World-System and Evolution: An Appraisal

Thomas D. Hall

Abstract


This paper makes six arguments. First, socio-cultural evolution must be studied from a "world-system" or intersocietal interaction perspective. A focus on change in individual "societies" or "groups" fails to attend adequately to the effects of intersocietal interaction on social and cultural change. Second, in order to be useful, theories of the modern world-system must be modified extensively to deal with non-capitalist settings. In particular, changes in system boundaries marked by exchange networks (for information, luxury or prestige goods, political/military interactions, and bulk goods) seldom coincide,and follow different patterns of change. Third, all such systems tend to pulsate, that is, expand and contract, or at least expand rapidly and less rapidly. Fourth, once hierarchical forms of social organization develop such systems typically have cycles of rise and fall in the relative positions of constituent politics. Fifth, expansion of world-systems forms and transforms social relations in newly incorporated areas. While complex in the modern world-system, these changes are even more complex in precapitalist settings. Sixth, thesetwo cycles combine with demographic and epidemiological processes to shape long -term socio-cultural evolution.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5195/jwsr.1996.86

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Copyright (c) 2015 Thomas D. Hall

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