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Illusion in Crisis? World-Economic and Zonal Volatility, 1975-2013

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6
ILLUSION IN CRISIS?
WORLD-ECONOMIC
AND ZONAL VOLATILITY,
1975–2013
Daniel S. Pasciuti and Corey R. Payne
Introduction
Throughout much of the twentieth century, nations engaged in a race for devel-
opment that achieved massive social change, but differences between nations
did not equalize. Inequality between nations remained relatively constant, yet,
during this period, the validity of the developmental project was rarely ques-
tioned. Despite the failure of nations to “catch up,” the belief in the possibility
persisted, creating what Arrighi (1990) termed the “developmentalist illusion.”
For Arrighi, the “developmentalist illusion” is the idea that catching up
to the wealth levels of the core is possible for any and all states in the world-
economy—when, in reality, they are running in place. By running in place,
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World-Economic and Zonal Volatility 51
states engage in a development project without a corresponding increase in
relative positioning vis-à-vis wealthier states. This means that national devel-
opment is often accompanied by industrialization, urbanization, and increases
in human development—health, education, and general material conditions.
These massive social changes create a perception of “catching up” to the con-
ditions of the “first world” (core), yet their relative material gains are always
slower than those of the wealthiest nations. The wealthiest nations remain one
step ahead as they too continue to advance, materially and economically. The
“illusion of development” is perpetuated, because—despite all of this—the
nation-states still exist in the same relative position of exploitation. Because the
ability to achieve long-term development for all, or even most, nation-states is
impossible under a global economic system based on exploitation and exclu-
sion (the “adding up” problem), the developmental idea is a logical fallacy—an
illusion.
This “adding up” problem in the capitalist world-economy is based on
the notion that all states do not face the same conditions for advancement in a
system where the “relational processes of exploitation and relational processes
of exclusion” (Arrighi 1990: 16) are continuously reproduced in new ways.
This is a complementary duology of exploitation and exclusion, where core
states use their position in the world wealth hierarchy to exploit semiperiph-
eral and peripheral states in the world division of labor through a process of
unequal allocation of resources and unequal reward for human effort (Waller-
stein 1988; Arrighi 1990).
We provide an alternative lens to empirically examine the relative
movement of world income differences over the past 40 years and offer an
alternative understanding of the present political and social crises of the past
decade by focusing on the volatility of relational income inequality. By sorting
nation-states into their respective zones of the world-economy—via a method
developed by Arrighi and Drangel (1986)—we track the movement within
and between these zones across our temporal scope.
After demonstrating that movement between zones is negligible,1 we
then calculate a volatility measure in each given year to determine the level of
movement within each zone and the entire world-economy. We find distinct
periods of high volatility concentrated in the semiperiphery and periphery (in
the 1980s and 1990s respectively) and low volatility globally in the 2000s. We
argue that these trends have striking implications for our understanding of the
world-economy and the current period of social and political chaos.
Measuring Differences in National Income
The main dataset used in this research is the Gross National Income Per Cap-
ita (GNIPC) measure, using the foreign exchange Atlas method, provided by
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52 Daniel S. Pasciuti and Corey R. Payne
the World Bank. We utilized GNIPC in order to measure the total income
“accrued” by residents, including incomes transferred from abroad, rather
than GDP, which measures incomes “produced” by residents. The World
Bank’s data does not cover all countries for all years from 1975 to 2013. Since
data was needed in every year in order for our ranking and analysis, data was
interpolated and extrapolated using several methods which are described in
depth in Appendix A.2 Only 14 countries’ data required alteration. In total,
5.3% of the data points were added, with 5% being the former USSR and
0.3% being other nations. After removing all countries with data points that
could not be added with our methods, we were able to create a set of 126
countries with complete data throughout the period.
Data from the World Bank allows us to measure absolute differences
between countries. We can understand income as a proxy for power and com-
mand over these resources (Bonini 2015). However, our analysis focuses on
the positioning of nation-states in relation to one another. This presents us
with a situation where absolute differences in wealth (or income over the long-
run) do not matter. The amount of per capita income separating the rich,
middle, and poor clusters in the hierarchy do not concern us as much as the
fact that there is a difference between the rich, middle, and poor clusters. We
again build from Arrighi (1990: 15), that
capitalism [is] an evolutionary system in which the stability of the whole
is premised on the perennial change in and of the parts. . . . The kinds of
inputs, outputs, and techniques of production and distribution and the
positions in networks of trade and resource allocation that endow states
with differential capabilities to appropriate the benefits of the world divi-
sion of labor are assumed to change continually as a consequence of the
introduction and diffusion of political, economic, and social innovations.
