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Uneven Economic Growth, Systemic Challenges, and Global Wars William R. Thompson International Studies Quarterly, Vol. 27, No. 3.

(Sep., 1983), pp. 341-355.
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systemic challenges and world wars. Chase-Dunn's defense of this world-system position is buttressed by a summary discussion of the operations of the system's principal processes since the sixteenth century. and world wars. Recently. 34 1-355 Uneven Economic Growth. systemic challenges.00 0 1983 International Studies Association . in turn. represent something more than extraordinary periods of widespread combat: they demonstrate that rapid changes in the distribution of productive capabilities outstrip the political framework designed in the context of a n earlier distribution of economic power. Particular emphasis is placed on the relationships between uneven economic development. and Global Wars Claremont Graduate School Chase-Dunn's (1981) recent defense of the world-system approach emphasizes the close relationship between uneven economic development. moreover. The differences are demonstrated by critically examining Chase-Dunn's generalizations and by proposing counter-arguments and generalizations. A1 Bergesen. I n brief. 1977. O n e of the more frequent criticisms of Immanuel Wallerstein's (1974. Zolberg. according to Chase-Dunn. 1981) by arguing that the multicentric structure of the interstate system is necessary for the continued expansion of capitalist accumulation processes and. that this structure is dependent on processes of uneven economic development for its own survival. Karen Rasler and the Journal editors. Systemic Challenges. While this argument is articulated in a most cogent fashion. World wars. George Modelski. Modelski's (1978) long cycle ofworld leadership theory. uneven economic growth is primarily responsible for the increases and decreases in relative strengths and competitive pressures which lead to world wars. 1980) interpretation ofworld-system dynamics is that the world-economy perspective tends to subordinate international politics as a by-product or result of the processes of capitalistic economic development. 0020-8833183103 0341-15 $03. Working within an alternative perspective on the development of the world-system. it is unprofitable to conceptualize the modern world-system in terms of separate or autonomous political and economic subsystems. and circumstances leading to. 1979. systemic challenges and global wars. it remains less than Author's note: Earlier versions of this article have benefited from the comments of Rick Ashley. Chris Chase-Dunn. 1978. World wars thus serve the function of destroying out-moded political rules and establishing new frameworks which facilitate the expansion of the capitalist accumulation process. Modelski. Pat McGowan. Jack Levy. Thus. Chase-Dunn (1981) has responded to several such critiques (Skocpol.International Studies Quarterly ( 1983) 27. leads to markedly different although occasionally overlapping interpretations of the significance of.

T h e dissolution of the states in the system. there is more to Chase-Dunn's argument than mere definitional stipulation. Only two types of world-systems are given consideration in the worldeconomy perspective: world-empires and world-economies. for Chase-Dunn the fact that all of these extreme fundamental transformations have been avoided indicates that the interstate system possesses the ability to weather periodic crises which threaten its existence. that there are two main characteristics of the interstate system that need to be sustained-the multicentricity and rivalry of the core actors and the maintenance of a network of exchange among the states-it then follows that there are three ways in which the interstate system might be fundamentally transformed (all of which Chase-Dunn equates with system disintegration) : 1. Needless to say. First. proceeds to lose its competitive advantage in economic production. The Chase-Dunn Model T h e dependence of the world-economy on the interstate system is established almost by definition. After briefly outlining Chase-Dunn's model. T h e unevenness of the development process suggests three major implications to Chase-Dunn. it is argued. I raise some questions about crucial assumptions. in order to have a world-economy (as opposed to a world-empire). states can d o little to constrain these migratory tendencies. the economic division of labor is encompassed by the political structure of a single state. T h e primary economic significance of the multicentric structure lies in its facilitation of the mobility of capital and the expansion of capitalistic development. the question arises as to why the declining core leader does not seize this opportunity to impose a political imperium (i. and generalizations as part of a n ongoing effort to construct a n alternative way of viewing the role ofglobal wars and other processes in the world system puzzle. I n a system with multiple political sovereignties. If one assumes. interpretations. T h e extent to which the interstate system is dependent on the world-economy is a bit more complicated. there must also be a multicentric interstate system. . I n a world-empire. 3. I n the final analysis. T h e imposition of system domination by a single state. Consequently. Nor can states or their competing domestic groups do much to channel investment decisions away from the profit calculus and into the realm of collective/societal goods. T h e complete elimination of economic exchanges between nation-states in the system. as the system's most powerful state. Transformations (1) and (3) clearly would eliminate both key characteristics while transformation (2) certainly would mean the end of the second exchange network characteristic. Nevertheless. capital accumulation and therefore capitalism requires a multicentric political environment in which to thrive.. as does Chase-Dunn. This ability of the system to 'reproduce' itself is attributed to the nature of the world economy via the uneven process of capitalistic economic development. exists within a system of multiple centers of political power and cultures. the 'hegemonic core power'. Second. a world empire) while it still possesses the capabilities to d o so.342 Uneven Economic Growth convincing. capital may be moved from areas offering relatively poor return on investment to areas promising higher marginal rates of profit or lower production costs. A world economy's division of labor. uneven growth obviously sustains the key characteristic of multicentric rivalries. 2. Hence. by contrast.e.

