Ecological Degradation and the Evolution of World-Systems

  • Christopher Chase-Dunn University of California, Riverside
  • Thomas D. Hall Depauw University


This paper describes the role played by anthropogenic ecological degradation in the evolution of world-systems over the past twelve thousand years. We have developed a conceptual apparatus for comparing workd-systems in order to better understand how fundamental transformations in systemic logic occur. When properlyconceptualized and bounded, we can compare earlier, smaller regional systems with the modem global system. This enables us to comprehend how the size and nature of world-systems have changed. Ourr model of world-systems evolution incorporates the important world of anthropologists on population pressure and ecological degradation. The expanding scale of world- systems corrceponds to the expanding scale of ecological degradation, so that, though institutional developments have temporarily overcome the constraints of demography and ecology, in the long run more complex systems face the same problems that smaller and simpler systems faced. Thus procsses of ecological depletion have long been central in the evolution of social structures and are likely to continue to be so in the future.
How to Cite
Chase-Dunn , C., & Hall, T. D. (1997). Ecological Degradation and the Evolution of World-Systems. Journal of World-Systems Research, 3(3), 403-431.
World-System Studies and the Environment