While the specific “inputs, outputs, and techniques of production” change,
grow, and evolve, the position of these parts remains relatively constant.
Because of this, we are concerned solely with the position of a country as
a part in the system—the position of a country in the world wealth hierar-
chy. This position is only important vis-à-vis the position of other countries,
and, through this lens, the absolute changes have limited value. Therefore, we
use this relative positioning of countries (vis-à-vis other countries) as a tool to
understand the organization of and movement within the wealth hierarchy
over the past four decades.
This approach utilizes the concept of rankings to complement, rather
than supplant, previous research on hierarchy in the world-economy. By
providing information about the terminal endpoint of the distribution of
national economies, rankings provide an alternative lens to the relative differ-
ences in world-economic stratification in its relationship to a finite number
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World-Economic and Zonal Volatility 53
of possibilities. In this way, information about national economic well-being
can be interpreted as a relative measure vis-à-vis the entire distribution of
the world-economy. In essence, the upper bound of rankings is limited by
the number of countries employed in the rankings and not the theoretically
infinite valuation of absolute income.
Clustering in Zones
Following Arrighi and Drangel’s method for delineating the boundaries of the
zones of the world-economy, we determine boundaries for the core, semipe-
riphery, and periphery as follows: For each selected year, data was arranged by
GNIPC from the smallest to the largest value. In order to collapse the inter-
val between countries, as well as remove a significant right-skew, the GNIPC
values were transformed using a log of base 10. This not only improves the
interpretability of information, but also allows for a better visual presentation
and inspection of the data distribution. The logged values were then truncated
to an interval of one-tenth in order to consolidate the number of independent
variables for plotting.
For each country, the share of the world’s population was then calculated.
This population was divided by the aggregate to calculate a percentage share of
the world population that each country holds. Next, the population shares of
countries with the same truncated log value were aggregated. A three-interval
moving average was then taken in order to smooth the erratic spikes and dips
in the distribution caused by populous states. This method was repeated for
each year in order to classify boundaries of the core- semiperiphery-periphery
hierarchy.
These zonal distinctions are theorized to represent relative measure-
ments, where the greater the level of income, at market-based exchange rates,
the greater the marginal rewards of labor to citizens of a state. This reflects
both the world division of labor in economic activities and the highly skewed
share of benefits in that division.
For our analysis, we utilized the 1992 distribution of logged Gross
National Income (GNI) per capita. We use this particular year to identify
zonal boundaries due to previous research which identifies 1992 as the global
distribution most similar to a trimodal distribution (Pasciuti and Silver 2015).
The distribution of ranks was then classified into core, semiperiphery, and
periphery based on these zonal boundaries. Since the goal of classifying these
countries into a zone is not to permanently position them there, but rather
to show relative movement over time, the selection of a single distribution
does not affect the outcome so long as the boundaries are kept constant; in
addition, multiple iterations of our processes show that changing the base year
does not alter our findings.
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54 Daniel S. Pasciuti and Corey R. Payne
Arrighi and Drangel used the local minima between the modes as
boundaries, and when there was more than one local minimum, they deemed
all countries that fell between the minima to belong to a “perimeter of the
core” and a “perimeter of the periphery” (Arrighi and Drangel 1986: 64).
Because we are interested in the temporal changes in the hierarchical location
of states, we decided to split the perimeter between the core and the semi-
periphery. As such, those countries with a logged GNIPC value of 3.8 went
to the semiperiphery and those with a 4.0 went to the core. We decided that
those countries in the 3.9 block would be labeled semiperipheral.3 Therefore,
these zonal boundaries were established: the periphery includes all countries
with log GNIPC values from 2.2 to 2.9; the semiperiphery from 3.0 to 3.9;
and the core from 4.0 to 4.7.
Country Movement Within and Between Zones
To understand relative movement within these zones, we ranked the countries
from 1 to 126 (where 1 is given to the country with the highest GNI per
capita and 126 is given to the lowest). The zones were then delineated based
on the method described above, with the following result using the actual
rankings in 1992: the core consists of those countries with the ranks of 1 to
28, the semiperiphery 29 to 76, and the periphery 77 to 126. We maintain
these boundaries as temporally constant throughout.