which allows the accumulation process to adjust to its own contradictions and to begin again on a new scale. to support economic nationalism within the declining hegemonic core power. From a n explicitly systemic point of view. Historically. and the failure to augment their resources by generating necessary support for allies. primarily a n early nineteenth century threat. France's Louis XIV of the later seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. 4. a t least on the part of the leading state's capitalists. O n e of the outcomes of this process is to reduce the incentives. Napoleon. the declining hegemonic core power and the interstate system are challenged eventually by ascending 'second runners' that d o attempt to impose politico-economic imperium. 2. Chase-Dunn ( 198 1:36) identifies four sets of challengers to the hegemonic power: 1. lead to changes in profit rate differentials and the concomitant export of capital from the hegemonic core power to areas where marginal return is greater. not surprisingly.. Alternative perspectives. and theoretically intriguing conclusions. As the capital investments of the hegemonic power are spread throughout other core states. Chase-Dunn (1981:23) synthesizes these various arguments in the following way: The accumulation process expands within a certain political framework to the point where that framework is no longer adequate to the scale ofworld commodity production and distribution. a n important assumption of the world economy school. Yet. T o the extent that states are oriented toward advancing the interests of their capitalist groups.Chase-Dunn's response argues that the spread of technological skills and the equalization of labor costs. are likely to lead to different (and . Thus world wars and the rise and fall of hegemonic core powers can be understood as the violent reorganization of production relations on a world scale. interesting propositions. as Chase-Dunn notes. the lack of resources or capacity for executing overly ambitious goals. so too are the economic and political interests of capitalists operating from financial bases in the former leading state.e. politico-military domination unaccompanied by a strategy of competitive production for the world market). Chase-Dunn's perspective on world-system processes raises a number of central questions. which are said to be a t the root of the leader's relative decline. How is it that the challengers are consistently unsuccessful? T h e answer is again linked to the uneven nature of capitalist economic development. The repeated German challenges culminating in the two world wars of the twentieth century. This last explanation is elaborated briefly and simply in terms of potential allies' perceptions of the greater political and economic gains associated with the historical pattern of decentralized growth and expansion as opposed to the less attractive possibilities offered by the challenger's proposed imperium. yet it does not constitute the only way in which the functioning of the world system may be understood. 3. the incentives for imperial expansion and even for defensive wars against the imperialism of core competitors are thereby rendered less than compelling. Their repeated failures are explained in terms of the weakness of their strategy (i. Each case Chase-Dunn sees as a response to the competitive pressures of uneven development in which the challengers irrationally attempt to conquer vast land areas through military force. T h e Hapsburgs of the 'long' sixteenth century. Political relations among core powers and the colonial empires which are the formal political structure of core-periphery relations are reorganized in a way which allows the increasing internationalization of capitalist production.

interpretations and conclusions. however. a number of significant implications. sometimes overlapping) emphases. and global warfare are the rise and decline of the system's leading state. outlined in Figure 1. is the reluctance of long cycle analysts to assume that economic considerations are the sole or even the primary source of structural chance. the core propositions of long cycle theory instead contend that the level of world order and the prevalence of global warfare are a function of the global political system's power structure. An important difference between the two world-system frameworks. If. The politico-military and economic ascendancy of the world power during and a t the termination of a period of intense global strife (global war) inaugurates the long cycle's initial period of high capability c ~ n c e n t r a t i o n . the world power. world order. the level of world order is higher and the prevalence of global warfare is lower than when global capabilities are more widely dispersed. 1978.' Rather than accept premature closure on this theoretical question. The consequences of uneven economic growth in the Chase-Dunn model. Underlying this cyclical oscillation of capability concentration. At the risk of oversimplifying. however. and the accompanying competition between aspirants for the world power role. 1980. the long cycle of world leadership perspective (Modelski. More specifically.2 T h e cyclical dimension of the 'long cycle' is manifested in the theory's statement that the degree of capability concentration gradually oscillates from relatively high to relatively low and back to relatively high in an historical pattern of repetitively successive states that are roughly 100 years or more in length. the role of uneven economic growth is deemphasized as but one of several sources of systemic change (as it is in the long cycle perspective on the development of the world-system) markedly different interpretations of the repeated sequences of systemic challenges and world wars emerge. 1. 1981. when global capabilities are highly concentrated.Uneuen Economic Growth Uneven economlc growth Economic/political structural dissynchronization I World war as violent reorganizations of production relations Leading state's disinclination to create a world-empire Repeated failures of the challengers to establish world-empires interstate system FIG. some background information on the long cycle of world leadership perspective is in order. are attributed to the crucial variable of uneven economic growth in the Chase-Dunn model. 1982) is focused on the regularities of long term structural change in the modern world-system. facilitates its - . But before we proceed to a discussion of these alternative interpretations. The Long Cycle of World Leadership Perspective Not unlike the Wallersteinian perspective upon which Chase-Dunn relies.T ~h e world power's initial based primarily on its lead in global reach capabilities.

