Pacific-Asia and the Future of the World-System

By Ravi Arvind Palat | Go to book overview

3
THE RISE OF EAST ASIA: ONE MIRACLE OR MANY?

Giovanni Arrighi, Satoshi Ikeda, and Alex Irwan


THE STYLIZED FACTS OF THE EAST ASIAN ECONOMIC MIRACLE

When we speak of an East Asian "economic miracle," we are referring, implicitly or explicitly, to two main facts. On the one hand, we refer to the rise of several new centers of capital accumulation in East Asia--centers that have come to enjoy a command over world resources comparable to that traditionally enjoyed by the wealthier states of the capitalist world-economy. On the other hand, we also refer to the fact that this phenomenon is unusual--in fact, "miraculous"--in light of the predominant tendency in other low- and middle-income locations of the world-economy to lose ground, rather than gain, relative to traditionally wealthy states.

In order to gauge the extent and nature of this economic miracle, we shall use a very simple indicator: the ratio expressed as a percentage, of the GNP per capita of a region or jurisdiction to the GNP per capita of what we shall call the "organic core" of the world-economy. This ratio measures the income gap that separates that region or jurisdiction from the organic core--an aggregate defined here as consisting of all the states that over the last half-century or so have occupied the top positions in the global hierarchy of wealth and, by virtue of that position, have set (individually or collectively) the standards of wealth to which all other states have aspired.

These core states belong to three distinct geographical regions. The most segmented of the three regions, culturally and jurisdictionally, is Western Europe, defined here to include the United Kingdom, the Scandinavian and the Benelux countries, the former West Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and France. The states lying on the western and southern outer rim of the region (that is, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Italy, and Greece) have not been included in the organic core because,

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