The world-systems theory is an approach to world history and social change developed by sociologist Immanuel Wallerstein. It suggests a world economic system exists that some countries benefit from and others are exploited, emphasizing the social structure of global inequality.
The world-systems theory is established on a three-level hierarchy of countries:
The core consists of nations dominating the world and having a dominant economic relationship with the semi-periphery and periphery nations. Core countries are capitalist countries that exploit periphery countries for labor and raw materials. They usually have strong militaries and are not dependent on any other country for support or aid. Core countries are powerful, allowing them to exploit other nations for low-priced raw goods and
The world system theory is essential in understanding the core countries’ motives for imperialization and other involvements in semi-periphery and periphery nations. European capitalism became the core of this system.
Periphery countries are on the opposite of the economic scale from core countries. They are less developed than the core and semi-periphery countries and usually receive a disproportionately small global wealth share. These countries lack a strong central government and state institutions and may be controlled by other states.
Unfortunately, periphery countries face obstacles such as unstable government, poor education, lack of health care systems, and lack of technology. These factors further set them behind other countries. Wars and insufficient infrastructure often plague these countries as well. All of these factors confine periphery countries to their current level of development and wealth.
These countries have low-skill, labor-intensive production and are exploited by core countries for their cheap labor. Periphery countries generally specialize in one single industry, leaving their economy unstable and limiting international investment. They are also dependent on core countries for capital and export raw materials to them. This dependency on core countries helps the core countries remain dominant globally and can prevent periphery countries from progressing. This is known as dependency theory, where resources flow from a poor, undeveloped nation to a wealthy nation enriches the wealthy nation at the expense of the poor.
Periphery countries have low scores on the Human Development Index (HDI). The Human Development Index uses indicators such as life expectancy, per capita income, and education. The index ranks countries on a scale from 0 to 1.0, with 1.0 being the highest human development. There are four tiers of the HDI:
- Very high human development (0.8-1.0)
- High human development (0.7-0.79)
- Medium human development (0.55-.70)
- Low human development (below 0.55)
About half of the periphery countries are in the medium and low human development tiers.
Below is a list of the world’s periphery countries, according to sociologist Salvatore Babones.