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Towards a Reformulation of Core/Periphery Relationship: A Critical Reappraisal of the Trimodality of the Capitalist World-Economy in the Early 21st Century*
Kwangkun Lee
Department of Sociology, Binghamton University, State University of New York

Abstract The trimodal framework of core-semiperiphery-periphery has been challenged by globalization theorists. This article is not only an anti-criticism of critics but also a criticism of the trimodality itself. Against critics, I argue that the national state is still a meaningful unit of world inequalities. But I also argue that semiperiphery has been decomposed since the late-1970s. It implies that the semiperiphery may not be a constant feature of the capitalist world-economy for a longue-dure but an historical product specic to two decades of development in 1960-70s. Keywords global inequality, trimodality, core-periphery hierarchy, semiperiphery, Immanuel Wallerstein

Introduction The trimodal conceptualization of core-semiperiphery-periphery has been recognized as one of trademarks of the world-systems analysis since Wallersteins rst volume of The Modern World-System (1974) came out. It has made the world-systems perspective distinguished from other development discourses including modernization theory, dependency theory, and orthodox Marxism in the 1970s. Although it tends to be often forgotten, the concept of semiperiphery, playing the pivotal role of the trimodality, was initially advanced as an
* Previous versions of this article were presented in Graduate Student Conference in Historical Social Science (Binghamton University, April 29, 2007) and Global Studies Association Conference 2008 (Pace University, New York, June 6-8, 2008). The author is grateful to Ravi Palat and William G. Martin for their valuable suggestions on the earlier draft of this article, and to an anonymous referee of GSA proceeding book.
Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2009 DOI: 10.1163/156914909X423890


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answer to the question that arose from a paradoxical phenomenonthe relative stability of the whole hierarchical structure of global capitalism in spite of the possible upward or downward mobility of constituent units (i.e. national states). The concept of semiperiphery was an attempt to get out of the theoretical quagmire by explaining the paradoxical compatibility of the limited possibility of national economic development with the tendency towards polarization on a global scale. Most of the previous theories had tended to regard the existence of developing middle-income states as exceptional, residual, or transitory, rather than an integral, necessary, and constant feature of the capitalist world-economy. By contrast, the world-systems analysis has tried to conceptualize those states under the rubric of semiperiphery, as a stable feature of the capitalist world-economy. This conceptual maneuver liberated the future of developing countries from the rosy prospect propagated by the modernization theory as well as from the gloomy pessimism of the dependency theory. The future trajectory of individual developing countries came to be understood as something predicated on a more or less contingent combination of developmental capacity of national states, conjunctural opportunities, and structural constraints on a global scale. The concept of semiperiphery was born in the 1970sthe second decade of development proclaimed by the United Nations in 1970and subsequently got wide attention. It was actively exploited both for explaining national paths of development and for describing the global structure of capitalism in the 1980s. The trimodal characterization, especially the concept of semiperiphery, had been popular during the initial two decades as it explained simultaneously both possibilities of, and constraints on, national development. In addition, regardless of their Cold War camp membership and geographical regions across the world, developing countries seemed to share some domestic contents such as neocolonial situations, subimperialist roles, stateled late industrialization, military or one-party dictatorship and subsequent democratization, or active antisystemic movements within their territories. These conspicuous similarities of developing countries had made the concept of semiperiphery more attractive. Furthermore, most inuential works of the world-systems analysis regarded the existing state socialist bloc as a part of the capitalist world-economy rather than constituting a separate world-economy. As the conventional image of three worlds delineated by the geography of the Cold War had been erased by the 1990s, the trimodality of core, semiperiphery, and periphery could have emerged as a meaningful framework to analytically partition global capitalism. However, current abuse, neglect, disinterest, and supercial criticisms on this conceptualization stand in stark contrast to the broad attentions, critical discussions, and even active suspicion of this modeling about 20 years ago.

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This paper consists of three sections. First, I briey survey recent criticisms of Wallersteins trimodal formulation. Second, I revisit the trimodality models of the world-systems perspective. I argue that there is no single trimodality model as assumed by critics and some proponents, and present three dierent models of the trimodality. Third, I examine how these models are adopted by quantitative analyses on global inequality. In conclusion, I refute both the deterritorialization approach and the basic tenet of the trimodality of existing world-systems perspective. Against the deterritorialization approach I argue that between-country inequality is more important than within-country inequality in explaining global inequalities. Against the traditional world-systems perspective, I argue that semiperiphery may not be a constant gure of the capitalist world-economy.

Deterritorialization Criticisms on Wallersteins Trimodality In spite of, and partially because of, the initial success of the world-systems perspective, there have been a variety of criticisms on the trimodal formulation of the capitalist world-economy, especially as it was originally formulated by Wallerstein. The criticisms may be classied into four categories: (1) criticisms of functionalism, teleological explanation, and the instrumentalist view of the state (Skocpol 1977; Block 1978; Sewell Jr. 1996), (2) criticisms of the underrating of class relations (Brenner 1977; Gerstein 1977), (3) criticisms of the violence of abstraction, in other words, on homogenization eect of the uneven space into a zone or a structural location of the world-economy (Mintz 1977; Wolf 1982; McMichael 1990; Paige 1999; Tomich 2004), and (4) criticisms of the status of national states as constituent units or building blocks of the capitalist world-economy (Castells 1996; Hardt and Negri 2000; Taylor 1987, 1994a, 1994b). What is of special interest here is the fourth category of criticisms that strongly question the current heuristic value of the trimodal formulation through which global hierarchy-cum-network is represented as being built with national state building blocks. Their analyses on global restructuring processes were the main components of the globalization discourse. Following Neil Brenner (2004), I would call these deterritorialization approaches. The basic tenet of various deterritorialization criticisms of the trimodality is that the heuristic power of core-semiperiphery-periphery partition of the capitalist world-economy, which was once useful, has been increasingly undermined with globalization.1 Manuel Castells (1996) explicitly rejects the tri-partite
1 This tenet is shared by Walter Mignolo: Until the middle of the twentieth century the colonial dierence honored the classical distinction between centers and peripheries. In the second half of the twentieth century the emergence of global colonialism, managed by transnational


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model of global capitalism. He is not only well aware of the deeply asymmetric nature of the global economy, but also agrees with Braudel and Wallerstein in that the capitalist world-economy has existed in the West at least since the sixteenth century (Pp. 92-93, 108). But for Castells, not until the late twentieth century did the world economy became truly global. Describing his observation of the newest international division of labor which consists of four dierent positions in the informational / global economy,2 Castells (1996) poses a critical challenge on some basic assumptions on which Wallersteins preconceived model of the trimodality is built. Castells argues that the four dierent positions do not coincide with countries: All countries are penetrated by the four positions . . . because all networks are global in their reality or in their target. (p. 174) Thus, for Castells, the world-systems model of the three-tiered pyramid built with state blocks in which three tiers of core, semiperipheral, and peripheral countries are layered from top to bottom has come to lose its original heuristic value as the new global informational economy, what he called the network society, has emerged. Hardt and Negri (2000) take a similar stance with Castells. While they acknowledge both capitalisms continuous foundational relationship to . . . the world market and capitalisms expanding cycles of development, they seek the reason for the shift in contemporary capitalist production and global relations of power in the capitalist project to bring together economic power and political power to realize the Empire, which is capitalist (Pp. 8-9). Under this novel situation, they argue that the initial heuristic value of the trimodality or bipolarity has disappeared, as Castells does: If the First World and the Third World, center and periphery, North and South were ever really separated along national lines, today they clearly infuse one another, distributing inequalities and barriers along multiple and fractured lines (p. 335). Even before Castells, Hardt and Negri, the same voice has been heard from the inside of the world-systems perspective. Indeed, Peter J. Taylor (1987) has criticized the tendency to use national states as building blocks of the capitalist world-economy. The tendency has prevailed through the world-systems analysis, especially in the quantitative research on the global hierarchy. He argues
corporations, erased the distinction that was valid for early forms of colonialism and the coloniality of power. Yesterday the colonial dierence was out there, away from the center. Today, it is all over, in the peripheries of the center and in the centers of the periphery (Mignolo, 2000: ix). 2 The four dierent positions refer to (1) the producers of high value, based on informational labor, (2) the producers of high volume, based on lower-cost labor, (3) the producers of raw materials, based on natural endowments, and (4) the redundant producers, reduced to devalued labor (Castells 1996: 147). They can be understood as a contemporary version of what Wallerstein called the modes of labor control when he deals with dierent structural positions of the incipient capitalist world-economy in the long sixteenth century in the rst volume of Modern World-System (Wallerstein 1974).