But as the initial position of preponderance decays due to the neglect or overextension of the world power and/or the relative capability gains made by other actors with the ability to operate on a global scale (global powers). it is not difficult to accept the idea that multicentricity is a key characteristic of the political system. More specifically. in turn. the leading state's reluctance to establish a world-empire in the Wallersteinian sense. I will discuss four sets of asserted linkages between uneven development and firstly. But it does establish an analytical foundation for pursuing questions about how world-system processes function. commodities. fluctuations in important economic processes (c. As in the case of other world-system perspectives.e. Of course. Wherever possible. and the framework of rules for international economic relations. 1975. bullets. Differences of Perspective 1. Chase-Dunn's arguments for the dependence of the interstate system on certain economic processes are much more debatable. thirdly. 'in an autonomous sphere governed solely by economic laws'.f. By utilizing and a t some points extending this foundation. it is worth reexamining Chase-Dunn's uneven economic growth-based generalizations with a n eye toward formulating rival hypotheses about the dynamics of structural change and challenges in the world system. 1983).. The multicentric structure of the interstate system is necessaryfor the continued expansion of capitalist accumulation processes just as the multicentric system's structure is dependent on processes of uneven economic developmentfor its survival I t is difficult to disagree with the idea that the capitalist world economy is and has been dependent upon the world's politically multicentric structure for its development and the nature of its historical expansion. 1981. Chase-Dunn attributes the 'reproduction' or survival of the political system to the maintenance of its two chief characteristics-multicentric core rivalries and an interstate exchange network-which. are said to be dependent upon uneven economic development. it is possible to go even further and suggest that fluctuations in the character of the multicentric structure (i. or pingpong . For example. the long cycle of world leadership is neither a finished product nor an extensively elaborated theory. Some of the grounds for disagreement are traceable to a variety of assumptions associated with Chase-Dunn's 'single logic'. the repeated failures of the challengers to transform the world-system by creating world-empires. Rasler and Thompson. Kindleberger. secondly. capability concentration erodes until another bout of intense global warfare resolves the question of competing claims to world leadership on the battlefield. An economy rarely exists.leadership in providing the public goods of security. and finally. Granting the same status to maintaining a n interstate exchange network is a different matter. 1982. and expansions of. 1982. 1981. 1972. the capital accumulation process. Modelski. Thompson and Zuk. Gilpin. as Gilpin (1981: 133) has observed. Indeed. world organization.. if nothing-signals. and may well cause. the survival of the multicentric political system. Since a structural transformation from multicentricity to unicentricity would involve a major change for an initially multicentric system. the role ofworld war and imperial reorganizations in facilitating adjustments to. equal emphasis will be placed on exposing the apparent explanatory inadequacies of the uneven economic development factor and on proposing alternative generalizations based upon a long cycle of global politics perspective. the ebb and flow of political power concentration) correspond to. 1973.

the gradual development of a world market economy enabled certain states to gain more (and to expand more effectively) through specialization and long-distance trade than through the traditional mode of territorial conquest. or in long cycle theory's terms. These minor quarrels over abstract assumptions not withstanding. ~ second group. Spain. grounds for disagreement are traceable to differences of opinion on how best to interpret the dynamics of change during the past 500 years. however. France. the world power (Portugal. as the experiences of Athens and Venice demonstrate. Therefore. A partial answer to both questions stems from the observation that while a European empire. Multicentric interstate politics presumably would continue. the United Provinces of Netherlands. 2. Chase-Dunn. has provided the system's unsuccessful cha1lengers. If one accepts the idea that territorial expansion provided the principal path to growth and expansion in wealth and power in the agrarian based. 132).1500 world (Gilpin. it is difficult to see how or why this must be equated with the demise of all interstate relations and therefore the interstate system itself. T h e short-term impact of the late 1920s/early 1930s world depression on interstate trade and autarchic tendencies might serve as a less than perfect illustration of this point.j T h e basic reason for the emergence of two types of orientation appears to be traceable primarily to developments in the economic sphere-but more to the development of a world market economy than to uneven economic growth as Chase-Dunn suggests. pre. An equally pertinent and more revealing question is why the world leader does not create a world-empire when it is at the peak of its competitive edge. as indicated in Table 1. There are at least two major classes ofwhat the world-economy school refers to as 'core powers'. perhaps with fewer restrictions than before. whatever is necessary to maintain the economic system becomes necessary for the political system by implicit assumption. appears to restrict his conceptualization of 'exchange network' to economic exchanges.g. This group has supplied the world-system's leading state. other. Yet if the members of an interstate system choose or are forced to develop exclusively autarchic national economies (as opposed to the normal tendency towards some degree of national autarchy). may have once appeared to be conceivable. usually a t the expense of their ongoing but intermittent global a c t i v i t i e ~This . Uneven economic development accountsfor the system's leading state's disinclination to create a world-empire Chase-Dunn asks why the world-system's leading state does not attempt to impose imperium or politico-military domination as the leader begins to lose its competitive edge in production. albeit. Great Britain. a true world-empire administered by a single state in the Wallersteinian sense has yet to appear feasible-especially to those states with the best chance of accomplishing such a task. 1981: 112. A second group is composed of states that have focused much of their expansionary energies within their own immediate region (e. While the advantages of a commercial orientation are not new. One group is composed of states which are relatively globally oriented or more involved in expanding and exercising political and economic influence on a global scale in contrast to their varying interests in the continental affairs of Europe.. the post-1500 emergence of a world-wide market gave . and the United States) during the past five centuries. one would be hard pressed to find any semblance ofinteraction between the members of the system and equally hard pressed tojustify the term 'system'. and Germany). more telling. as well as various imperial or partial world-empires.346 Uneven Economic Growth teams-was exchanged.

