Andre Gunder Frank
Preface to The World System
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Preface to THE WORLD SYSTEM: FIVE HUNDRED YEARS OR FIVE THOUSAND?
by Andre Gunder Frank and Barry K. Gills [Routledge 1993]
How did this book come into being? ...I think authors ought to look back and give us some record of how their work developed, Ipment Economics not because their works are important (they may turn out to be unimportant) but because we need to know more of the process of`history-writing. Writers of history are not just observers. They are themselves part of the act and need to observe themselves in action. Their view of what "really" happened is filtered first through spotty and often hit-or-miss screens of available evidence, and second through the prisms of their own interest, selection, and interpretation of the evidence they see. ...Once an author looks back at what he thought he was trying to do, many perspectives emerge. Foremost is that of ignorance. ...Fortunately, no one has to regard it as the last word.
John King Fairbank
Trade and Diplomacy on the China Coast,
Stanford: Stanford University Press 
We emphatically agree with what the above-cited late dean of China historians at Harvard had to say. However, to relate the whole Entstehungsgeschichte of the present book might require still another one. It may be as long as the five thousand years of our topic itself! Our principal "prisms" of interpretation are center-periphery structures, hegemony/rivalry within them, the process of capital accumulation, cycles in all of these, and the world system in which they operate. They may be our modern prisms, but there is evidence that at least the first three also had their counterpart both in world reality and in the consciousness and expression of the same by the Akkadian King Sargon in 2450 BC.
Our guiding non-Eurocentrist idea of the unity and indivisibility of Afro-Eurasian history is at least as old as even the European "father of history" Herodotus, who already insisted on the same in and for his own time. The fact, but also the sociopolitical acceptance, of multicultural diversity within this unity is older than that. We suggest that racial, ethnic, cultural, religious, and other diversity has repeatedly been accepted and accommodated, at least in periods of (economic?) expansion. The affir- mation and defense of separate identities, like today, has historically been the stuff of intermittent but recurrent political-economic crisis. Indeed, also like today, rallying around this or that alternative flag has historically been an attempt to defend shares of livelihood of a shrinking or more slowly growing economic pie during times of crisis. Historical materialism, both as a fact of life and as a "philosophical" reflection of and on it, has accompanied all history , and indeed also prehistory .Such materialism competes less than it complements idealism, both in history and among the historians who reflect (on) it. Complementary also are determinism or determination and (not or) free will in the age-old dilemma of "structure" and "agency" in new-fangled social-"scientific" terminology .In other words, regarding all three of these historical and contemporary dimensions, the varieties and alternatives of identity , the material limitations of idealism, and the challenge of wo/men making their own history but only in the historical conditions that they inherit, there is "unity in diversity ." These more cultural and philosophical perspectives now emerge more clearly for the editors as we look back in this preface at what we thought we were trying to do with our (only?) apparently more structural analysis in the book itself.
It is not easy to follow Fairbank and say where and how this unity in diversity emerged and developed for each of the authors who contribute their diverse visions of it to this book. For, among the contributors, there is certainly much diversity both in their own histories and in their present- as-history rendition of history itself. Nonetheless, the contributors' unity about this historical unity is great enough at least to make this book possible, and indeed something of a common enterprise. As editors and principal contributors, it is both proper and easier to start with some record of how our own work developed and how it was and is related to that of other contributors to this book.
Frank has set on unity and structure for a long time, unity at least since high school and structure at least since studying social anthropology ( extra- curricularly to his economics studies) in graduate school at the University of Chicago in the mid-1950s. Then, also, Frank shared an apartment with Marshall Hodgson, who told him of an article he was then writing on eastern "Hemispheric interregional history as an approach to world his- tory" for Unesco's Journal of World History, from which we quote in this book. Unfortunately, it would take Frank another three decades to understand what Hodgson was talking about. Nonetheless, Frank's writings in and on Latin America in the early 1960s not only featured dimensions of unity and structure, they also analyzed the history and present of Latin America and the "Third World" as part and parcel of a single "world system," to which he referred already in 1965 if not earlier. His reference then, however, was only to the capitalist world system during the past 500 years. Following les evenements of May 1968 in Paris various common concerns put him in personal, political, and intellectual contact with Samir Amin, who had been writing his like-minded Accumulation on a World Scale and Unequal Development. Amin and Frank published three different books together in French, Italian, and Norwegian originals. Now Amin contributes chapter 8 in the present book, which both concurs with and dissents from the latest perspective of Frank.