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that the core, semiperiphery, and periphery need not coincide with the political boundaries of states (p. 35). But most of the world-systems studies have taken it for granted that the stratication of the world-economy is conceived in terms of states (Taylor 1988: 571). By pointing out this presupposition, Taylor aptly challenges Wallerstein: [W]hen Wallerstein (1979: CWE) applies the semiperiphery concept to the current situation he only refers to states, but he has no discussion of when and how states emerged as a necessary basis for this exercise (Taylor 1988: 571). Recently, Taylor (1996, 2000a, 2003) systematically elaborates his criticism on the embedded statism which constitutes the essence of the mosaic metageography. According to his glossary, the metageography refers to the geographical structures through which people order their knowledge of the world, and a metageographical moment is a critical time of transition between metageographies (Taylor 2003a: 47). Emerged from decolonization in the mid-twentieth century, a mosaic metageography universalized the image of the world map in which each state is distinguished along borderlines from one another with dierent colors. Presenting a geohistorical interpretation of the capitalist world-economy, he contends that globalization is a metageographical moment shifting from a mosaic metageography to a network metageography and that this is no less than an erosion process of the embedded statism with the rise of trans-state global city networks. Based on this interpretation, he suggests integrating the traditional political mosaic of state territories with the network of world cities in a single analysis (Taylor 2000b: 6). Under the rubric of dierent names of globalization, Castells, Hardt and Negri, and Taylor share a critical stance on the trimodality traditionally assumed by the world-systems perspective. They argue that the trimodality of core, semiperiphery, and periphery has lost its heuristic vitality as the world has changed. Are they right? If we want to answer this question, we should put the trimodality of the capitalist world-economy under scrutiny.

Three Dierent Models of Core-Semiperiphery-Periphery Hierarchy/ Network Against the conventional understanding of the trimodality represented by the deterritorialization critics, there is no single coherent model of the trimodal framework. The world-systems analysis as a collective intellectual enterprise has been ever changing while maintaining some essential points.3 We can
3 We may understand what Wallerstein (2001: 267-268) presents three dening characteristics of the world-systems perspective as the persistent claims of this perspective. The three specic


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observe both continuity and discontinuity simultaneously from Wallersteins and others works done for more than a generation. Here I try to trace how his model of tripartite global hierarchy has changed so far and to clarify how the change produces further changes in his conception of the semiperiphery. Furthermore, I examine how subsequent studies, especially Arrighi and Drangel (1986), try to revise Wallersteins earlier modeling. I argue that a critical shift in Wallersteins modeling from the initial structural-functionalist to the relation-mix model of the semiperiphery took place as a result of Wallersteins attempt at avoiding unnecessary misunderstanding by his earlier critics, for which he was partly responsible. But I also argue that the revised relation-mix model is far from perfect, especially as it comes to encounter some old problems that the earlier structural-functionalist model could handle much better. In this situation, Arrighi and Drangels global-wealth-hierarchy modeling can be viewed as an alternative to Wallersteins. But this model has evolved with a critical rupture. In more recent studies by Arrighi and his co-authors, the problem of the existence of trimodality has disappeared.

Structural-Functionalist Modeling (1974) Wallerstein (1979) asserts that a three-layered structure is an obvious mechanism necessary for sustaining existence of any social system based on unequal reward: the system cannot function without being tri-modal because the political stability of the system can be guaranteed through the division of the majority into a larger lower stratum and a smaller middle stratum. For him, this preconceived model is assumed operative in all kinds of social structure. In other words, it is supposed to be observed in any kind of world-systems, at least in those known through history.4 This political rationale of the intermepoints are put forth in terms of (1) unit of analysis, (2) longue dure, and (3) a certain view of the capitalist world-economy, one of which is the structural existence of a semiperipheral zone. 4 In this way, Wallerstein (2001) tends to assume that the tripartite structure has existed through the very long-term, paraphrasing Braudel, through the time period of the sages (p. 137). In the same vein, William Sewell Jr. (1996) also points out the abstract transhistorical time of Wallerstein (p. 245-80). Thus, Wallerstein, although it might be unintentional, seems to share this quasi-eternity with nomothetic scientists whom he has criticized. But we should note that the assumption of the tripartite structure is an analytical starting point rather than a synthetic outcome of his intellectual enterprise. In other words, the trimodal structure is a postulate, which is not necessarily a self-evident truth, but rather a presupposition initially adopted for further production of meaningful knowledge within the specic theoretical totality. In a scientic enterprise, an explanation on the dynamic processes of the real world does not only rest on, but also is built up from, postulates. If we bear in mind this heuristic nature of the postulate, it would be understandable that Wallersteins tripartite conguration of the world hierarchy takes a nomothetic form rather than a more time-space-bounded and more idiographic one. By

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Figure 1 Structural-Functionalist Model of the Tripartite Hierarchy



Periphery Social system in general Capitalist world-economy

diate zone is deduced from the assumed general nature of the world-system. Thus, the tripartite structure is common to world-economies and worldempires as both kinds of the world-system need an in-between buer zone blocking or absorbing any serious threat from the below (Pp. 22, 68-69). However, there is an important dierence between the two world-systems: While world-empires have a central political authority coordinating a cultural stratication by providing the middle-strata with a limited access to the surplus, the capitalist world-economy has instead three kinds of states. In other words, besides the upper stratum of core states and the lower stratum of peripheral states, there is a middle stratum of semiperipheral ones (Wallerstein 1979: 23, italics in original ). According to this scheme visualized in Figure 1, every state in the capitalist world-economy occupies one of three structural positions within a hierarchical system. The coupling of the world-economy with the interstate system as the alternative to an absence of the singular political authority is the basis on which the assumption that membership of each zone is conned to the sovereign state is built, so that we can say in such ways as core states, semiperipheral states, and peripheral states. It reects not only a formal equivalency among sovereign states, but also a substantial dierence between strong states and weak states. The assumption, in turn, prevents Wallersteins model from being faced with the intangible problem of internal core-periphery relations within a country. Combined and uneven development may exist regardless of the spaimposing the imaginary mental map of the core-semiperiphery-periphery hierarchy on the real world, Wallerstein seeks to delineate an international hierarchy entailed with global division of labor. In sum, the mental map may contribute to producing further knowledge on the aimed object in the real world, but cannot be veried by itself.