and appreciation to exploit it fully a tremendous advantage in the world economy as well as world politics. Third entry into the global political system's elite (in long cycle theory's terminology. I n this respect. one could argue. and cultural influence on a world scale have been enormous. T h e rewards flowing from powerful (while informal) political. it is doubtful that the unicentric goal has ever been attainable in the past 500 years. And this Dutch commercial leadership eventually gave way to British leadership in the eighteenth century-an economic transition later enhanced greatly by the productive predominance bestowed upon Great Britain by the Industrial Revolution. Second.TABLE 1. Primary opposition to challenger World power SUCC~SSO~ World power Global war period Primary challenger Portugal (1517-1580) Netherlands (1609-1713) Great Britain (1714-1815) Great Britain (1816-1945) 1585-1608 1689-1 713 1793-1815 1914-1918 1939-1945 Spain France France Germany Germany Netherlands England Netherlands Great Britain Great Britain Great Britain United States Great Britain United States Netherlands Great Britain Great Britain United States United States (1946) those states with the resources. it has not always been a political truism. was it ever really necessary. that naval strength depends upon economic strength for naval strength was required first to facilitate the very creation of much of the global elite's newfound wealth. These same states developed the seapower essential to the realization of the advantages ofworld trade and the exercise of global influence. The seventeenth-century Dutch leadership in maritime trade represented a substantial improvement on the Portuguese attempt to forge a spice trade monopoly in the sixteenth century. contrary to Kennedy (1976:xvi). First. the European region's Mediterranean center of economic and political gravity gave way to the world system's Atlantic center. the global powers) required ocean-going naval strength to advance extra-continental political and economic interests and provide protection from rivals abroad and a t home. Global succession struggles. Nevertheless. nor. a global political system emerged for the first time. Three consequences of these transformations are most significant. its political implications have frequently transcended the local politics of the European continent. T h e associated problems have also . need. economic. and although this political system has retained close ties to Europe to the present day. the point to be stressed is that globally oriented system leaders have been in a better position to avoid the limitations inherent in creating a formally unicentric or single state world-system because of their global trade orientations. Underscoring the very real limitations of world power.

the world power's initial position of preponderance is evidence of a highly concentrated distribution of power and unipolar structure for the global political system. they should be seen as threats to the hierarchical structure of at least one and sometimes both subsystemsalthough not necessarily to the same extent. T h e initial continuum points-world-empire (unicentric state system) versus worldeconomy (multicentric state system)-are treated as if they are exhaustive categorical dichotomies with few or no intermediate points worth considering. Aspiring conquerors may well have dreamed (and certainly have been accused by their opponents) ofseeking a unicentric world empire. the movement has always stopped well short of reaching anything resembling the unicentric end point of the structural continuum.' T h e challenges definitely constituted threats-but probably not to the survival of the multicentric interstate system or the world-economy. a challenger seeking to rearrange a multicentric system's hierarchical . attempts to achieve a unicentric world-empire become even less likely than when the potential opposition was much weaker.^ But this 'best opportunity' came a t a time when the interstate system and the world economy were both still emerging from Europe's feudal era. as in the territorial scramble for partial world-empires in the late nineteenth century. bipolar. As the leader's position erodes. I mean that multicentric systems can have multipolar. Thus. If Spain had also been able to suppress the Dutch revolt. and absorb civil-war prone France. Historically. or unipolar power distributions (either political and/or economic) and still be considered multicentric systems. . cannot effectively compete with the low overhead strategy of allowing a more decentralized political system to bear the costs of administration while surplus extraction is accomplished by trade. uneven economic development accountsfor the repeated failures of the challengers to establish world-empires T h e best opportunity for a unicentric transformation along the lines Chase-Dunn has in mind is found in the late sixteenth century. Nor is it clear that post-sixteenth-century challengers were seeking to establish world empires in the Wallersteinian/Chase-Dunn sense. if not all. it seems even less likely that a triumphant post-sixteenth-century challenger would have created a unicentric system. As a system moves from multipolarity to unipolarity. As the leading power's capability lead gradually erodes.348 Uneven Economic Growth seemed sufficiently difficult to manage without taking on more. . however. it is difficult to quarrel with Chase-Dunn's ( 1981:39) assertion that the overhead costs of purely geopolitical expansion. of the past five centuries of global conflict have revolved around variations on or toward the multicentric end of the continuum. the system returns to a multipolar structure as contenders prepare for another world leadership succession struggle. Spain was able to conquer its Iberian neighbor fairly easily in 1580. invade and occupy England. This assertion reflects in part a disinclination to accept another critical assumption of the world-economy school. . After Portugal's Moroccan debacle in 1578. I n this respect. Challengers threaten tofundamentally transform the multicentric structure of the interstate system and world-economy. After Philip 11. But in reality most. Rather. although growing competitive pressures may cause the waning leader to deviate from the low cost course. the interstate system and the fledgling world economy might have possessed something approximating a unicentric structure for as long as the Spanish could have held on to their conquest^. Nevertheless. 3. By variations. the system may seem to give the appearance of moving toward a unicentric world-empire.8 In the long cycle framework.

