The Emergence of the Global Political Economy

The Emergence of the Global Political Economy

The Emergence of the Global Political Economy

The Emergence of the Global Political Economy


The Emergence of the Global Political Economy challenges assumptions that the international political economy is a recent phenomenon. Instead, this volume asserts that the current global political economy began to take shape around 1500 and that some of today's key processes were already perceivable hundreds of years ago. The author explains the interdependence between long-term economic growth, global political leadership and global war and how this interdependence has evolved over the past 500 years, and includes discussions of:

the ascendance of Western Europe and the significance of the 1490s

the military superiority thesis

sequences of leadership and of challenge to the global political economy

the importance of commodities from sugar and cloth to slaves and bullion.

Challenges assumptions about the international political economy


Book projects tend to have multiple origins and reflect several impulses. This one is no exception. It is my seventh book (counting authored, coauthored, and edited volumes) on the subject of world system development. Path dependencies being what they are, it should come as no surprise that I am continuing to work in this area. There is so much yet to be done that I doubt very much that it will be my last book on the subject. a second source, though, was Jeremy Black's kind invitation to write something for this new series on historical topics. I think Jeremy thought it would be interesting to see if I could do a book without numbers in it. On my part, as a non-historian, the idea of getting a more direct access to historians and their students certainly had appeal. a third source can be laid at Jack Levy's doorstep. Sometime around 1994, he invited me to do a paper commemorating the 500th anniversary of 1495 for an International Studies Association panel. the year 1495 did not mean too much to me but it was close enough to 1494, which did have meaning, for me to go along. Not only did it turn out that I was the only one to go along on the "1495" panel (everybody else on the panel wrote about something else), I ended up with a very long paper that I would either have to extend even further or else walk away from it altogether. That paper became the core of chapters 3 and 4 and, a few years later, encouraged me to try my hand at the related subject of chapter 5.

There are four other sources. One was an aborted, coauthored project on the idea of challenges and challengers from the early 1990s that somehow never proceeded very far. Again, I had written a very long paper for my part of the project but the other chapters were never quite forthcoming. After a few of these situations, you begin to identify with the first man out of a World War I trench who chances to look behind him and sees that no one else is following. the rational thing to do is to get back to the trench as fast as possible. I'm afraid my inclination is to keep charging the "enemy," with or without company. Chapters 6, 7, and 8 stem from that project.

George Modelski has been trying to educate me for thirty years so far. I hope he does not abandon the project. His latest innovation has been in moving toward the development of an evolutionary paradigm for international politics. I find that I tend to resist his arguments at first and then ultimately become convinced that he was right all along. Speaking, no doubt, to the question of to whether some people are teachable, I can at least say that the time between initial resistance and ultimate . . .

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