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tial scale of its range. To be sure, there can be core-periphery relationships within a country. Wallerstein also readily acknowledges the historical existence of non-state peripheral areas and the coexistence of dierent zones within the borders of a national state in such cases as France in the long sixteenth century or the United States in the eighteenth century (Taylor 1987). But Wallerstein (1978) pays more attention to a historical specicity of the capitalist worldeconomy, i.e., the singular division of labor on a world-systemic scale, partitioned with a multiplicity of states rather than core-periphery relationships on multiple scales: If one starts with the framework of a single division of labor within which there are multiple states and multiple economic processes, then one has to worry about the lack of total coincidence (p. 220). Together with the lack of total coincidence between core-periphery relational structures and national states, there is another serious problem in his frameworks of the three kinds of states in the capitalist world-economy. The criterion by which each state is categorized into three positions of the worldeconomy is not rigorously advanced. Thus, plural features such as the mode of labor control, complexity of economic activities, strength of the state machinery, cultural integrity, etc. are put forth for sorting out countries into the three categories of core, semiperiphery, and periphery (Wallerstein 1974: 349). It is this very point where deterritorialization critics reject the core-semiperiphery-periphery framework. They try to vindicate their criticism with the evidence that there is no coincidence of the core-periphery relationships with countries, as is a consequence of their dierent names of globalization. Is the problem of the lack of total coincidence between the economic processes and the state boundaries new? Not at all. However, their criticism is partially valid, even if it is not a novel phenomenon brought about by globalization. Indeed, it was the problem already admitted by Wallerstein when he conceded his own responsibility for the prevailing misunderstanding of core-periphery relationship. Although it has been largely neglected, Wallerstein (1974) was aware of the existence of a multilayered format of layers within layers when he described the uneven development of the edgling capitalist worldeconomy:
In the sixteenth century, there was the dierential of the core of the European worldeconomy versus its peripheral areas, within the European core between states, within states between regions and strata, within regions between city and country, and ultimately within more local units (Pp. 86, 119).

But his recognition of the multiple scales of core-periphery relationship is not reected in the earlier structural-functionalist modeling, but kept out of his abstraction of the modeling.

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It is not dicult to discern a vestige of the structural functionalism from this earlier framework. What is to be explained, that is, the existence of the tripartite structure of the capitalist world-economy, is just presumed as a general trait of the social system. Unlike a world-empire characterized by the existence of the central authority governing the whole sphere of its division of labor, the capitalist world-economy is coupled with the interstate-system, which consists of many formally sovereign states. Despite this dierence, both a world-economy and a world-empire commonly have the tripartite structure as all social systems have. The dierence is only expressed into the formulation that the capitalist world-economy consists of the three structural locations, namely the three kinds of states. The image of organism, in which the whole system is sustained by the function performing of various parts, ts well to this structural-functionalist picture. In the case of the capitalist world-economy, each zone, which is a cluster of states, is viewed as a part performing a typical function, which is conditioned by the needs of the whole system.

Relation-Mix Modeling (1978) Many earlier critics of Wallerstein, such as Theda Skocpol (1977) and Robert Brenner (1977), have preyed on the structural-functionalist modeling. While they (mis)charge Wallersteins reliance on conjunctural explanation on historically contingent combination of events, of teleological, a posteriori, or ad hoc justications, they keep their blind obsession with the necessary causality against contingency and reluctance to accept Wallersteins innovative criticism of the national state unit of analysis. But their criticism of Wallersteins functionalist inclination of his systemic-level explanation has some valid points. I believe that it led Wallerstein to departing from the earlier structural-functionalist modeling. The following passage shows his recognition of the fault inherent in his earlier structural-functionalist modeling well.
There is a certain sloppiness of which I myself have been guilty in using core and peripheral as adjectives for states. These words refer to processes that are relational, and I add that there is a lack of total coincidence between the economic processes and the state boundaries (Wallerstein 1978: 219-220; 1982: 581).

Now, the focus of core-periphery framework is shifted from the hierarchy to the interconnection, from the classicatory categories to the relational process. Through the shift, Wallerstein removes the functionalist understanding of the trimodality, which is presumed as inherent in any social system. Keeping himself distant from this ill-founded deduction, Wallerstein comes to lay


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Figure 2 Relation-Mix Model of Core-Periphery Processes

Core Phenomenal level Semiperiphery Periphery

Production processes


his emphasis, more explicitly than before, on the relational character of coreperiphery production processes.5 In the earlier structural-functionalist model, the three-tiered pyramid structure is envisaged as if each layer, performing its typical function, is composed of the state building blocks. By contrast, according to the relation-mix model depicted in Figure 2, the core-periphery relationship per se entails neither a priori function of its parts nor any notion of the structural location. The identication of states as being located in one of three positions is rather just a geographical consequence of the core-peripheral relationship:
Core-like processes tend to group themselves in a few states and to constitute the bulk of the production activity in such states. Peripheral processes tend to be scattered among a large number of states and to constitute the bulk of the production activity in these states. . . . Some states have a near even mix of core-like and peripheral products. We may call them semiperipheral states. They have . . . special political properties. It is however not meaningful to speak of semiperipheral production processes (Wallerstein 2004b: 28-29, italics added ).

In the earlier structural-functionalist model, the collective function of semiperiphery is an inference drawn from the logic of the social system in general; that is, the role managing the polarizing forces by keeping the lower tier of
5 The changed position has been kept since then: For shorthand purposes we can talk of core states and peripheral states, so long as we remember that we are really talking of a relationship between production processes (Wallerstein 2004: 28).

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the system from uniting against the upper tier of the system. In the revised relation-mix model, each state has the dierent proportion of core-like processes to peripheral processes. While the state containing relatively more corelike processes than peripheral processes is classied as core, the state in which the peripheral processes are predominant is classied as periphery. In this framework, the semiperipheral state is dened as a state which has a near even mix of core-like and peripheral production processes. The distinction between core-like activities and peripheral activities can be said to exist analytically prior to the classication of states into three zones. Also, the core-periphery dynamic as a relational process exists analytically prior to the two production processes. While the structural-functionalist model views the state as a constituent unit of the three-tiered hierarchy, the relation-mix model views the state as a container of dierent mix of core-like activities and peripheral activities. For the former, the state constitutes the core-periphery relationship on a global scale; for the latter, the core-periphery relationships are inbred within the state. The relation-mix model of semiperiphery based on the distinction between core-like activity and peripheral activity came to appear and manifested in some works in the late-1970s (Wallerstein, et al. 1982[1977]: 46-7; Wallerstein 1978: 220-222), and later it was more elaborated by analytically locating the production processes within the framework of commodity chains (Wallerstein 1985: 34). The model shift accompanies the change of the implication of semiperiphery. Most of all, the previous assignment of the buer-zone function disappears. As a result, the collective characterization of semiperiphery as the middle-tier of the three-layered pyramid dwindles. There is no presumed function of semiperiphery as a collective cluster of plural countries. Rather, the semiperipheral contents, which semiperipheral states contain, are revealed and accumulated only through performances of comparative and case studies, which are time-space-bounded in nature. Therefore, the social meaning of semiperiphery varies over time and space:
Under certain circumstances it is the expression of anti-systemic thrusts. But in others it serves primarily to recuperate such thrusts and further to stabilize the system (p. 39).6

6 The prosystemic function of semiperiphery as a collective zone is relegated to the status of one among many by Arrighi, too. Arrighi (1990) classies organic members of semiperiphery into three kinds of regimes, one of which is antisystemic: (1) stable prosystemic parliamentary regimes, (2) prosystemic authoritarian regimes, and (3) antisystemic authoritarian regimes (Pp. 26-34).