These misperceptions may be mixed with impatience and over-confidence stemming from the challenger's rapid capability improvements and encouraged by a system characterized by declining order and increasing strife. because it is in the perceived interest of the globally oriented state(s) to ensure that the challenger does not achieve a vastly improved position through continental expansion. global wars tend to begin as relatively localized affairs. Rather. global wars possess an often reluctant. trade. what we see in retrospect as a major challenge may not have been fully intended as one by the challenger's decisionmakers. I n this respect. Germany had repeatedly been isolated from non-European resources by naval blockades of the continent-a consistent anti-challenger strategy introduced in the late sixteenth century by attempts to intercept Spanish treasure fleets and naval stores from the Baltic. I t is also conceivable that the challenges are less than fully premeditated. Invariably. As a consequence. the challenger demonstrated the capability to accomplish these local conquests. From the challenger's perspective. in part. The world economy perspective (Wallerstein. frequently belated. Thompson. 1981) stresses the significance of relative naval capabilities. The same can hardly be said of the German-American economic comparison. and from the perspective of the more globally oriented states. it becomes clear (although not always immediately) that the challenger's continental expansion will entail a dangerous and unacceptable revision of what has already become a n uncertain pecking order among the major powers. in most cases. Doubts have already been expressed about the full extent of the challenger's goals. or mistaken assumption that one or more of the globally oriented powers will not oppose its continental expansion. 1980) emphasizes productive. pre-emptive quality. Germany's economic position only approximated the waning leadership position of Great Britain. But in any event. some information is available for most of the categories in the cases of the two most recent contests. it also would constitute an impressive increase in the challenger's capacity to make future world leadership bids. I n this view. Contrary to Chase-Dunn's emphasis on the challenger's threat to system survival." While data on all of these criteria are not available for each global succession struggle. belief. the global war often tends to break out somewhat prematurely in the sense that the challenger has not clearly surpassed the system's former leading state or the eventual successor either in terms of key economic or military ~ a ~ a b i l i t i eWarfare s. Not only could such a revision interfere with access to the historically important European markets. the threat that is created by the aspirants to regional predominance is directed not so much a t the system itself as a t the positions of the leading.I0 Relevant data in support of this observation are provided in Table 2. becoming global in scope only after the globally oriented power(s) decides to participate. the error surfaces in the . the challenger appears to act on the hope. 1980.~ becomes global in scope. Especially clear is Germany's inadequate preparation for global warfare a t sea. 1978.arrangement to its own advantage therefore need not mean that the challenger is seeking to create the multicentric system's 'alternative'-a unicentric world-empire. The challenger has yet to defeat the coalition brought together to oppose its expansionary behavior. Thus. Prior to both World War I and 11. Long cycle theory (Modelski. more globally oriented powers of the world-system. Whether or not control of Europe is viewed as the ultimate goal of the challenger. and financial predominance as the triangular foundation of the 'hegemonic core power' status. But the challenger's 'irrationality' is displayed not so much by its attempt to conquer adjacent territory. it can be argued that the challengers sought only continental or European expansion and predominance.

Accordingly. and the United States (USA). challengers have failed repeatedly to develop the naval capabilities necessary for achieving a global reach and. The successful world leader's global orientation leads to the low overhead strategy while the continentally oriented challengers have attempted the high overhead. battleships-restricted to first class pre-dreadnought battleships between 1880 and 1905 and dreadnought battleships after 1906 (see Thompson. misperceptions and mistaken estimations about the identity and strengths of the opposition. Leaving a great deal of room for the study of decisionmaking pathologies. the British. Sources: Industrial production-Rostow (1978). catch-up-by-brute-strength route-with a singular lack of success. Not only have unsuccessful challengers been less than appreciative of the virtues of world marketing strategies (requiring a more global orientation) emphasized by Chase-Dunn. Russia/Soviet Union. confronting the Dutch. trade-based on percent of world trade data in Banks (1971) and Rostow (1978). British.Japan. Germany (Ger). France. Challengers may control the . German. more pragmatically. this reflects a basic and curiously consistent misunderstanding of the nature of politico-economic developments in the history of the modern world-system. 1980). naval expenditures-based on sources and conversions to 1913 British pounds as discussed in Thompson (1980). it can be argued that it is not so much the lack of resources or the lack of appeal for potential allies that causes the second-runners to fail. and American percentage shares of relative capabilities. Both factors play a role but they are direct derivatives of the defective policy/strategy choices. or the Americans a t sea.350 Uneven Economic Growth TABLE 2. Gross national product Date 1870 1875 1880 1885 1890 1895 1900 1905 1910 1913 Industrial production GB Ger 38 16 32 24 19 17 17 21 20 20 Trade Naval expenditures Battleships USA GB Ger USA GB Ger USA GB Ger USA GB Ger USA 27 40 13 16 22 15 27 39 6 15 39 14 14 20 17 27 36 9 14 36 15 17 20 13 30 38 8 0 0 10 58 34 34 19 18 13 31 34 7 50 0 0 16 9 17 13 34 35 19 17 39 8 0 0 12 51 16 13 35 41 8 6 34 20 18 8 12 40 9 16 13 37 36 10 14 36 34 20 19 16 39 15 13 39 19 44 16 35 12 24 12 32 20 33 17 43 30 23 18 19 53 26 14 12 41 21 14 30 14 12 12 41 19 16 46 29 44 27 24 34 25 18 27 29 50 41 53 40 37 28 27 47 33 33 28 26 0 0 0 4 7 22 29 25 28 26 WWI 1920 1925 1930 1935 1938 11 11 15 13 WW I I 1946 1950 Note: Percentage shares are based on six state group totals encompassing Great Britain (GB). gross national product-based on GNP per capita data in Rostow (1980) and population data in Banks (1971).

