Rise and Demise: Comparing World-Systems

Rise and Demise: Comparing World-Systems

Rise and Demise: Comparing World-Systems

Rise and Demise: Comparing World-Systems


Spanning ten thousand years of social change, this book examines the ways in which world-systems evolve. A comparative study of stateless societies, state-based regional empires, and the modern global capitalist political economy, it reveals the underlying processes at work in the reproduction and transformation of social, economic, and political structures. Christopher Chase-Dunn and Thomas Hall show that stateless societies developed in the context of regional intersocietal networks that differed significantly from larger and more hierarchical world-systems. The processes by which chiefdoms rose and fell are similar to the ways in which states, empires, and modern hegemonic core states have experienced uneven development. Most world-systems exhibit a pattern of political centralization and decentralization, but the mechanisms and processes of change can vary greatly. Looking at the systematic similarities and differences among small scale, middle-sized, and global world-systems, the authors address such questions as: Do all world-systems have core/periphery hierarchies in which the development of one area necessitates the underdevelopment of another? How were kin-based logics of social integration transformed into state-based tributary logics, and how did capitalism emerge within the interstices of tributary states and empires to eventually become the predominant logic of accumulation? How did the rise of commodity production and the eventual dominance of capitalist accumulation modify the processes by which political centers rise and fall? Rise and Demise offers far-reaching explanations of social change, showing how the comparative study of world-systems increases our understanding of early history, the contemporary global system, and future possibilities for world society.


As we noted in our introduction to Core/Periphery Relations in Precapitalist Worlds (1991), we probably crossed paths for the first time on a bart train from cheap digs in Berkeley to San Francisco on the way to the 1982 American Sociological Association meetings. Over the years we found an increasing convergence of interests and began to work together.

As early as 1985, when Chase-Dunn was writing the last chapters of Global Formation (1989), he realized that a major unresolved problem in world-systems is how the basic structures and developmental logics of world-systems become transformed. Around the same time, as Hall was finishing Social Change in the Southwest, he remained puzzled by those "world-system-like" relations that had shaped social change in that region for many centuries before European contact and created a complex set of intergroup relations that subsequent Spanish intrusion drastically reshaped.

As Chase-Dunn was negotiating with Westview Press to publish what originally had been the outtakes from Global Formation on precapitalist world-systems and Hall was rethinking--for the umpteenth time--what the study of nomads showed about incorporation and frontier formation, our interests converged more tightly. We began with pulling together some papers from various conferences for Core/ Periphery Relations in Precapitalist Worlds as a preliminary to writing a monograph on the comparative study of world-systems.

The phrase "rise and demise" in our title was borrowed from Immanuel Wallerstein's (1974a) famous essay, "The Rise and Future Demise of the World Capitalist System." Our ideas have evolved considerably since we began our comparative study of world-systems, but the basic problem raised in Wallerstein's discussion--how do world-systems change their basic nature?--remains the focus of our efforts.

Along the way, bits and pieces of our collaborative efforts have been published in many forms. But over the years, as we have presented our findings at various academic conferences, discussed issues with many colleagues, and considered comments, suggestions, corrections, and the like by many reviewers, we have thought and rethought our arguments. Nevertheless this book remains a work in progress. in fact, it is a part of a continuing conversation with Andre Gunder Frank, Barry Gills, George Modelski, Stephen Sanderson, William Thompson, David Wilkinson, Jonathan Friedman, Robert Denemark, and many others. To steal a line--as we have "stolen" much historical information--from William McNeill, it has been useful to be forced, or to force ourselves, to a temporary closure to get the story out for others to see.

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.