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According to Wallersteins revision, the use of core state and peripheral state is only for shorthand purpose, because the core and periphery are two aspects of the same coin. But;
semiperiphery now would not refer to a relational economic process, to which the terms core and periphery refer. Semiperiphery would now refer to a quantication of such relations as they fall within the bounds of a given state. Such a concept would be of interest only if it would turn out to be a clue to or indicator of certain political processes (Wallestein 1985: 34, italics in original ).

As he implies by the above passage, the semiperiphery, unlike core and periphery, is still reserved only for a certain kind of states. At least in Wallersteins use, there are neither semiperipheral production processes nor semiperipheral cities, but only semiperipheral states having special political properties.7 What are the special political properties? Wallerstein (1985) suggests a general proposition that the closer the overall mix of core-peripheral activities is to an even one in a given statethat is, the more semiperipheral the statethe more will the complex calculus tilt towards rewarding eorts to secure economic advantage via aecting (transforming) the state structure . . . because the nearer to some median is the economic mix, the more immediately and directly can state policies aect the accumulation of capital (p. 35).8 However, the properties are not so presumed a priori to concrete historical analysis as Wallerstein did through the earlier modeling. The relation-mix model seems to be successful not only in avoiding the unnecessary accusation of functionalism as Wallerstein intended, but also in responding to the deterritorialization critics who raise the question of the state-constituted core-periphery model by dissociating the core-periphery relationships from the relationship between dominant states and subordinate states. But it leaves us some other problems. First of all, it still remains very hard to dene the ever-shifting core-periphery relationship. How can we anchor the meaning of core-like activities and peripheral activities in the real world? The distinction may be very useful for the emphasis on the ever-changing form of core-periphery relationship (Wallerstein 1985: 33), but confronted with a critical problem in operationalization with regard to the measurement of core-periphery hierarchy on a global level. As the obverse side of the same
It is what Peter J. Taylor has criticized as we saw above. Sharing this view with Wallerstein, Etienne Balibar (1991) seeks the reason why the semiperiphery is the privileged place for what we traditionally call politics in the situation in which social blocs that are at dierent stages of development exist together within the same state-organized space, so that they may come into conict in explosive ways (p. 177, italics in original ).
8 7

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coin, there are dierent arrays of semiperipheral states by dierent researchers, as the classication of states into a cluster of semiperiphery is totally predicated on researchers denition of core-like activities and peripheral activities (Martin 1990: 5). The second problem is more dicult. It becomes very hard, if not totally impossible, to dene semiperiphery theoretically as a consistent category. In other words, semiperiphery becomes the residual category again. By abandoning the notion of function, the category of semiperiphery is identied either with the descriptive termmiddle-income countries discerned by more or less arbitrary cutting points on a core-periphery continuumor with a vacant container always waiting for being lled by concrete analyses of historically specic conjunctures. The former way is usually taken by most statistical analyses on global inequality using the category of semiperiphery and the latter is adopted by a few case studies or comparative studies. The third problem is that the revised model lacks the image of the hierarchic whole, which was better represented by the rst model. Related to the second problem above, it is hard to gauge global inequality in terms of the core-periphery hierarchy based on the relation-mix model. One may envisage an image of the network entangled with numerous core-periphery relationships, but the network image cannot be easily translated to the hierarchy. How does the core-periphery model carry both image of the network and hierarchy?

Arrighi and Drangels Global-Wealth-Hierarchy Modeling (1986) An attempt at giving a partial solution to the above problems is made by Arrighi and Drangel (1986). They try to depict a new theoretical map of core-periphery relationships by redressing drawbacks inherent in Wallersteins theoretical mapping. The contrast between core-like activities and peripheral activities is understood as the outcome of persistent endeavors of various economic actors to shift . . . the pressure of competition from themselves onto other actors. In this framework, the economic activities are polarized into positions from which the pressure of competition has been transferred elsewhere (core-like activities) and positions to which such pressure has been transferred (peripheral activities) (p. 17). Within this situation, it is necessary for a state trying to upgrade its own mix to attract and develop organic links with core capital (p. 24). Peripheral states can benet from providing core capitals with cost advantage in contrast to the revenue advantage enjoyed in core states. But it is very dicult for peripheral states to upgrade the mix because the number of competing peripheral states is much larger than core states, so that the scarcity of cost advantage provided by peripheral states


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becomes much lower than cores revenue advantage. It produces a further situation to concentrate innovations within the core zone.9
[O]ver time, core states and core capital tend to develop a symbiotic relationship that increases each others capability to consolidate and reproduce their association with predominantly core-like activities. The obverse of this tendency is the endemic inability of peripheral states to escape their association with predominantly peripheral activities. Taken together, the two tendencies imply a stable, if not growing, polarization of the space of the world-economy into a peripheral and a core zone (Arrighi and Drangel 1986: 26).

Here the notion of polarity extended from the contrast entails a notion of degree. So, there are some states containing a more or less even mix of coreperipheral activities within their territories, as the relation-mix model suggests. These semiperipheral states resist peripheralization by exploiting their revenue advantage vis--vis peripheral states and their cost advantage vis--vis core states(ibid. 26-27). If they succeed in enhancing the cost advantages of locations within their jurisdictions, producers in the semiperipheral zone can eectively compete with producers in the core zone. This competition, however, far from upgrading the mix of core-peripheral activities of the semiperipheral zone, is one of the mechanisms that turns core-like activities into peripheral activities and keeps the mix of the zone more or less even (ibid. 27). But it does not exclude the possibility that individual semiperipheral or peripheral states can upgrade their mix of core-peripheral activities. The upward and downward movements of individual states within the core-periphery hierarchy are key mechanisms of reproduction of the three separate zones of the world-economy (ibid. 28). Later, Arrighi (1990) makes a further attempt at providing each zone with distinctive quality in terms of dierent character of wealth of the three zones. He elaborates the quantitative dierence among three zones into qualitative one:
If the claims of world-systems analysis have any validity at all, observation of the distribution of incomes among the various political jurisdictions of the capitalist worldeconomy over relatively long periods of time should reveal the existence of three separate standards of wealth corresponding to the oligarchic wealth of core states, the democratic wealth of semiperipheral states, and the nonwealth, that is, the poverty, of peripheral states10 (p. 18, italics added ).
9 Arrighi, Silver, and Brewer (2003: 17) point out that the fact that the innovation process tends to begin in the wealthier countries is emphasized by both Akamatsus ying geese model and Raymond Vernons product-cycle model. 10 Democratic wealth is the kind of command over resources that, in principle, all can attain

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The disparity of wealth among three zones is championed by the observation that the distribution of wealth (that is, of long-term income) is more stable than the distribution of short-term income (p. 22). Together with connoting the contents of each zone in this way, Arrighi and Drangel (1986) also denote boundaries of the three zones. According to them, as the Figure 3 shows, the semiperiphery is bounded both by perimeter of the core (henceforth) and by perimeter of the periphery (henceforth), so that it could be discerned, if we see a frequency distribution of world population by the mix of core-peripheral activities of the state of residence (p. 28).11 Through this new theoretical mapping, Arrighi and Drangel extend the core-periphery relationship formulated by the relation-mix model. They translate the network of commodity chains as an aggregate of the global core-periphery relationships into the hierarchy of world income inequality. Based on this global-wealth-hierarchy model, Arrighi and Drangel try to represent a picture of the core-periphery hierarchy on a world scale through a world distribution of GNP per capita during the period from 1938 to 1983. But, since the early-1990s, Arrighi has not employed anymore the concept of semiperiphery although some ideas developed in Arrighi and Drangel (1986) are still retained in his recent works. Despite Arrighis abandonment of trimodality, it still remains as the latest theoretical mapping of the tripartite structure of the capitalist world-economy. In sum, unlike the conventional understanding, the core-periphery model adopted in various works is not a coherent one, rather plural. I discerned three distinct models: (1) structural-functionalist, (2) relation-mix, and (3) globalwealth-hierarchy models. Table 1 summarizes them.