0.00%
2.00%
4.00%
6.00%
8.00%
10.00%
12.00%
14.00%
16.00%
18.00%
2.22.3 2.42.5 2.62.7 2.82.9 33.1 3.23.3 3.43.5 3.63.7 3.83.9 44.1 4.24.3 4.44.5 4.64.7
Percentage of World Populaon
Logged GNI per capita
Periphery Semiperiphery Core
Figure 6.1 World Distribution of Wealth, 1992
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World-Economic and Zonal Volatility 55
By ranking, we show each country’s relative position in the wealth hier-
archy over time. Changes in position in the hierarchy are representative of
changes in ability to reap rewards from the world distribution of labor. Coun-
try ranks are graphed from 1975 to 2013. Figure 6.2 shows the rank move-
ment of the countries in the semiperiphery. The second graph (Figure 6.3)
depicts only the countries that permanently entered or exited the semiperiph-
ery over this time period. The dotted lines represent the boundaries of the
zone; all countries are classified based on their 1992 zonal positions.4
Figure 6.2 clearly illustrates that, within the semiperiphery, countries
are moving consistently throughout the period; the image is one of almost
consistent chaos. Yet, in Figure 6.3, we isolate only the exceptional cases
(countries that entered or left a zone and remained there for at least five
years). Here, only ten countries that were in the semiperiphery in 1992
entered or left the zone over the entire time period, making real zonal change
a rare event. For example, Thailand and Hungary (marked as lines A and C
respectively) enter the semiperiphery and remain in the zone for the rest of
the period. Alternatively, El Salvador (marked as line B) enters the zone in
1992, remains for a while, but then falls back into the periphery by the end
of our period.
Thus, the data suggest that there is a significant amount of movement
within zones, where countries are changing relative position in the world-
economy every year. But these changes are, generally speaking, small intervals.
Throughout our time period, the average movement per country per year was
20
30
40
50
60
70
80
90
1975 1977 1979 1981 1983 1985 1987 1989 1991 1993 1995 1997 1999 2001 2003 2005 2007 2009 2011 2013
Rank
Semiperiphery
Core
Periphery
Figure 6.2 Rank Position of Semiperipheral Countries
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56 Daniel S. Pasciuti and Corey R. Payne
1.69 ranks. Despite this constant movement, from 1975 to 2013, only 21
countries (or 16.67%) permanently transitioned between zones. Change was
more prominent in the semi periphery, where approximately 20% of countries
transitioned, while approximately 14% transitioned in the core or periphery.5
Table 6.1 highlights one of the central features of our analysis: the
stunning lack of trans-zonal movement. While there is constant shifting of
countries’ rank over time, the overall lack of trans-zonal movement shows
the fallacy of the “catching up” development paradigm. As stated previously,
with this constant “running in place,” in conjunction with the developmental
project of material and social improvement, nations have an illusion of devel-
opment. Their movement vis-à-vis others in their respective zones creates the
perception of hierarchical change, while only minor back-and-forth shifts are
the reality. Given this, the failure to develop and the illusion of development
are not two separate realities but rather parts of the same whole—the cen-
tral feature of the world-economic hierarchy. We have shown empirically the
failure to develop (Table 6.1).6 We now seek to show the persistence of the
20
30
40
50
60
70
80
90
1975 1977 1979 1981 1983 1985 1987 1989 199119931995199719992001200320052007200920112013
Rank
Semiperiphery
Core Periphery
A
C
B
Figure 6.3 Rank Position of Semiperipheral Countries, Without Stable Countries
Table 6.1 Organic, Perimeter, and Exceptional Countries by Zone
Organic Perimeter Exceptional
Number Percent Number Percent Number Percent
Core 23 82.14% 1 3.57% 4 14.29%
Semiperiphery 34 70.83% 4 8.33% 10 20.83%
Periphery 42 84.00% 1 2.00% 7 14.00%
Total 99 78.57% 6 4.76% 21 16.67%
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World-Economic and Zonal Volatility 57
logical fallacy, the “illusion of development,” through an empirical measure of
volatility in the world wealth hierarchy.
Assessing Zonal Volatility
Illustrating the illusion of development requires moving beyond an analysis of
individual, national rank movements, and it requires understanding volatility
of both the zones of the world-system and the world-economy as a whole.
Technically, volatility is the fluctuation of countries’ rank movements within
each zone of the world-economy. Conceptually, aggregating these fluctuations
allows us to measure volatility as the magnitude of rank movement within the
world wealth hierarchy, relative to other countries. We have therefore created
measures of cumulative fluctuation in the world-economy as a whole—what
we have termed “world-economic volatility”—and in its constitutive zones—
what we have termed “zonal volatility.” Since our central theoretical prem-
ise is that relative positioning in the hierarchy of wealth indicates the ability
to extract unequal rewards and unequal opportunities, taken together, these
measures compile a more complete picture of the world-economy and allow
us to identify and analyze change and stability in the world-system.
