Handbook on the Geographies of Globalization
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Handbook on the Geographies of Globalization

Edited by Robert C. Kloosterman, Virginie Mamadouh and Pieter Terhorst

Processes of globalization have changed the world in many, often fundamental, ways. Increasingly these processes are being debated and contested. This Handbook offers a timely, rich as well as critical panorama of these multifaceted processes with up-to-date chapters by renowned specialists from many countries. It comprises chapters on the historical background of globalization, different geographical perspectives (including world systems analysis and geopolitics), the geographies of flows (of people, goods and services, and capital), and the geographies of places (including global cities, clusters, port cities and the impact of climate change).
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Chapter 5: World-systems analysis

Kees Terlouw


World-systems analysis studies the development of our world-system. Its units of analysis to explain social change are not nation-states, but world-systems. There were, until the nineteenth century, many different and dissimilar types of world-systems – world-empires and world-economies – in the world. These have over the centuries been subjugated by the capitalist world-economy which emerged at the end of the Middle Ages in Europe. Analysing these long-term historical processes is central in world-systems analysis. It focuses not on the newest features of globalization, but on the processes which over the centuries have formed our modern world-system. This started as a European world-economy and has always functioned as a capitalist world-economy. It has over the centuries gone through several distinct phases of development and has subsequently incorporated all areas on the globe. The peripheralization of these areas enabled the core to prosper. World-systems analysis focuses on the complex processes through which the inequalities in the world-system are reproduced at the systems level, but are changeable at the state level. The semi-periphery plays an important role in both stabilizing the world-system as a whole and enabling some states to improve their position in the world-system. These changes in position in the world-system are linked to its economic cycle of growth and stagnation and its political cycle of rivalry and hegemony. Besides these recurrent cycles there are also trends which change and undermine the present world-system.

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