Quantitative Research on the Global Core-Periphery Structure Although I conne the scope of the previous section to the abstract modeling of the tripartite hierarchy, here I examine how the model has been employed, and how the semiperiphery is explicated with the model. Given space restrictions,
in direct relation to the intensity and eciency of their eorts. Oligarchic wealth, in contrast, bears no relation to the intensity and eciency of its recipients eorts, and is never available to all because generalized attempts to attain it raise costs and reduce benets for all actors involved (Arrighi, Silver, and Brewer 2003: 19). 11 This hypothetical distribution of world population in the global core-periphery structure reects Arrighis earlier criticism on Wallersteins list of semiperipheral countries, including twothirds of world population, as a result of the vagueness and formality of Wallersteins criteria for identifying semiperipheral states, in other words, a confusion between the position of a state in relation to the world division of labor and its position in the interstate system (Arrighi 1985: 243-244; Arrighi and Drangel 1986: 13-16; cf. Wallerstein 1979: 100).


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Figure 3 Global Wealth Hierarchy Model of Core-Periphery Structure

Percent of World Population


PC Semiperiphery

Periphery 0

Core 100

Share of Core Activities in the Mix (%)

(Percentage of World Population by Mix of Core-Peripheral Activities of the State of Residence) [excerpted from Arrighi and Drangel (1986: 29)]

this section concentrates on how the tripartite hierarchy is depicted in the statistical analysis of global inequality. While Wallersteins (1974, 1980, 1989) three volumes of the Modern WorldSystem are based on the extrapolation of the trimodality into the past history of the capitalist world-economy, a series of quantitative analyses have been obliged to deal with more contemporary period as the systemic collection of data on GNP or GDP only began in the 1950s, and most peripheral and semiperipheral countries lack the historical estimates that observers have calculated for the majority of todays core countries (Korzeniewicz, Moran, and Stach 2003: 14). Thus, the possibility and likelihood of empirical research is totally up to the availability of data. Some statistical analyses attempt statis-

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Table 1 Three Dierent Models of the Global Core-Periphery Structure

StructuralFunctionalist Main Figures Wallerstein in the early 1970s RelationMix Wallerstein (and Hopkins) since the late 1970s Global-WealthHierarchy Phase I: Arrighi (and Drangel) (1986) Phase II: Arrighi(, Silver, and Brewer) (2003) Three types of the wealth: 1. oligarchic wealth 2. democratic wealth 3. nonwealth (poverty) Singular (GNP or GNI per capita)

Core-Periphery Structure

Hierarchy built with state building-blocks: three kinds of states

Relational processes of surplus transfer: Every state has dierent mixes of core-like activities and peripheral activities. Singular (economic)

Distinguishing Criteria Image of the Semiperiphery

Plural (economic, political, cultural) The middle tier of a three-story pyramid: buer zone

Relatively even mix of The population size of semiperiphery is larger the core-like and than core but smaller peripheral activities than periphery.

tical extrapolation, too. For example, Korzeniewicz, Moran, and Stach (2003: 14-15) approximate a between-country inequality, utilize Maddisons data on population and GDP for 24 countries between 1820 and 1990.12 These statistical analyses have commonly treated the three-layered structure of the capitalist world-economy as a hypothesis to be tested in their initial stage, and, if demonstrated, have attributed the status of a truth to it. So far, many attempts have been made for measuring the international core-periphery structure in various ways; some have been noteworthy and hotly debated; a few have had signicant eects on the direction of following quantitative studies; few have raised critical questions on Wallersteins preconceived model

Milanovic (2005) points out the limit of the Maddisons data: [T]he problemeven if this information were fully correctis that for large parts of the world we do not have GDP per capital for the early nineteenth century. There are no data for Africa, most of (what used to be called) Indo-China, the Philippines, Korea, Turkey and the Middle East, the Balkans, and all of Latin America and the Caribbean with the exception of Brazil. . . . Fortunately, Maddisons data do include China and India, which keeps the population coverage around 80 percent even in the nineteenth century. (p. 139).


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of the tripartite hierarchy;13 but no agreement on the world as it really is has been attained against their own empiricist expectation.14 It is possible to draw some family trees of the quantitative analyses on the global hierarchy of the capitalist world-economy if we pay attention to the persisting research interest of distinctive authors in this eld. What is of interest is not the cutting-edge technique of statistics to measure the global inequality, but interpretative implications, which can be obtained from the execution of the statistical analyses. To be sure, the former is important. But I intentionally rule out some authors who had treated the tri-partite model of the global hierarchy just once or twice, and then abandoned it, even if their works were published in some major journals. Instead, I include some theoretical considerations on the matter from the same authors qualitative analyses, if they substantiate the interpretative issues raised by their statistical analysis. The family trees presented in the Table 2 show us not only the continuity and discontinuity of ve pedigrees, but also the divergence and convergence among them. Let me briey explain each of ve threads. Alpha () is the tradition beginning from Snyder and Kicks (1979) path-breaking multiple network analysis through a block-modeling. The most distinct feature characterizing this tree is its inclusion of non-economic relations such as military and diplomatic ties between countries. With regard to taking multiple criteria to distinguish the three world-systemic positions, it can be understood as adopting the earlier structural-functionalist model. The same research design has been maintained through the recent works by Kick and others. Ronan Van Rossem (1996) also adopts this type of approach with some modications. Beta () is the tradition of the trade network analysis led by David Smith, who also had some works on semiperipheral contents in the case of South
13 Arrighi and Drangel (1986) is one of the few cases to eectively challenge Wallersteins loose framework in several points, such as the introduction of the population limits in each zone, rigorous conceptualization of organic members of core, periphery and semiperiphery enabled by the adoption of the pair of the perimeter of core and perimeter of periphery together with the upward / downward mobility across the perimeters, and the verication of the essential claim of the world-systems analysis, namely, the stability of the tri-partite hierarchy in spite of the mobility of individual countries, etc. But, unlike Wallersteins earlier structural-functionalist model, their global-wealth-hierarchy model denies the stability function of semiperiphery: [T]he function of the semiperipheral zone . . . is neither necessary nor sucient to account for its existence (p. 13, fn. 3). 14 The controversial situation is not conned to world-systems analyses. Revolving around the issue of whether the world inequality for past and present decades has been increasing or decreasing, two opposing views have been pitted against each other: While Firebaugh (2003), Lucas (2002), Quah (1993), and Jones (1997) have attempted to demonstrate that the world inequality has been decreasing on the one side, Milanovic (2002, 2005), Wade (2004), and Galbraith (2002) have tried to demonstrate the opposite.