By calculating the aggregate expected movement within the world-
economy per year and then placing it as a ratio of actual movement per year,
we are able to create a timeline of percent movement deviated from expected
movement over the course of the analyzed period. The formula was a simple
ratio calculation:
Actual Movement Expected Movement
Expected Movement
Actual Movement is the sum of the absolute value of rank change for every
country for every year. Expected Movement is global average movement per
country per year. The resulting percentage is the deviation from average
movement for the world-economy in each given year. The values were then
smoothed by taking a three-period moving average to allow for better inter-
pretation. Figure 6.4 shows zonal volatility, the percent deviation from the
global average movement per country per year by each of the three zones.
What is resoundingly clear from this measure is that the core has sig-
nificantly less than average volatility throughout the period. While this is no
doubt interesting, it is unsurprising; we expect volatility in the zones where
“catching up” is an active goal—or rather, where the illusion of development
is preeminent. Yet even in these zones, what is most striking is not the level
of relative economic volatility present in much of the period, but the lack of
relative movement over the past 10 years. We will explore the historical signif-
icance of these points, beginning with the late 1970s.
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58 Daniel S. Pasciuti and Corey R. Payne
Generally speaking, the semiperiphery indicated high volatility from
1976 through the early 1990s, with a brief aberration in the mid-1980s. We
interpret this volatility primarily through the lens of the massive debt crisis
and subsequent IMF response. This period, especially in Latin America, is
known as the “Lost Development Decade” because of the significant socio-
economic declines states experienced—not only in absolute terms, but also
vis-à-vis other states. Two examples which manifest this dynamic clearly are
Chile and Mexico. In the postwar period (1950s through 1970s), through
massive government spending and policies of import substituting industrial-
ization (ISI), the two countries experienced exceptional growth (Hirschman
1968). In 1981, our analysis shows both countries declining in relative posi-
tion to other countries, consistent with the debt crisis. By 1982, Latin Amer-
ica as a whole was holding debt at 50% of their collective GDP and at more
than 300% of their collective exports (Bértola and Ocampo 2012). In 1982,
Mexico defaulted on its debt payments, and others followed suit. By 1985, 38
countries were forced to reschedule their debt payments globally, of which 16
were Latin American countries (Sachs and Williamson 1986). These trends
are clearly illustrated in our data as the “newly industrializing nations” steadily
lose ground relative to other nations. We generally point to this process of
system crisis, debt, and decline throughout the semiperiphery to explain the
overall high level of volatility captured during this period and ultimately
the “running in place” that left many countries in the same relative position
at the end of the 1980s as they had been in the 1970s, even as their absolute
level of income changed.
-70%
-55%
-40%
-25%
-10%
5%
20%
35%
50%
65%
80%
95%
1976
1977
1978
1979
1980
1981
1982
1983
1984
1985
1986
1987
1988
1989
1990
1991
1992
1993
1994
1995
1996
1997
1998
1999
2000
2001
2002
2003
2004
2005
2006
2007
2008
2009
2010
2011
Semiperiphery Periphery Core
Figure 6.4 Zonal Volatility: Percent Deviation From Global Average, Three-Period
Moving Average
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World-Economic and Zonal Volatility 59
Conversely, newly industrializing countries in East Asia did not follow
the same rise and decline pattern of their Latin American counterparts. Most
notably, the East Asian Tigers (South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, and Hong
Kong) which had been rapidly growing since the 1960s, due to an interesting
mix of neoliberal policies and state intervention in markets. It is important to
note it here to show that many factors, not solely zonal collapse due to a debt
crisis, led to the high volatility during the 1980s.
For example, South Korea experienced significant growth from the
1960s onward, which many attribute to the implementation of liberal export-
oriented industrialization (EOI) (Castells 1991). In our analysis, South Korea
steadily rose in the ranking of the world wealth hierarchy, crossing the entire
semiperipheral zone between 1978 and 1992 before flattening out along our
zonal boundary from 1992 onward.
In the 1990s, the semiperiphery remains volatile but the level of volatil-
ity declines. Instead, it is the periphery that emerges as the most volatile area
of the world-economy through the massive growth of other Asian nations,
especially India and China. But in addition to the rise of China and India
(and others in Asia, such as Indonesia and Sri Lanka), we also see decrease
(and then, sometimes, recovery) of countries in Central Asia, such as Arme-
nia, Azerbaijan, and Turkmenistan. This is due to the collapse of the Soviet
sphere, after which all of Central Asia experienced a dismal period of eco-
nomic decline until approximately 1997 (ADBI 2014).