Major reorganizations might have been more likely if the challengers had . Finally. The problem is that the allies that are essential to victory in the long run are the same globally oriented states that either see their position directly or indirectly threatened by continental expansion and/or that have an opportunity to retain. In the long run. The economic growth of the challenger(s) and the relative decline of the leading economic power are said to create a new distribution of economic strength which does not correspond to the political structure established in an earlier 'hegemonic' era. so far. This pairing has yet to occur. early twentieth-century Austria-Hungary. Global violence is also said to overcome inherent contradictions and geographical restraints on the capital accumulation process. T h e challengers do attract allies. If the challengers have always lost. the former leader has successfully opposed a continentally oriented challenger and the eventual successor has twice joined the struggle as an ally of the former leader.13Uneven economic growth may be an important factor in this rhythm of political. lines during the immediate post-war period. W o r l d wars m q be understood as violent reorganizations o f production relations which allow the accumulation process to adjust to its contradictions and to expand on a larger scale. all world leadership aspirants have not pursued the continental expansion path-only the unsuccessful ones. Yet for global wars to perform all of these functions. Global violence is necessary to realign a n out-dated political structure with a newly emerged economic structure. Since the seventeenth century. and economic power erosion but it does not tell the whole story. And despite frequently wishful thinking by challengers. Again. it is rather awkward to attribute a reorganization function to their challenges. but the ones that are attracted may prove-as in the cases of eighteenth-century Spain. one would think that the wars would have to be contests fought between a former leader and its eventual successor. Power capabilities are highly concentrated initially along unipolar. Yet the system's political and economic structures do tend to experience fundamental change in that one member of the winning coalition emerges from these global wars as the leading politico-military and. economic power of the world-system. As the concentration erodes so too does the capability base for world leadership and the global order maintained by the world power-until a new world power emerges in a future global war fought to determine whose version of global order will prevail in the post-war era. territorial expansion on the European continent has repeatedly led to global conflict. In the sixteenth century. or Mussolini's Italy-to be far more trouble than their assistance is worth. the extent to which formal core-periphery or imperial relations are reorganized by the global wars seems less clear cut than the pattern implied by Chase-Dunn. to regain or to succeed to the world leader position without pursuing the challenger's high overhead strategy. especially since 1815. Internationalization o f capitalist production isfacilitated by the reorganization o f political relations among core powers and colonial empires The economic functions of world or global wars suggested by this generalization appear to clash with Chase-Dunn's dissynchronization interpretation and the actual outcomes of world wars. they have lacked the resources to simultaneously control continental Europe and engage globally oriented maritime powers.'2 4. the primary disputants were all challengers from a long cycle perspective-a declining Spain versus the ascending powers of Elizabethan England and the rebellious United Provinces of Netherlands. it is not uneven growth that accounts for the challenger's repeated failures but how challengers choose to apply their relative gains in economic and political power.resources to dominate Europe in the short run but. as opposed to unicentric. military.

it is possible to take issue with the proposition that the interstate system's multicentric structure is dependent on processes of uneven economic growth and development for its survival and reproduction. and portions of the British. Part of the reason for this development is that more recent challengers have been imperially poor (and therefore control relatively few spoils of war to reallocate). or particularly necessary to the respective world powers. These globally oriented states have been able to gain far more through specialization and long distance trade than through the traditional mode of territorial conquest and centralized control. O n the one hand. does center on the extent to which one can defend the claim that changes in the system's economic power structure constitute the roots of systemic challenges and war and the repetitive dynamic of concentration. while earlier global winners often were more interested in global bases (or too weak to penetrate the interiors of Africa and Asia) than in acquiring extensive territories. in terms of its . attractive. Contrary to Chase-Dunn's specific arguments. of course. Instead. a n important theoretical and empirical question for world-system studies and one which is unlikely to be resolved merely by verbal argument. but not essentially caused. Nevertheless. formal empires have tended to have been acquired and extended between the global succession struggles-not during or even immediately after the succession contests. T h e debate does not concern the utility of a world-system vantage point or a theoretical focus on the significance of structural changes in the distribution of power.. Summary and Conclusion This essay constitutes a debate about how the world-system and its variably interdependent economic and political subsystems have evolved over the past 500 years. however. deconcentration. T h e ultimate point of contention. globally oriented states seem to react to the challenger's threat of continental expansion and predominance in terms of its immediate impact as a regional problem and. I n this case. the Ottoman empire after World War I. T h e more recent exceptions to these generalizations about imperial reorganizations (e. if left unchecked. This point of departure is. the following threefold set of counter-generalizations have been advanced: 1. Instead. the crux of the present disagreement revolves around the interpretation of the historical relationship between uneven economic growth and the goals and conflict behavior of the world system's most powerful states. Nor is it likely that their challenges have constituted genuine threats to the survival of a multicentric interstate system or world-economy. Uneven economic development cannot account for the system's leading state's disinclination to create a world-empire because a world-empire in the strict Wallersteinian/Chase-Dunn sense has yet to appear feasible. 2. French. Uneven economic development cannot account for the repeated failures of the challengers to establish world-empires and fundamentally transform the multicentric structure of the interstate system and world-economy. by their participation in the global wars. the Spanish colonies after the Napoleonic wars.g.352 Uneven Economic Growth won the succession struggles. and Dutch empires after World W a r 11) tend to involve centers of empire whose decline or weakness is accelerated. While there may be differences of opinion concerning some aspects of the logical consistency of the Chase-Dunn model. and reconcentration of power. it is not clear that post-sixteenth-century challengers have in fact sought to establish worldempires in the strict Wallersteinian/Chase-Dunn sense. uneven economic growth and decline may provide a more powerful explanation.