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Korea. His focus of study has been changed through some work on world city networks that he co-authored with Michael Timberlake. The characteristic feature of the tree is its single focus on the trade networks because they think that the trade network data is the best tool to show the ow of economic surplus, which is fundamental to the core-periphery relationships. As the trade networks are understood as a multiplication of the surplus ows between corelike activities and peripheral activities, can be interpreted as having anity with the relation-mix model. Peacock, Hoover, and Killian (1988) follow this tradition, even with using a decomposition analysis. The rest, Gamma (), Delta (), and Epsilon (), can be understood as three dierent branches diverging from Arrighi and Drangels (1986) global-wealthhierarchy model. Arrighi and Drangel try to empirically demonstrate the existence of the stable three-tiered structure of the world-economy as well as to draw a new theoretical mapping of the global-wealth-hierarchy model. The authors empirical analysis shows us the mid-term stability of the three-tiered structure of the world-economy over the 45 years (1938-1983). Despite some exceptional examples of upward or downward mobility, such as Japan, Italy, South Korea, and Ghana, the ascending or descending movements of parts have not changed the stable three-tiered structure of the world-economy. Despite some disputes on measurement problems,15 the analysis by Arrighi and Drangel got some signicant and theoretically favorable reverberations. What I label Gamma () is Peter J. Taylors (1988) work. He supported Arrighi and Drangels nding of the relatively stable existence of three discrete zones by showing that the tripartite distribution is observed even if the componential blocks are changed from national states, all of which have dierent population sizes, to the population blocks, which have the same size of population. As its title, a supportive note on Arrighi and Drangel, indicates, Taylor demonstrates that the trimodal hierarchy analogy of the world-systems analysis empirically survives the spatial reorganization of the data, making use of John Coles world data that is not state-based. While other statistical analyses tested Wallersteins model of three-tiered pyramid built with the nation-state blocks, the size of which is dierent, the Coles data utilized by Taylor can be understood as the three-tiered pyramid built with population blocks, the size of which is all the same. As we have seen, here we can observe a convergence of Beta () thread of David Smith and Gamma () thread of Peter J. Taylor, eventually making a conuence with the deterritorialization approach to globalization.
15 On the problem in the use of GNP per capita as an indicator, see Korzeniewicz and Awbrey (1992: 615-616), and Chase-Dunn (1998: 215-216). On Arrighis position to the criticisms, see Arrighi (1990: 19-21, 36-37).


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Table 2 Family Trees of Quantitative Analyses of the World-Systems Perspective Year 1979/ 1985 1986 1986

Snyder & Kick Nemeth & Smith Arrighi (1985) Arrighi & Drangel (1986) Arrighi, Korzeniewicz & Martin (1986) Peter J. Taylor Taylor Arrighi Arrighi Smith & White Taylor Smith & Timberlake Taylor Arrighi, Korzeniewicz, Consiglio, & Moran (1996) Korzeniewicz & Moran (1997) Korzeniewicz & Moran (2000) Korzeniewicz & Awbrey (1992) Korzeniewicz & Martin (1994)

1987 1988 1990 1991 1992 1994 1995 1996

Kick Smith & Nemeth


1997 2000

Taylor Taylor Kick, Davis, Lehtinen, & Burns (2000) Kick & Smith & Taylor Davis Timberlake

Arrighi & Silver


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Table 2 (cont.) Year 2001/ 2002 2002

Arrighi Korzeniewicz, Stach, Consiglio, & Moran (2002) Korzeniewicz, Moran, & Stach Korzeniewicz & Moran Arrighi Arrighi Arrighi, Silver, & Brewer

2003 2004 2005

Smith Smith

Taylor Taylor

Arrighi, Silver, & Brewer

* The shaded area includes studies in which the tripartite structure of core-semiperiphery-periphery is focused as one of their main objective of analyses.

Delta () is identied with the works by Roberto P. Korzeniewicz and his co-authors. Initially, they were interested in the extension of Arrighi and Drangels position on the stability of the tripartite hierarchy. Korzeniewicz and Awbrey (1992) use Arrighi and Drangels classication of the structural position of 102 nations in the mid-1980s for the study intended to observe the correlation between global transition to democracy and semiperipheral position. Korzeniewicz and Martin (1994) also attempt to overcome some shortcomings of Arrighi and Drangels analysis by extending their research to far more time-points (34) and countries (up to 134), so that the authors can make some original contributions to understanding zonal distributions of specic commodity productions and to observing shift of commodities characterizing each zone (p. 71). Yet, Arrighi and Drangels essential points are rearmed and remained unchallenged in these studies. But now, Delta () is focusing on the multi-dimensionality of the global inequalities (inequalities among nations, inequalities among households within nations, and inequalities between men and women), as Korzeniewicz and his co-authors get more interested in the co-relation of the between-country inequalities with the within-country inequalities. Concurring with most of empirical studies on global income inequality (Milanovic 2002, 2005; Firebaugh 1999, 2001, 2003), they argue that the total world income inequality in the 1990s is conditioned more by between-country inequalities than by within-country inequalities. If, as they argue, the between-country inequalities have more


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weight in constituting the global inequality than within-country inequalities, not only the state-based measurement of global inequality, but also the coreperiphery model built with the constituent units of national states is still meaningful in contrast to the deterritorialization criticisms. Finally, Epsilon () refers to Arrighi and his coauthors recent works. Arrighi and Drangel (1986) show us that most of states have remained by 1983 within the zone to which they belonged in 1938, notwithstanding rare exceptions. The existence of the unbridgeable gulfs between core and semiperiphery (i.e. PC) and between semiperiphery and periphery (i.e. PP) observed in Arrighi and Drangels study is reiterated in Arrighi (1990). Later, Arrighi and Silver (2000) argue that the relative demographic size of the three groups remained roughly constant during the period from 1961 to 1981 in spite of some upward movement by Japan, Italy, Taiwan, and South Korea. They attribute the persistence of the relatively stable tripartite structure to the faster average demographic growth of the states in the lower income groups. A remarkable change of this thread is a shift of Arrighis focus from the relative stability of the tri-partite hierarchy despite the upward and downward mobility of individual countries in the mid-term period in the twentieth century, to the divergence within the South since 1980, which is outstanding in the contrast between East Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. Arrighi, Silver, and Brewer (2003) present a novel framework distinguished from the earlier phase of the global-wealth-hierarchy modeling. Most of all, the earlier tripartite structure of world hierarchy that consists of core, semiperiphery, and periphery was abandoned and superseded by the North-South divide. While Arrighi and Drangel (1986) argued that there was stable and distinctive tripartite hierarchy divided by two unbridgeable gulfs, PC and PP, the authors present a seemingly traditional claim of the North vs. South or the First World vs. the Third World. There is little consideration of the semiperiphery occupying an intermediate position in the hierarchy of the wealth of nations. But the reproductive mechanism for the North-South divide is attributed instead to the bifurcation within the Third World countries explicitly revealed from about 1980 (coinciding with the redirection of capital ows to US and the Washington Consensus as a hegemonic reaction to the crisis of capital accumulation) by the authors. Now, the claim on the stable existence of the intermediate sector (the semiperipheral zone) cannot be found. For the same reason, the previous triple categories of the wealth of nations (oligarchic wealth of the core, democratic wealth of the semiperiphery, and the nonwealth of periphery), which appeared in Arrighi (1990) are simplied to Harrods original pair of wealth (oligarchic wealth of the First World and democratic wealth of the Third World).