Understanding hierarchical change in the world-system during the late
twentieth century, without discussing the rise of China and India, would be
highly problematic. Undoubtedly, their rise has caused more ink to be spilled
Figure 6.5 Ranking of South Korea, Mexico, and Chile, 1975 to 1992
29
34
39
44
49
54
59
64
69
74
79
1975 1976 1977 1978 1979 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992
Korea, Rep. Mexico Chile
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60 Daniel S. Pasciuti and Corey R. Payne
on the subject of development than anything else in the past two decades. The
trends presented in our data follow the predominant narrative that China and
India rose relative to other nation-states throughout the 1990s and, at least
in the case of China, continued to rise through our most recent data (Arrighi
2007, 2009; Hung 2009; Korzeniewicz and Moran 2009). The emergence of
these states, along with a general overall rise of the rest of East Asia, plays a
critical role in the volatility of the periphery in the 1990s.
And while the data—both our zonal volatility measure and our coun-
try rankings—match our general historical understanding for the 1980s and
1990s, the data from approximately 2000 to 2013 is more complicated. As
demonstrated in Figure 6.8, both the semiperiphery and the periphery decline
to generally hover around average movement during the last decade of our
analysis. This is slightly counter to the general understanding of the period—
that the 2000s were characterized by the rise of China (and the rest of the
BRICS) in a challenge to Western (core) dominance within the world wealth
hierarchy.
But, taking a look at the rank positions of the BRICS throughout the
entire period presents a different picture. With the exception of China (and,
to a small extent, Brazil), the BRICS begin to level off in their relative rise
through the hierarchy following the turn of the century. China is the only
“major mover” left vis-à-vis other nations. And, further, given the decline of
both the semiperipheral and peripheral zones’ volatility during this decade, it
appears to be one of the few “major movers” of the period at all.
This presents an anomaly in the understanding of the contemporary
period of the world-system—the crisis of US hegemony. During a period of
70
80
90
10
0
11
0
12
0
1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000
Turkmenistan Indonesia Azerbaijan
Sri LankaKyrgyz Republic Tajikistan
Armenia China India
Figure 6.6 Ranking of Selected Peripheral Countries, 1986 to 2002
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World-Economic and Zonal Volatility 61
25
40
55
70
85
100
115
130
1975
1976
1977
1978
1979
1980
1981
1982
1983
1984
1985
1986
1987
1988
1989
1990
1991
1992
1993
1994
1995
1996
1997
1998
1999
2000
2001
2002
2003
2004
2005
2006
2007
2008
2009
2010
2011
2012
2013
China India South Africa Russian Federaon Brazil
Figure 6.8 Ranking of the BRICS countries, 1975 to 2013
increasing challenges to US dominance, this lack of volatility in the world-
system appears to imply a stabilizing world order. We are thus left with a
seemingly contradictory dynamic, where the country and zonal data conflict
with our a priori understanding of the political and social chaos now engulfing
the world-system.
60
70
80
90
100
110
120
130
1975
1976
1977
1978
1979
1980
1981
1982
1983
1984
1985
1986
1987
1988
1989
1990
1991
1992
1993
1994
1995
1996
1997
1998
1999
2000
2001
2002
2003
2004
2005
2006
2007
2008
2009
2010
2011
2012
2013
China India
Figure 6.7 Ranking of China and India, 1975 to 2013
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62 Daniel S. Pasciuti and Corey R. Payne
World-Economic Volatility: A Perspective on Crisis?
Therefore, we return to our global measure of world-economic volatility
to understand if the individual and zonal trends are indicative of a world-
systemic change. This cumulative measure of the rank movement of all
nations, regardless of zonal positioning, takes the entire world-economy as
a singular unit of analysis across time. This measure, presented in Figure 6.9,
matches the trends of zonal volatility presented above.
Here we can clearly decipher three striking features. The first two fea-
tures are “waves” of volatility from the 1970s to the mid-1980s and from the
late 1980s to the mid-1990s. We have already established that the two early
waves did not fundamentally alter the world wealth hierarchy, constituting
the “running in place” phenomenon. As we have shown in Figure 6.4, the
first wave was concentrated in the semiperiphery, while the second was con-
centrated in the periphery—and, as we show in Table 6.1 and Figures 6.2
and 6.3, neither wave accomplished fundamental hierarchical restructuring or
trans-zonal movement.