4. An illustration of this phenomenon may be found in the sectional cleavages associated with support for the state navy in seventeenth-century Dutch and nineteenth-century American political history. we can all agree that a tremendous amount of theoretical and empirical analysis remains to be accomplished in unraveling the central processes of the world-system. Chase-Dunn (1981: 36) remarks that it is possible that one or more of the challenges did not constitute an attempt at world imperium and. In a rather curious footnote. the actual assumption of leadership by a new world power reflects something of a fait accompli which the exhausted former leader has little choice but to accept. Rather. and hybrids-thk last of which encompasses states in which the sea and territorial orientations are fairly evenly balanced and 'the drives wobble'. A broader comparison of the world-economy and long cycle frameworks is presented in Thompson (1983b). It may be somewhat premature but the Soviet Union in the fifth long cycle ( 1946. Notes 1.f.) appears to fit readily into this second category as well. While this possibility is not implausible. is still very much in its infancy. 'Global wars' tend to be world wide in scope but the geographical extent of the fighting is not the primary defining attribute. See also Padfield's (1979: 8-18) threefold categorization of sea powers. 6. or the former leader has regained its leadership role. so far. 1979: 92-183) which are at issue.near-future implications as a global problem. realignments of production relations and dissynchronized economic and political structures. 3. 3. And even in globally oriented states. This contention seems to imply that the revolutionary consequences of a challenger's victory are somewhat independent of the challenger's intentions. the eventual post-war successor has either joined the global combat as an ally of the former leader. He then states that it is the structural consequences of a challenger's victory and not the challenger's admittedly often disputed intentions (c. while functional. Differences of interpretation concerning how to decipher the past 500 years of world system history should be expected and welcomed to the extent that they help sharpen rival explanations and lead eventually to tests of competing hypotheses. 5. consequently. it would lend credence to the interpretation if the wars took the form of combat between a declining leader and an ascending successor. A nonlinear and more complicated version of this relationship is advanced in Modelski and Thompson (1981). Since the seventeenth century. nevertheless. territorial powers. While the rites of succession are intensely bloody. T h e study of the modern world-system. factions have quarreled over the advantages and disadvantages of continental versus global strategies. Alternatively. I n the interim. they are considered global wars because they are fought to determine the consitution or authority arrangement of the global political system. Some level of global activity is not inconsistent with a high regional profile. For an imaginative fictional treatment of this imperial Spanish scenario. If world wars are to be viewed as violent. Yet it is globally oriented states that oppose the more continentally oriented challengers and it is the challengers who. the mistakes challengers make in identifying their likely opposition and their inadequate readiness for global combat raises intriguing questions about the extent to which the challengers' threats are both recognized and premeditated. but the changes brought about are as much in spite of the challengers' efforts as they are due to them. Chase-Dunn then proceeds to argue that even if none of the challenger's . may not have represented threats to the survival of the interstate system and world-economy. fundamental structural changes are indeed associated with world or global wars. Thus. O n the other hand. 7. see Brunner (1969). have always lost. Nelson and Olin. one might say that the attempts at reorganization are violent but that much of the reorganization and structural reconcentration which actually takes place follows in the aftermath of the violence. These global versus regional orientations need not be viewed as fixed constants.. 2.