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The ve threads of Table 2 have their own ndings, but here I conne myself to the matter of the tripartite structure. We can get a general morphology of the tripartite structure from the ndings of the quantitative analyses on the global hierarchy in their earlier stage. Both Snyder and Kick (1979) [] and Nemeth and Smith (1985) [] give us a similar image of the tri-partite networks: core countries dominate all over the networks; semiperipheral countries have strong ties with core countries, but also with each other; and the periphery is connected to the international trade system almost exclusively through trade with core states. Arrighi and Drangel (1986) and the subsequent studies of , and in their early stages arm the mid-term stability of the tripartite structure, too. Arrighi and Drangel put forth nine distributions of world population corresponding to nine time points from 1938 to 1983. Five out of nine appear to conrm the existence of relatively clear tri-modal structure of the capitalist world-economy, and the remaining four distributions also have one or two peaks sandwiched by two low-frequency intervals (i.e. PP and PC). Thus, we can observe the evidence of stable existence of the three-tiered structure from 1938 to 1983, as hypothesized in the Figure 3. There are two noteworthy trends in the family trees. First, earlier attempts of each tree to prove the existence of three discrete clusters have faded out: and are now concentrating on the global city network; is focusing on the co-relationships between dierent types of inequalities; and is dedicated to the bifurcation of the Third World. Second, there are increasing disagreements on the relatively stable existence of the tripartite structure. In contrast to their earlier studies, some ndings of recent studies are against the claim of the stability of the trimodality. Nemeth and Smith distinguish the fourth strata of the weak semiperiphery from strong semiperiphery in the trade data for the year 1970 (Nemeth and Smith 1985: 543; Smith and Nemeth 1988). Kick (1987) also argues that there are four tiers in the world-economy: core, semicore, semiperiphery, and periphery in the period, 1970-1975 (p. 135). Smith and White (1992) even argue the existence of ve tiers. The outcome to suspect the actual existence of three discrete clusters is also observed in other research not included in the above family trees (Bornschier and Trezzini 1997: 430; Van Rossem 1996: 513). Although some of recent studies still conrm the existence of three clusters, their clustering of each zone is done by arbitrary cutting point on a continuum of GNP or GNI, not by the existence of low frequency distribution such as Arrighi and Drangels PC and PP (Ikeda, 2004; Babones, 2005). In this case, the trimodality is just assumed, not proved. At this point, we should ask a valid question. The question is whether or not the three discrete clusters of states are observed even by other quantitative analyses performed by researchers outside of the world-systems analysis.


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An innovative research on the world income distribution was made by Branko Milanovic (2002; 2005), a lead economist in the World Banks research department. Unlike most previous studies on international inequality measured by GDP or GNP per capital of each country, his study is based on the household survey on a global scale. For the rst time in human history, it was possible to measure Gini coecients at multiple levelscountry level, regional level, and global level. It makes possible the measure of the dierent weight of between-country inequality and within-country inequality. According to his nding, while 88 percent of world inequality in 1993 is due to between-country inequality, the within-country inequality accounts for only 2 percent of total world inequality with the remaining 10 percent due to the overlap component (Pp. 59-92). Another empirical outcome of Milanovics (2005) research poses a critical challenge on one of the most important premises of the world-systems perspective: the overall systemic stability of the tripartite core-semiperipheryperiphery structure despite the upward and downward mobility of parts. Measuring world inequalities at three time points (1960, 1978, and 2000), Milanovic presents a striking picture of global inequality. He classies almost every country in the world into four categories: (1) the rich, (2) the contenders, (3) the Third World, and (4) the Fourth World.16 Tracing the dynamic of upward and downward movements of individual countries, he derives two concluding observations from the measurement of the upward and downward movements of countries for two periods, 1960-78 and 1978-2000 (Pp. 6870). First, the rich and the Fourth World located at the extremes show a relative stability. At the top, 73 percent of the rich in 1960 had remained rich in 1978, and 82 percent of the rich in 1978 remained still rich in 2000. And, at the bottom, all of the poorest countries in 1960 remained poor in 1978, and 95 percent of them still remained poor in 2000. Second, in contrast to the stability at the two poles, he shows the churning among the contenders and

Milanivic denes GDP per capita of the poorest WENAO (Western Europe, North America and Oceania, i.e. the old OECD region short of Japan) countries, excluding Turkey, as the cut-o point between the rich and the contenders (2005: 61, 2002: 59). The countries whose GDP per capita is no more than one-third below that of the poorest WENAO country are called contenders. . . . Basically, a contender country has a fairly reasonable chance of catching up within a generation or two. The Third World countries are those with GDP per capita levels between one- and two-thirds of the poorest WENAO country. Finally, the Fourth World is composed of countries whose GDPs are less than a third of the GDP per capita of the poorest Western country (Milanovic 2005: 61-62).


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the Third World and its downward pressure.17 Milanovic enumerates thirtythree downwardly mobile countries and seven upwardly mobile countries.18 Further, he points out two features common to twenty countries out of thirty three downwardly mobile countries (thirteen that in 1960 belonged to the rich world, and twenty that were contenders): political instability punctuated by wars, insurgencies, and revolutions; and transition from a planned to a market economy which resulted in massive real income declines (ibid. 72). Drawing upon Arrighi, Galbraith, Easterly, and Bairoch, he attributes the developing countries stagnation and the bifurcation of the developing world to a series of changes occurred around 1978-80: the increase in world interest rates, the increased debt burden of developing countries, the growth slowdown in the industrial world, and skill-based technological change (ibid. 79). In sum, his study on the global inequality during the period from 1960 to 2000 shows the relative stability in the two poles of coreperiphery spectrum, combined with a predominant downward pressure for middle-income countries, with a handful of exceptional cases of the upward mobility. The immense imbalance between upwardly mobile cases and downwardly mobile cases, shown in Milanovics study, ies in the face of the traditional claim of the world-systems perspective. Has the tripartite structure, as hypothesized in Figure 3, really been maintained, despite the dominant pressure for downward movements? Milanovic (2005) reports twin peaks of core and periphery instead of three discrete clusters in 2000. In his study, we can observe a clear existence of three clusters in 1960, but the intermediating
Among the contenders, the number of downwardly vs. upwardly mobile countries was 12 to 3 in the rst period, and 13 to 2 in the second. Regarding the Third World countries, almost two-thirds of the them slipped into the Fourth World during the 1978-2000 period. Overall upward mobility was 4 and 3 percent in the two periods respectively; overall downward mobility was, in contrast, 24 and 29 percent. . . . Stability on the bottom, combined with downward mobility of the contenders and the Third World countries, resulted in the remarkable fact that once a country became part of the poorest group, it found it almost impossible to escape from (relative) poverty. During the past forty years, only two countriesBotswana and Egypt escaped from the trap of the Fourth World (ibid. 69-70). 18 The thirty-three downwardly mobile countries include (1) countries who experienced civil or international wars or both (Nicaragua, Iran, Angola, Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro), (2) countries who faced massive domestic insurgencies or conicts during the period 1960-2000 (Algeria, Colombia, Haiti, Fiji, Panama, South Africa), (3) countries who were aected by the stagnation in the 1980s and then experienced transition from planned to market economy (Russia, Ukraine, Hungary, Poland, Kazakhstan, Lithuania), (4) countries who hit by the lower oil prices (Saudi Arabia, Gabon), and (5) others (Argentina, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Seychelles, Costa Rica, Mexico, Venezuela, Uruguay, Turkey, Jamaica, Guyana, Senegal, and Ghana). The seven upwardly mobile countries are Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, Malaysia, Botswana, and Egypt. Milanovic acknowledges that Thailand and China, although their upward movements are not observed in this study, may be added to the success cases because they were among the ten most successful economies during the 1960-2000 period.


