World System And Dependency

Structural approaches of international relations, also known as ‘neo-radical approaches’, are of recent origin. Theories in support of these approaches were advocated by leftist writers who were deeply influenced by Marxism-Leninisim. The structural approaches, including the ‘World System Approach’ and the ‘Dependency Theory’, consider the world structure from the class point of view, based largely on the level of development and accumulation of capital. Western capitalist countries, having huge accumulation of capital, are termed as the centre or core of the world system, while third world countries, lacking development and capital, are called the periphery. We shall examine the concept of development and underdevelopment with reference to the centre versus periphery.

A reference may be made here to neo-realists, who also examine the international structure, but from the political angle. They describe the international structure as chaotic or anarchic because there is no all powerful central authority to discipline the nation states, and to resolve their disputes and maintain world peace. The leftists, on the other hand, largely concentrate on economic relations between the rich industrialized nations of the capitalist world on the one hand and the poor developing third world countries on the other. This chapter will discuss the centre-periphery aspect of development as advocated by the neo-radicals.

Economic Accumulation : The North-South Divide

There is enormous gap today between income levels in the world’s industrialized regions and those in the third world. The rich industrialized countries generally lie in the northern parts of the world, while the poor developing countries are in the south. This difference in the income levels has caused differences in the overall prosperity between the rich North and the poor South. How can this gap be explained? This may be done with the help of the liberal view and also with reference to the revolutionary or radical world view.

The liberal view explains the problem by stressing that the capitalist countries have overall efficiency in maximizing economic growth. This view holds that the poor countries are merely lagging behind the industrial north. The liberals would make us believe that more wealth creation in the North is a good thing, as is wealth creation in the South. According to this view, there is no conflict between the two, as eventually the South will also acquire more wealth.

The leftist, or socialist, view is that the divide may be viewed not only in terms of creation of wealth but also with regard to its distribution. According to this view, the creation of wealth in the North often comes at the expense of the South.

The World System Approach – Centre And Periphery

The system of regional class divisions has been viewed by scholars of international relations with Marxist orientation as the ‘ world system’ or ‘capitalist world economy.’ The world system approach is a leftist theory and it relies on global system of analysis. Marx himself had limited his theory to domestic class conflict only, but Marxist scholars apply the same logic in their world system approach. In this system, class divisions are regionalized. The third world countries (exceptions apart) generally produce raw materials, including agricultural products.

These activities need large manpower but not much of capital. The peasants working in agriculture, mining and other sectors are paid low wages. The industrialized countries, on the other hand, mostly produce manufactured goods. This requires large amount of capital, and needs more skilled workers who are paid high wages. The industrialized manufacturing regions are called ‘centre’ of the world system; and the extraction regions (producing raw materials and agricultural items) are known as ‘periphery’.

Reference : International relations by V.N Khanna

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