The third feature is not a “wave” but is the stunning decrease of volatil-
ity from the mid-1990s to the present. This is not surprising, as we have pre-
viously established that both semiperipheral and peripheral volatility declined
to below average around the turn of the century. Further, individual countries,
such as the BRICS, which were thought to have been rising in the wealth
-40%
-30%
-20%
-10%
0%
10%
20%
30%
40%
1976
1977
1978
1979
1980
1981
1982
1983
1984
1985
1986
1987
1988
1989
1990
1991
1992
1993
1994
1995
1996
1997
1998
1999
2000
2001
2002
2003
2004
2005
2006
2007
2008
2009
2010
2011
Figure 6.9 Volatility in the World-Economy: Percent Deviation From Average,
Three-Period Moving Average
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World-Economic and Zonal Volatility 63
hierarchy during this period, in reality failed to significantly move vis-à-vis
other countries.
So what does this mean for our understanding of the world wealth hier-
archy? Primarily, it leads to a return to our initial foundation—that, despite
significant absolute changes in wealth and income since the turn of the twen-
tieth century, the position of nation-states vis-à-vis other nation-states has
remained mostly static. This is occurring despite the continued rise of China.
This reality reinforces our understanding of the developmentalist illusion:
while some countries (e.g., China) are able to continue to rise and “develop,”
the hierarchy—the economic organization of the world-system—remains sta-
ble overall.
The striking feature then, is not that the global picture matches the
constituent parts, but that the lack of global volatility is unprecedented in
the past five decades. Taken in a broader temporal scope, the overall historical
dynamics, presented above, draw a fascinating picture of change and present
a new lens through which to assess the contemporary crises: of the ability to
develop, of the illusion of development, and of the world-system as a whole.
Here we return to our theoretical starting points, the failure to develop
and the illusion of development. As outlined by Arrighi (1990), we have
based our assumptions of the perpetuation of a world wealth hierarchy on the
premise that the world-economy is characterized by the provision of unequal
rewards and unequal opportunities to nations. Relative position in the world
wealth hierarchy correlates with greater benefits and opportunities for nations
to attain higher incomes and remain ahead of others in the distribution of
wealth. Moreover, the idea, inherent in various versions of modernization the-
ory, that catching up to the development of the core is possible for any and all
states, and that movement within world-economic zones represents the ability
to develop, generates a logical fallacy, an illusion of development. Therefore,
we reiterate our thesis that the failure to develop and the illusion of develop-
ment are parts of the same whole—the central feature of the world-economic
hierarchy.
We claim that this central feature corresponds with the perpetuation
of a stable hegemonic system. Although there was movement within the
wealth hierarchy, the overall distribution and structure of the world-economy
remained constant despite volatility. This is clear in our data from the 1970s
through the 1990s, where trans-zonal mobility was absent (the failure to
develop) and volatility was present (the illusion of development). When these
conditions were present in the latter half of the twentieth century, US hege-
mony was perpetuated.
However, from the late 1990s through the present, volatility has sub-
stantially declined while trans-zonal movement is still absent. We theorize that
the failure to develop without the illusion of development characterizes the
contemporary form of hegemonic crisis and fundamentally distinguishes it
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64 Daniel S. Pasciuti and Corey R. Payne
from the earlier period. The lack of volatility since the early 1990s breaks the
illusion of development and undermines the global institutional conditions
created for the perpetuation of US hegemony. This does not equate with a
fundamental change in the position of wealth held by core nations, the eco-
nomic dominance and exploitation of the world-system, but rather signifies
the social, political, and ideological crisis of US hegemony, where US leader-
ship is being challenged.
In this way, we may understand the current global dissonance and the
blatant challenging by BRICS and other nations, such as the creation of a
new development bank, or multilateral institutions in the realm of inter-
national trade and military intervention, as manifestations of the crisis of
global institutional conditions. Wealthier nations still use their position in
the world-economy to economically exploit and exclude weaker nations, but
without these conditions—without the illusion of development—the eco-
nomic organization of the world-system has been laid bare for what it truly is:
crass exploitation.
This conclusion fits with our understanding of hegemonic transitions.
Silver and Arrighi (2011: 59) argued that “[i]n the past, declining powers lost
their ability to maintain the necessary global institutional conditions before
rising powers had the capacity or inclination to take over the role of leader.”
If we understand the contemporary period of world history as the period of
declining US power, the decrease in volatility can be understood as the quan-
dary of the US-organized world-system. As the illusion of development has
collapsed and the global institutional conditions supporting US hegemony
have deteriorated, the current state of the world-system is characterized by
financial, geopolitical, and social chaos.
Notes
1. This analysis builds from Arrighi and Drangel (1986), who also found negligible trans-
zonal movement for the early period of our analysis, and who developed “mobility tables” to
understand the “running in place” phenomenon in the semiperiphery (Arrighi and Drangel
1986: Appendix III).