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cluster, what the world-systems perspective calls the semiperiphery, has eventually decomposed (Pp. 94, 129).

Conclusion: Decomposition of Semiperiphery? In order to understand the problems of the trimodality of the world-systems perspective and deterritorialization criticisms to the perspective, we have examined three dierent preconceived models of the trimodality and six dierent trends of quantitative research on global inequalities (ve family trees in the world-systems perspective plus Milanovic). The empirical analyses examined here show us a part of the picture of changes on a global scale. Especially, Milanovics research provides us with two important points on the morphology of global inequality. On the one hand, as we briey mentioned above, the between-country inequality has more weight than the within-country inequality in explaining global inequalities, so the deterritorialization critics arguments on general equalization or smoothing of social space (Hardt and Negri, 2001: 55) on a global scale is somewhat exaggerated. Therefore, the state-based global inequality is not meaningless. Robert Wades (2006) recent attention on the emergence of a hierarchy of national currencies and its constraints on economic policies of developing countries eectively back up the meaningfulness of the interstate hierarchy (Pp. 115-127). But, on the other hand, the existence of interstate hierarchy does not guarantee the validity of the existing model of trimodality of the world-systems perspective. The semiperiphery, in other words, the tripartite structure of global hierarchy, has not survived the neoliberal restructuring of global capitalism since 1978-80. If Milanovic is right, the tripartite structure existed in the year 1960. He also implies that it may reappear as a discrete intermediate zone in the future if China and/or India continue their recent pace of fast economic growth. But it does not exist now. The increasing disagreement on the existence of the tripartite structure among the statistical analyses of the world-systems perspective might have reected this reality. How can we interpret this empirical challenge to the traditional claim of the world-systems analysis? In spite of some conicts, some recent statistical research coming from the world-systems perspective conrms the emptying-out of the semiperiphery, too (Babones 2005).19 The
Baboness (2005) distribution of the world population at six time points (1975, 80, 85, 90, 95, and 2000) still shows the existence of three clusters, but, semiperiphery, in all of six distributions, has the lowest proportion among the three zones (Pp. 46-48). It is dierent from Arrighi and Drangels hypothesized image of the global-wealth-hierarchy model (Figure 3) in which the semiperiphery has the middle level of population distribution.

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world Milanovic represents shows a clear bi-polar shape of the global inequality. The trimodality of the world premised by Wallerstein and Arrighi should be judged in the mid-term and long-term perspective, so it may be too early to say that they are simply wrong. But it would be safe to say that the current period is not anymore the period when the world-systems perspective was born. After a generation, the polarized shape of global inequality once premised by dependentistas who thought the developing countries were rather residual exceptions seems to more t to the reality from the viewpoint of the rst decade of the twenty-rst century. The concept of semiperiphery was born in the second decade of development. Ever since, many studies have tried to show its discrete existence in various ways. But now, the semiperiphery is disappearing and it is disappearing in two senses. On the one hand, as Arrighis abandonment of the term shows, the semiperiphery as a concept useful for representation of the world inequality is disappearing. And, on the other hand, as Milanovics study shows, the semiperiphery as a distinct group of countries within the global hierarchy, which is the existential condition of the concept, is disappearing. The disappearance is not an absence, but a process of decomposition of the historical existence, the semiperiphery. It requires situating the tripartite structure in a shorter time-span than Wallerstein did in his theoretical mappings. Wallersteins model implies that the tripartite structure is situated throughout the longue-dure of capitalism or, worse still, in his earlier structuralist-functionalist modeling, throughout the very long-term time period of sages. It is not to deny the heuristic value of the concept, but to put it in its relevant place. The current twin peaks in the polarized world of global inequality disproves the existence of semiperiphery at this juncture. But, as Milanovic shows, the current twin peaks has been shaped by evolving from the tripartite structure in the 1960s, passing through the watershed years around 1978-80. Therefore, what we need to do is not to abandon the concept, but to study what kind of relational process has been undergoing beneath the changing form of core-periphery hierarchy. Although the stable existence of semiperiphery as a discrete zone throughout the longue-dure of capitalism is denied, we cannot deny the existence of global hierarchy or the interstate inequality in global income distribution. Therefore, every national state is still supposed to occupy its structural location within the hierarchy. It is a general condition of existence for all states in the capitalist world-economy. What dierentiates them is the unequal distribution of the wealth and power of nations. In this vein, even with the decreasing heuristic power of the concept of semiperiphery, the qualitative studies on semiperiphery, which are not directly dealt with in this paper, still retain some signicance for understanding the reality of states within global capitalism.


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The world-systems analysis has tried to answer, with the concept of semiperiphery, to the question on the stability of the hierarchic whole of the capitalist world-economy despite the mobility of its parts. If the answer that semiperiphery is conducive to the stable reproduction of the global hierarchy is regarded as still valid, the focus of future studies would lay on the instability heightened by the decomposition of the semiperiphery. We may interpret the transformation of the global inequality from the triple peaks to the twin peaks as a symptom of a hegemonic transition period if we can observe the same tendency in the history of past hegemonic transition phases. Or, it may be bigger than a hegemonic transition. As Hardt and Negri argue, it may be the transmutation of the capitalist world-economy into the capitalist Empire. If so, it would shatter the denition of the capitalist world-economy, once distinguished from world-empires. But now, we need to think about not just the pertinence of the answer, but the validity of the question itself. Does the whole hierarchical structure remain even with the upward and downward mobility of individual countries? Milanovics study provides us with a strong negative answer denying the original question. The whole global wealth hierarchy has changed from the triple-peaks to the twin-peaks as a result of few cases of catching-up and many cases of falling-behind of national economies. The movements of the parts shape and reshape the whole. If we cannot prove the stable existence of the tripartite hierarchy during the longue-dure of capitalism, and therefore, if we admit that the tripartite structure is a postulate as a part of the theoretical mapping rather than an outcome of research, there would be no reason to believe that the semiperiphery is a constant of the capitalist world-economy. It would be too soon to drop the concept of semiperiphery as the tripartite structure of the capitalist world-economy is assumed as the long-term phenomenon. It may be resumed in the future if BRICs countries can continue their economic growth as fast as they did for the last decade. Especially, the current global turmoil triggered by the subprime mortgage crisis in US may contribute to the acceleration of their catch-up development (Aglietta, 2008: 72-73). But keeping a suspicion on the postulate of the tripartite structure of the capitalist worldeconomy would be valid at least before we can have the information on the global inequality for the period longer than Milanovics study. It would be more reasonable than the abuse of the problematic termsemiperiphery.

Aglietta, Michel. 2008. Into A New Growth Regime. New Left Review. II, No. 54 (Nov./Dec. 2008), pp. 61-74.

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