"Periphery countries" is one of the three categories of country in "world-systems theory", a system developed by sociologist Immanuel Wallerstein to help analyze world history and social development. World-systems theory establishes a three-level hierarchy of countries: Core countries, Periphery countries, and Semi-Periphery countries.
Countries in the World-Systems Theory sociological model:
- Core countries — Produce products that require advanced skills and/or significant financial investment to make. They have dominant, often unbalanced economic relationships with the semi-periphery and periphery nations. Core countries are highly developed, high-income capitalist countries that have significant economic, political, and military power. This enables them to exploit periphery and semi-periphery nations for cheap labor, agricultural products, and raw materials.
- Periphery countries — These are the least-developed and still developing countries. They produce labor-intensive and/or low-skill products and are typically exploited as a source of cheap labor, raw materials, and agricultural production for core and semi-periphery countries.
- Semi-Periphery countries — These countries represent the intermediate state of development. They are often still exploited by core countries, but have developed to the extent that they too can begin to source cheaper labor, food, and resources from periphery countries.
Periphery Countries in Wallerstein’s World-Systems Theory
Periphery countries lie at the opposite of the economic scale from core countries. They are the least-developed countries compared to the core and semi-periphery countries, and are usually low-income or middle-income countries which receive a disproportionately small share of global wealth. These underdeveloped countries typically face obstacles such as an unstable government (which may be corrupt or controlled by another nation), armed conflict or war, poor educationand health care systems, and lack of technology and infrastructure. All of these factors confine periphery countries to their current level of development and wealth.
Periphery countries have low-skill, labor-intensive economies that generally specialize in a single industry, such as agriculture or the mining of natural resources. This renders their economy unstable and limits international investment. Perpiphery countries are typically dependent upon core and semi-periphery countries for their income, which enables those countries to exploit them with exploitative business arrangements such as paying below market rate for raw materials, underpaying workers, and operating with little regard for environmental sustainability. 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, enriching 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), and low human development (below 0.55). About half of the periphery countries are in the medium and low human development tiers.
Below are two lists of the world’s periphery countries, one created by sociologist Salvatore Babones in 2005 and the other from the study "Trade Globalization since 1795: Waves of Integration in the World-System," written by Christopher Chase-Dunn, Yukio Kawano and Benjamin D. Brewer and published by American Socialogical Review in 2000.