Author: Adekola Taylor
A macro-sociological perspective targeted at explaining the dynamics of a total social system with regards to capitalist world economy, political, military and cultural power is called the world systems theory. The concept of a capitalist world system was introduced by Immanuel Wallerstein in 1974 (Carlos and Martinez-Vela). The theory is all-encompassing, incorporating inter-societal networks as the main point of social and economic analysis. The system is stratified into a three-tiered world-system and every country is located in one of the three strata namely: Core, Semi-periphery, or Periphery. The theory is posited on the basis that there is a world economic system in which some countries are exploited while others are benefited from the exploitation of others, with the periphery economies representing the weakest in the group while that of the core economies representing the strongest (Clark and Beckfield).
Several attempts majorly based on social network analysis, have been made in the political economy to determine which countries belong to the periphery, semi-periphery or core. The question is: Is Greece a core, semi-periphery or periphery? Or is Mexico a core, semi-periphery or periphery? Or are both of them semi-periphery or periphery countries? This essay argues that Greece is a semi-periphery country and Mexico, a periphery country. Indisputably, the position of countries in the world economy system is attributed to their level of wealth or poverty. The core is the strongest because it prospers in exploiting the periphery and, the semi-periphery to a lesser degree, with the semi-periphery profiting from being an intermediary between core and periphery.
The world trade is dominated by the core, in the sense that the countries in the core that represent the advanced and industrialized countries specialize in high tech and capital-intensive production by importing less-processed and raw products from the periphery, transforming them into expensive high tech products which are exported to countries in the core, semi-periphery, and periphery. This is an indication that there is much trade among the core countries, but little or no trade between countries in the periphery. Economically, the core countries such as USA, UK, Japan and Canada, succeed because their products have higher added value and their value of exports exceeds their value of import.
Moreover, the core countries are characterized by increasing economic prosperity, scientific innovation, transnational links, and modern development such as access to quality education, higher wages, access to adequate shelter, food and water, and access to standard healthcare. The periphery countries e.g. Burkina Faso and Guatemala are poor and weak countries and they major on raw materials, labor intensive and low-valued products. These raw materials, agricultural products and cheap labor are supplied by the periphery countries to the core countries while depending on the core countries for their complex products. The periphery countries are characterized by low standard of living, extreme poverty, and low standard healthcare, less access to potable water, poor infrastructure, increased population and poor education.
The semi-periphery countries normally act as buffer zone by mediating the social, economic and political activities that link the periphery and core areas. They are often geographically located between two or more competing countries or between core and periphery regions. It is evident that the semi-periphery countries lack the economic, political and military dominance of the core countries and are still in the process of economic development with a noticeable degree of manufacturing but high export of agricultural products and minerals. In addition, both the trade flows and countries’ multiple economic indicators such as GNP, population, education level are important for the better understanding of the world economic system.
Mexico is a North America country located between the United States and Belize, bordering the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean seas and between Guatemala and the United States, bordering the North Pacific Ocean,. Mexico is a free market economy with a mixture of modern and outmoded industry and agriculture. Its economy depends mainly of exportation of surpluses of raw goods to the more technologically industrialized core countries like USA for manufacturing and distribution. Per capital income of Mexico is approximately one-third of that of the USA, the GDP per capital is $15,300 with 51.3% of the population living below poverty line, the USA is the major export and import partner of Mexico with 78% exports and 49.7% imports and Mexico is the 161st in military ranking in the world (Cia.gov).
It is evident that because of low standard of living and high poverty rate in Mexico, there is a growing fence between Mexico and the USA to halt unauthorized immigrants into the United States. The population living below the poverty line in Mexico is 4.6% higher than that of Burkina Faso, the military world ranking of both Mexico and Burkina Faso are above 160th and both countries depend on finished and complex products from core countries such as USA, Japan and UK; these are pointers to underemployment, little or no industrialization, poor infrastructure, low income wages and high poverty rate which are characteristics of periphery countries.
Greece is a Southern European country between Albania and Turkey, bordering the Ionian Sea, Aegean Sea and the Mediterranean Sea. Greece is a capitalist economy country with GDP per capital approximately two-thirds of that of UK and 40% of GDP is being derived from the public sector. The GDP per capital of Greece is $25,100 which is 62nd in the world unlike that of Mexico which is 89th, the population below poverty line of Greece is approximately 20%, the major exports partners of Greece are Italy, Turkey, Germany, Cyprus, Bulgaria and USA, with Italy getting the highest 9.5% of exports and import partners are Germany, Russia, Italy, China, Netherlands, France and Iran, with Germany getting the highest 10.6 % of imports and also Greece is the 22nd in military ranking in the world (Cia.gov).
It is crystal clear that Greece international trading network cuts across both the core and peripheral countries but Greece still lacks the economic and political dominance of the core country like UK and it is still in the process of economic development with a noticeable degree of manufacturing but high export of agricultural products and minerals, these are typical characteristics of a semi-periphery countries. The population living below poverty line in Mexico is over 30% higher than that of Greece (20.4%, highest in EU 15 countries), and the international trading network of Mexico is majorly with the core countries like USA while that of Greece cuts across all the world system strata (Papatheodorou et al) . The military capacity ranking of Greece in the world is 22nd, an indication of substantial and good infrastructure, good education system, progressing industrialization and low poverty rate.
A close examination of the facts presented in this paper on Mexico in the world system suggests that Mexico is still among the periphery countries because the country depends majorly on the core countries on their complex products and is still majored on the exportation of unprocessed materials, agricultural products and labor intensive and low-valued products amounting to low per capital income and high rate of poverty. Though Mexico has some comparative advantages over the periphery countries in Africa, it cannot be grouped among the semi-periphery countries like Greece. Notwithstanding, the recent economic crisis in Greece, Greece is still a semi-periphery country because of its international trading network services to both the core countries and periphery countries. It has reached a relatively high level of industrialization with reduced dependence on the core countries for its complex products and manpower. Moreover, Greece per capital income as well as the poverty rate is on the average when compared with the extreme periphery countries and the core countries.
Carlos A., Martinez-Vela. 2001. “World Systems Theory” http://web.mit.edu/esd.83/www/ notebook/WorldSystem.pdf
Cia.gov. 2013. “The World Factbook” https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world- factbook
Clark Rob and Beckfield. 2009. “A New Trichotomous Measure of World-System Position using the International Trade Network”. International Journal of Comparative Sociology 50(1):5-38 http://www.wcfia.harvard.edu/sites/default/files/Beckfield_Trichotomous.pdf
Papatheodorou Christos, Sakellaropoulos Spyros and Yeros paris. June 1, 2012. “European Semi-periphery” Amandla Magazine http://www.amandla.org.za/special-features/global- financial-crisis/1179-european-semi-periphery-by-christos-papatheodorou- spyros -sakellaropoulos-and-paris-yeros
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