2. Appendix A can be found at http://krieger.jhu.edu/arrighi/wp-content/uploads/
sites/29/2016/06/Illusion-in-Crisis_Appendices.pdf
3. Our tests were run on the data with the countries in the 3.9 block in the core, and the
overall results are not different.
4. Similar trends exist in the core and peripheral zones as well, but were excluded for
space. They can be found in Appendix C: http://krieger.jhu.edu/arrighi/wp-content/uploads/
sites/29/2016/06/Illusion-in-Crisis_Appendices.pdf
5. A list of countries in each of these distinctions can be found in Appendix B, available at
http://krieger.jhu.edu/arrighi/wp-content/uploads/sites/29/2016/06/Illusion-in-Crisis_Appen
dices.pdf
6. See also Pasciuti and Silver (2015); Korzeniewicz and Moran (1997).
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120
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... Under the asymmetric development of actors and spaces within those commodity chains, the world-system assumes in each of those cycles a hierarchical, stratified and unequal pattern of reproduction in which the reinforcement of the core actors' positions-supported by core statesdemand the persistence of subordinating and exploitative relationships of those positioned in the (semi)periphery. Notwithstanding the cyclically changing forms, the persistence of this kind of relationship explains the scarce alteration of the hierarchy of the world system (Arrighi 1990;Arrighi and Drangel 1986;Pasciuti and Payne 2017). ...
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This article analyzes the economic convergence of the global South with the global North (GS and GN, respectively) as well as the divergence within the GS between Asia and "the rest" (Latin America and Africa). In order to address these processes, the paper is structured in three parts. In the first part, the fundamentals that support this "divergent convergence" are considered in light of two theoretical perspectives: world-systems analysis (WSA) and Latin American Structuralism (LAS). We take into account the analytical tools of these theoretical perspectives and differentiate the historical, systemic, and top-down approach of WSA (focused on the contributions of Wallerstein and Arrighi) from the historical, structural, and bottom-up perspective of LAS. In the second part, we analyze the convergence of the GS with the GN in terms of economic dynamic, economic dynamism, and control of the accumulation process, as well as the divergence within the GS between Asia and "the rest". We finally argue the possibility and necessity of complementing WSA and LAS approaches in order to explain these simultaneous processes of "divergent convergence" and to reflect on the challenges for the rest of the GS in facing the consolidation of Asian dominance under Chinese leadership.
... Of course, since these transformations are still ongoing in front of our eyes, it is not easy to predict if the world hierarchies will be stabilized in a trimodal, quadrimodal or a new structure (also see Karatasli 2017). However, analysis by Pasciuti and Payne (2018) suggests that "zonal volatility" which has increased during the financial globalization era has already stabilized in recent years. Therefore, the quadrimodal structure may be entering its relative stability phase. ...
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The historical analysis presented in this chapter refutes the claims of the neo-modernization theories on empirical grounds. By examining trends of global inequality from the sixteenth century to the present, the chapter documents major problems with arguments claiming that global inequality trends have started to radically decline for the first time since the industrial revolution. What we call as globalization today is neither a recent nor a linear phenomenon, but historically recurrent and cyclical feature of historical capitalism. By analyzing the trends of global inequality during periods of financial globalization, the analysis presented in this chapter shows that from the sixteenth century to the present, the world economy has experienced further polarization between the rich and poor countries during periods of financial globalization. While global inequality trends temporarily declined in the short run during what Arrighi named as “financial expansion” periods of the world economy, they tended to increase in the long run, producing “divergences” in the periphery. Moreover, changes in the global hierarchy of wealth have been characterized by not one but a series of great divergences in the longue duree, from the sixteenth century to the present, all of which have taken place during periods of financial expansion and globalization.
... En estos análisis, el argumento ha estado asociado a la conformación de las relaciones de explotación y los procesos de exclusión de las cadenas de producción global, siendo esto el resultado de los posicionamientos desiguales y la inequidad de oportunidades de las diferentes naciones. Su posición relativa en la jerarquía de riqueza es correlacionada con desiguales oportunidades de esos espacios para obtener mejores ingresos y mantenerse en la delantera en la distribución y apropiación del excedente (Pasciuti y Payne, 2017); (Arrighi, 1990). Estos análisis han recibido no pocas y atendibles críticas como proxy para entender el posicionamiento sistémico de determinados espacios nacionales y/o regionales (Lourenço, 2005). ...
