South-South Blog

South South Cooperation and World System Theory: Interconnections
By: Anandajit Goswami on Saturday, 10 November 2012
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World system theory highlights the existence of a hierarchical structure in international power relations. It also brings up the hypothesis that international economic inequality is an outcome of a power relation between different groups of countries. Such a power relation drives the way social systems, culture of different countries interact with each other through the form of trade, information, cultural exchange and different forms of alliances. These alliances are further being developed by politics of the time and the nature, form of the societies of allying countries. It is determined by internal politics of individual countries as well the global political order: a major part of which is being guided by power relations of the allying countries. Intellectual history of explanation of these alliances can be traced back to the thought process of Marxists and dependentistas. However, dependency theorists and world system perspective to analyse the evolution of any present modern world system arose from 1970s. This came to forefront on a large scale and got consolidated by writings of AndreĀ“ Gunder Frank, Samir Amin, and Immanuel Wallerstein. In their writings, a historical perspective of the evolution of various global and financial institutions and its impact on formulation of the world political order, governance system was discussed. However, world system theory is not only about development of global and financial institutions like World Bank, IMF and their impact on global, political order and power relations. It is about how people, society, culture, political, multilateral, bilateral and several other types of institutions interact with each other. In this systemic framework, dynamics and relation between different nations of the world follows a core, semiperiphery and periphery relationship. As a part of this, there are some countries which are at the core and top of the power hierarchy of the world system. Countries belonging to the semi periphery and periphery follows a dependence on the core countries. However, gradually over time, countries from the semi periphery and periphery move towards the core. A cyclical pattern is followed with the guiding rules of a musical chair game: this happens when the countries from the semi periphery and periphery come to the core and oust the one sitting at the core towards semi periphery or periphery. This mechanism of countries approaching from the semi periphery or periphery to the core is also being determined by resistance of people and development of the society of semiperipheral nations who gradually become developed and economically powerful to finally come up towards the core. A major factor of that economic power comes from capital accumulation by these semiperipheral countries. Finally, core nations of the history are moved towards semi periphery and periphery over a span of time facilitated by some crisis or sudden change in the global governance regimes. Taking a cue from this, one can see how South South Cooperation between many semiperipheral (if they can be called as semiperipheral) countries of Africa, South Asia, South East Asia, Latin America, Asia Pacific today is actually going to make them move towards this core. Internally there are many challenges within these semi peripheral countries and there is a continuous synthesis, interaction happening between the domestic contrasting factors of these semiperipheral countries. But still no body can deny the fact that South South Cooperation is helping these semi peripheral countries to accumulate human, financial, economic and social capital for the long run. Scars of the financial crisis of 2008 and the recent Euro Zone sovereign crisis has further strengthened the need for such collaboration. The musical chair game and movement of semi peripheral countries engaged in South South collaboration towards the core is evident across global governance platforms of WTO, UNFCCC, UNCSD etc. too. Further, reelection of President Obama creates a hope that in the coming days these movements will also be evident in establishing cooperation between the North and South in addressing the common global challenges of the humanity. However, no one can deny the fact that the notes of South South Collaboration accompanying the harmonious movement of semiperipheral countries towards the core has already begun. Right now, the notes are being played in a mellowed way: but it is not far away when these mellowed notes will be heard over a large part of the world with an orchestrated harmony. Till then, we all have to observe the world system and understand these notes with more subtle sensitivities!