New York: Longman. PADFIELD. A similar observation. R. Washington. (1975) 'Three Models of the Future.' in R . The idea of the challenger's structural threat is too central to Chase-Dunn's model to have the 'single logic' work both ways. For further discussion of this generalization.' in W. (1976) T h e Rise and Fall of British Naual Mastery. G. R . MODELSKI.' International Organization 29 (Winter): 353-72. (1981) 'Interstate System and Capitalist World-Economy: One Logic or Two? International Studies Quarterly 25 (March): 19-42. KINDLEBERGER. and W. Strategic Policy. however. The polarity concept is discussed at greater length in Modelski (1974) and Rapkin et al. Kegley. 1481-1654. Morristown. (1982) 'Long Cycles and the Strategy o f U . Philadelphia.Theory and History. Berkeley: University of California Press. (1978) 'The Long Cycle of Global Politics and the Nation-state. (1962) T h e Precarious Balance. (1973) The World in Depression. 1929-1939. J. (eds) Transnational Relations and World Politics. confined to what he refers to as Germany's distorted view ofworld politics based on continental perspectives. CHASE-DUNN. Avery and D. S. Public Goods. Explanatory Framework. DEHIO. BRUNNER. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. KENNEDY. (1979).' delivered at the Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association.' G. Data. see Thompson (1983a). 0 . MODELSKI. 11. One exception to this post-sixteenth-century generalization is the rapid naval capability improvements made by France. the French had too little time and not enough global inclination to learn how to exploit their briefly held lead in naval power. This viewpoint leads one to a fairly distinctive perspective on the classical 'balance of power' concept as an eighteenth-century doctrine designed to explain and justify the British world power's behavior vis-a-vis regional European politics. KINDLEBERGER. K. 10. NELSON. THOMPSON (1980) 'Elaborating the Theory of Long Cycles in Global Politics: a Cobweb Model. and Free Rides. Kolodziej (eds) American Security Policy and Policy-Making. S. New York: Scribner's Sons. one must still credit uneven capitalist development for the structural stability or absence of a challenge to the system's multicentricity. Foreign Policy. Jr. G. (1969) Times Without Number. See Rasler and Thompson (1983) for another application of this principle to the pre-1815 public finance innovations of the Netherlands and Great Britain. J. (1981) 'Dominance and Leadership in the International Economy: Exploitation. R.354 Uneven Econon~icGrowth 8. Berkeley: University of California Press. DC. (1980) 'The Theory ofLong Cycles and U. OLIN(1979) W h y War? I d e o l o ~ .: General Learning Press. (1981) W a r and Change in World Politics.' in R. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. (1971) Cross-Polity Time-Series Data. GILPIN. C. Kondratieffs. R. NJ. G. THOMPSON delivered to the Annual Meeting of the Peace Science Society (International). G. New York: Vintage. A preliminary elaboration of this interpretation is advanced in Modelski and Thompson (1980).: Lexington Books. Mass. P. Nye. Keohane and J. (1981) 'Testing Cobweb Models of the Long Cycle ofworld Leadership. MODELSKI. and S. Global powers (not to be confused with the earlier distinction between more globally and regionally oriented states) possess a minimum share (for example. Jr. R. MODELSKI.' in C. C. P. in the latter part of the seventeenth century. P. If this is the case. Lexington. Harkavy and E. IMODELSKI. L. (1979) Tide o j Empires: Decisiue Naual Campaigns in the Rise of the West. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. see also Wight (1978: 68-80). (1981) 'Long Cycles. In this vein. McGowan (eds) The Political Economy ojForeign Policy Behauiour. GILPIN. A. and P. C. MODELSKI. (1972) 'The Politics of Transnational Economic Relations. Even so. 12. References BANKS. Alternating Innovations and their Implications for U. hypothetical victories would have been likely to have changed the multicentric character of the interstate system. Cambridge: M I T Press. MODELSKI. 13. New York: Ace Books. G.' International Studies Quarterly 25 (June): 242-54. Rapkin (eds) America in a Changing World Political Economy. P.' Comparative Studies in Societyand History 20 (April): 21435. P. S. G. 10 per cent for capital warships) of naval capabilities while the world power controls at least 50 per cent immediately after the global war which establishes its initial claim to world leadership. W . L. and W. under Colbert's direction. C. S. International Economic Policy. (1974) World Power Concentrations: typo lo^. P. GILPIN. 9. . serves as Dehio's (1962: 3-15) rationale for tracing 'four centuries of the European power struggle'. a different argument presumably must be developed to establish the dependence of the interstate system on certain economic processes. Beverly Hills: Sage. P.

(1981) 'Operationalizing Long Cycle Theory: the Basic Problems and Some Proposed Solutions for the Sixteenth and Late Twentieth Centuries. H. A. Georgia.' in P. R. (1977) 'Wallerstein's World Capitalist System: A Theoretical and Historical Critique. I. (5): 1075-90.' Beverly Hills: Sage. T. and Kondratieff's Long Waves. RASLER. Bergesen (ed. W. W. THOMPSON. and the Long Cycle. (1979) The Capitalist World-Economy. A. THOMPSON. Holbraad (eds). Bull and C. delivered at the Joint Annual Meetings of the International Studies Association/West and the International Studies Association. K. R o s ~ o wW. ( 1983a) 'Succession Crises in the Global Political System: a Test of the Transition Model. in Global Politics. Inflation. Beverly Hills: Sage. (1980) The Modern World-System 1 1 : Mercantilism and the Consolidation of the Europeart World-Economy.' delivered at the Annual Meeting of the International Studies Association/South. . WALLERSTEIN. (1980) W h y the Poor Get Richer and the Rich Slow Down: Essays in the Marshallian Long Period. W. R. and W. Journal ofSociology 82. P. WALLERSTEIN. World Politics 3 3 (January): 253-81.' WorldPolitics35 (July1. Kegley. W. W. New York: Academic. W. and Validation. and W. (1980) 'Seapower. Public Debts. (eds).' Journal ofConJict Resolution 26 (December): 621-44. New York: Holmes and Meier. R. M. Atlanta. ZUK(1982) 'War. R. THOMPSON RASLER.Foreign Policy andthe Modern WorldSystem. THOMPSON. W.' Journal of Conjict Resolution 23 Uune): 261-95. THOMPSON. WIGHT. THOMPSON (1982) 'Global War and Economic Growth.)Crises in the World-System. WALLERSTEIN. L. . New York: Academic. . R . Measurement. McGowan and C. A. 1500-1945: Problems of Data Collection and Analysis'. CHRISTOPHERSON (1979) 'Bipolarity and Bipolarization in the Cold War Era: Conceptualization. D. (1978) Power Politics. Austin: University of Texas Press. R . the Long Cycle and the Question of World System Time. Jr. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. J. R.' in A. THOMPSON. K. (1983b) 'The World-Economy. New York. and G. 160&1750. Los Angeles. W.' delivered at the Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association. R o s ~ o wW .' American SKOCPOL. I. California.. I. R. (1981) 'Origins of the Modern World System: A Missing Link'. R . ZOLBERG. THOMPSON with J. A. (1974) The Modern World-System I: Capitalist Agriculture and the Origins 4f the European World-Economy in the Sixteenth Century.RAPKIN. (1978) The World Economy: History and Prospect. (1983) 'Global Wars. W. Austin: University of Texas Press.

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