The Power Configuration Sequence of the Central World System, 1500-700 BC


  • David Wilkinson Univesity of California, Los Angeles



This article is the fifth in a series in which the political careers of civilizations/world systems receive snapshot codings of their overall power structures at feasible intervals. The narratives are produced by collating histories with large frames of reference. The codings are done using a nominal variable, polarity, with seven available values. Previous articles in the series have examined the Indic system 550 bc?ad 1800, the Far Eastern 1025 bc?ad 1850, the Southwest Asian c. 2700?1500 bc, and the Northeast African c. 2625?1500 bc. The Northeast African and Southwest Asian systems and sequences merge c. 1500 bc to form the Central system. In the current article, the power structure of the Central Civilization/ World System is appraised over its first 800 years at 10?year intervals, from 1500 bc to an arbitrary stopping point of 700 bc. The systemic power structure is evaluated in terms of its predominant forms andtheir stability. During this 8-century period, the Central world system showed a distinct individuality, or ?character?: multipolar and unipolar structures predominated; there was limited variety in structure, with extreme forms excluded; there was substantial structural stability. Over time, the Central system ?aged?: its already limited structural variety further diminished, while its structural stability increased. The sequence of power configurations in the Central system is compared to the expectations of several theories. Toynbee?s revised civilizational model fares best, but leaves dynamical issues unaddressed; the classical European balance of power model matches the kinematics (the sequence of forms), but not the dynamics, of behavior of the Central system. Alternative future directions of inquiry are discussed.




How to Cite

Wilkinson, D. (2004). The Power Configuration Sequence of the Central World System, 1500-700 BC. Journal of World-Systems Research, 10(3), 655–720.



Premodern Historical Systems: The Rise and Fall of States and Empires