Ohio State University
Thomas G. Paterson
Affiliation:
University of Connecticut
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Summary

[Every] capitalist development … seems, by reaching the stage of financial expansion, to have in some sense announced its maturity: it [is] a sign of autumn.

– Fernand Braudel

When Mr. [Henry] Kissinger asked whether economic factors have ever controlled political, Mr. [George] Ball said … Economics will influence the political shape of the world since politics can only go so far in interrupting profit before strong pressure develops for a more suitable set of political rules.

– Council on Foreign Relations meeting, 1968

The brilliant Adolf Berle once wrote in his diary: “There is order in the cosmos and if you can not apprehend it, then you make one up inside your head.” World systems theory (WST) is such an invention. And while it has both limits and flaws, as we shall see, it is a theory that transcends those deficits and offers historians a tool that is not only useful, but arguably essential in generating innovative categories, vocabulary, questions, paradigms, and insights. At its most general, its crucial advantage is its absolute insistence on locating any study within the temporal frame of long-term time and within the spatial context of a global unit of analysis. To do otherwise runs the risk of reinventing the wheel, of misinterpreting short-term trends as self-contained or unique when they are often merely segments of medium-term cycles or long-term secular tendencies.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2004

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  • World Systems
  • Edited by Michael J. Hogan, Ohio State University, Thomas G. Paterson, University of Connecticut
  • Book: Explaining the History of American Foreign Relations
  • Online publication: 05 June 2012
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511806445.010
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  • World Systems
  • Edited by Michael J. Hogan, Ohio State University, Thomas G. Paterson, University of Connecticut
  • Book: Explaining the History of American Foreign Relations
  • Online publication: 05 June 2012
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511806445.010
Available formats
×

Send book to Google Drive

To send content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

  • World Systems
  • Edited by Michael J. Hogan, Ohio State University, Thomas G. Paterson, University of Connecticut
  • Book: Explaining the History of American Foreign Relations
  • Online publication: 05 June 2012
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511806445.010
Available formats
×