Academic journal article Social Justice

Nothing New in the East: No New World Order

Academic journal article Social Justice

Nothing New in the East: No New World Order

Article excerpt

It is as if Stalin, Churchill, and Roosevelt had studied carefully the status quo of the age of Charlemagne on the 1,130th anniversary of his death [when they drew the Iron Curtain across Europe].... The old Roman limes would show up on Europe's morphological map, thus presaging right from the start the birth of a "Central Europe" within the notion of the "West."

The whole history of the Hapsburg state was an attempt to balance the unbalanceable while being squeezed somewhere between the two extremes of East-Central Europe. The only consequent structural element in that formula ... [was] the setting up by the Hapsburgs of a diminished - "East-Central European" - copy on an "imperial scale" of the division of labour drawn up by the nascent "world economy" on a larger scale.... The Hapsburgs had no chances in the Western sector of the world economy either. So the House of Hapsburg settled down to a division of labour between West (industrial) and East (agricultural) through the economic structure within its own, East-Central European, political framework.

Nothing New in the West was the title of Erich Maria Remarque's classic book at the end of World War I. Nothing New in the East should have been its sequel after World War II - and again, or rather still, now after 40 to 70 plus years of "socialism" there. Indeed, the epigraphs above suggest that the division of Europe into East and West, and the fact that there is a division or more than one, is about as old and nearly as invariant as "Europe" itself. So much for the "new order" in Europe. However, we could say nearly as much for the "new order" in the world. It is as old as this world system itself. This world system has been characterized by at least the following features:

1. The world system itself. Contrary to Wallerstein (1974), I believe that the existence and development of the same world system in which we live stretches back at least 5,000 years (Frank, 1990a, 1991a and b; Gills and Frank, 1990, 1992; Frank and Gills, 1992). Wallerstein emphasizes the difference a hyphen (-) makes, with his construct "the world-system." Unlike our nearly world(wide) system, world-system are in a "world" of their own, which need not even be entirely worldwide. However, the "new world" in the "Americas" was home to some world-systems of its own before its incorporation into our (preexisting) world system after 1492.

2. The process of capital accumulation as the motor force of (world system) history. Wallerstein and others regard continuous capital accumulation as the differentia specifica of the "modern world-system." Elsewhere I have argued that in this regard the "modern" world system is not so different and that this process of capital accumulation has played a, if not the, central role in the world system for several millennia (Frank, 1991b; Gills and Frank, 1990). Samir Amin and Immanuel Wallerstein (1991a) disagree. They argue that previous world-systems were what Amin calls "tributary" or Wallerstein "world empires." In these, Amin claims that politics and ideology were in command, not the economic law of value in the accumulation of capital. Wallerstein seems to agree.

3. The center-periphery structure in and of the world (system). This structure is familiar to analysts of dependence in the "modern" world system and especially in Latin America since 1492. It includes, but is not limited to, the transfer of surplus between zones of the world system. Frank (1967, 1969) wrote about this among others. However, I now find that this analytical category is also applicable to the world system before that.

4. The alternation between hegemony and rivalry. In this process, regional hegemonies and rivalries succeed the previous period of hegemony. Worldsystem and international-relations literature has recently produced many good analyses of alternations between hegemonic leadership and rivalry for hegemony in the world system since 1492, for instance those of Wallerstein (1979), or since 1494 by Modelski (1987) and Modelski and Thompson (1988). …

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