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Desde inicios del nuevo siglo y bajo las transformaciones desplegadas en los últimos 50 años a partir de la crisis cíclica del capitalismo, tiene lugar un creciente desplazamiento espacial del proceso de acumulación hacia el Sur Global (SG). Tomando este último como unidad de análisis (y observando en su interior la interrelación de las macro regiones que lo componen), dicho desplazamiento es analizado a través de variables asociados a su dinámica, dinamismo y creciente capacidad de control sobre las cadenas de producción global. Inserto todo ello en el marco de la explosión demográfica del SG, los resultados dan cuenta de una inédita alteración de la estructura jerárquica del capitalismo desde su nacimiento, al tiempo que abre un nuevo mapa para el examen de las jerarquías y su funcionamiento respecto del habitual esquema analítico (centro – semi-periferia – periferia) difundido por la teoría del sistema mundo. Una redefinición de la agenda analítico y estratégica se despende de ello a nivel geopolítico y geoeconómico global.
... Importantly, worldsystems analysis does not consider either independent nation-states or the amorphous world to be the proper unit of analysis. Instead, nation-states are situated unequally within an unusually stable hierarchical structure (Karatasli 2017;Pascuiti and Payne 2018). The importance of technological innovation cannot be denied. ...
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Predominant analyses of energy offer insufficient theoretical and political economic insight into the persistence of coal and other fossil fuels. The dominant narrative of coal powering the Industrial Revolution and Great Britain’s world dominance in the 19th century giving way to a US and oil-dominated 20th century is marred by teleological assumptions. The key assumption that a complete energy ‘transition’ will occur leads some to conceive of a renewable energy-dominated 21st century led by China. After critiquing the teleological assumptions of modernization, ecological modernization, energetics, and even world-systems analysis of energy ‘transition’, this paper offers a world-systems perspective on the ‘raw’ materialism of coal. Examining the material characteristics of coal and the unequal structure of the world-economy, the paper uses long term data from governmental and private sources to reveal the lack of transition as new sources of energy are added. Increases in coal consumption in China and India as they have ascended in the capitalist world-economy have more than offset leveling and decline in some core nations. A true global peak and decline (let alone full substitution) in energy generally and coal specifically has never happened. The future need not repeat the past, but technical, policy and movement approaches will not get far without addressing the structural imperatives of capitalist growth and the uneven power structures and processes of long term change of the world-system.
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Predominant analyses of energy offer insufficient theoretical and political-economic insight into the persistence of coal and other fossil fuels. The dominant narrative of coal powering the Industrial Revolution, and Great Britain's world dominance in the nineteenth century giving way to a U.S.- and oil-dominated twentieth century, is marred by teleological assumptions. The key assumption that a complete energy “transition” will occur leads some to conceive of a renewable-energy-dominated twenty-first century led by China. After critiquing the teleological assumptions of modernization, ecological modernization, energetics, and even world-systems analysis of energy “transition,” this paper offers a world-systems perspective on the “raw” materialism of coal. Examining the material characteristics of coal and the unequal structure of the world-economy, the paper uses long-term data from governmental and private sources to reveal the lack of transition as new sources of energy are added. The increases in coal consumption in China and India as they have ascended in the capitalist world-economy have more than offset the leveling-off and decline in some core nations. A true global peak and decline (let alone full substitution) in energy generally and coal specifically has never happened. The future need not repeat the past, but technical, policy, and movement approaches will not get far without addressing the structural imperatives of capitalist growth and the uneven power structures and processes of long-term change of the world-system.
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Recent literature in the world-systems perspective has refocused attention on questions of 'core' and 'periphery' in historical capitalism, yet rarely critically examines the underlying assumptions regarding these zones. Drawing on a developing dataset on the world's wealthiest individuals (the World-Magnates Database), we trace the development and expansion of sugar circuits across the Atlantic world from the sixteenth through the eighteenth centuries to explain how the sugar commodity chain leads us to rethink some prevailing notions of core and periphery. Namely, we challenge the notion that these zones consist of geographical spaces that, since very early in the development of the world-economy, became permanently specialized in the production of raw materials (periphery) or more sophisticated manufactures (core); and that labor forces have been trans-historically relatively free/better-paid in core activities and coerced/poorly-paid in peripheral ones. We argue that, prior to the nineteenth century, the world-economy is not only characterized by the uneven and combined emergence of various forms of labor exploitation, as usually argued within a world-systems perspective, but also one in which core-like and peripheral activities (that is, those providing access to relatively greater or lesser wealth) were not yet as clearly bounded geographically as they would become in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. We find that a longue-durée analysis of sugar production by enslaved labor illustrates not merely processes of peripheralization, but of what we call coreification.