In the early 1970s, Frank wrote a book on World Accumulation, which featured its long cyclical history since 1492. On then receiving the manu- script of Immanuel Wallerstein's The Modern World-System, Frank wrote a note that it would become an "instant classic." This note appeared as one of the three blurbs on the dust cover of the first edition (the other two were by Fernand Braudel and Eric Wolf). Since then, tWO joint books have appeared by Amin, Arrighi, Frank, and Wallerstein, in 1982 and 1990. Now Wallerstein also contributes a rejoinder to Frank and Gills in chapter 10 of this book. For Frank began tracing economic cycles backward through history and observing them also in the present "socialist system," which he increasingly regarded as part of the same world system. That far, Wallerstein agrees. However, both observations fed Frank's doubts about the uniqueness of the "modern capitalist world-system," on which Wall- erstein continues to insist. An editor invited Frank among others to com- ment on an early version of our co-contributor Janet Abu-Lughod's "thir- teenth-century world-system." That gave occasion to enquire if the long economic cycles and the world system in which they occur may not extend much farther back even than that. Frank was more and more persuaded that one should "never try to begin at the beginning. Historical research proceeds backward, not forward," as per another rule of Fairbank in the same preface already cited in our epigraph above. The result was a sort of critique of received theory under the title " A theoretical introduction to 5,000 years of world system history ," which was graciously published in REVIEW by Immanuel Wallerstein, who was one of the principal authors Frank subjected to critique. Successively less critique and more approval were "bestowed" on our present co-contributors Amin, Abu-Lughod, Ekholm and Friedman, McNeill, and Wilkinson. The article opened with an epigraph taken from Ranke: "no history can be written but universal -history ,"
Gills read and during many hours in Frank's garden in spring 1989 critiqued a draft of that first article on the 5,000-year world system. Gills was earning his daily bread teaching contemporary international relations and Korean studies. Discussing the Frank manuscript offered him a welcome opportunity to return (alas on his own time) to his burning interest in, and to draw on, in many a desk drawer, aging manuscripts on his vision of synchronic timing, core-periphery relations, and hegemonic tran- sitions in world history since ancient times. Gills's personal journey began in the ecology movement. In pursuit of a critical understanding the nature of the modern ecological crisis, Gills turned to study of the o of the state and civilization in order to understand the historical root of the crisis. By 1982 in Hawaii, Gills was convinced that the patterns c modern world system existed much earlier and in a real historical tinuum. He even challenged Wallerstein, who was visiting Honolulu a time, to extend his analysis backward in time; but Wallerstein and that for the time being five hundred years was more than enough to , on. In 1984-5 at Oxford, Gills began systematic historical research cycles of hegemony from a world-historical, comparative perspective. work remained dormant and unfinished until spring 1989, when ~ produced his first paper on his general ideas on synchronization of cycles which was publicly presented at a professional conference.
There, Gills and Frank met and noted their general agreement of views that led to their subsequent collaboration, which is now presented in this book. Gills's and Frank's co-authored chapters, and indeed this book it: are the fruit of collaboration that emerged from Frank's initial manuscript and Gills's critique thereof, which was in turn based in part on Gills own old manuscripts. "The cumulation of accumulation," now chapter was the "Theses and research agenda for 5000 years of world system history ," which they proposed as their theoretical alternative to received wisdom that Frank had critiqued. Gills also turned an earlier manuscript on "Hegemonic transitions" into chapter 4. Chapter 5 "World system cycles, crises, and hegemonial shifts" represents their first joint attempt to apply their theoretical guidelines in chapter 4 to reinterpretation of world (system) history. It presents the preliminary identification of system-wide, long economic cycles and their corresponding hegemonic shifts between 1700 BC and 1700 AD. Co-contributor David Wilkinson has begun to subject the identification of these cycles to empirical testing based on changes in city sizes (see the epilogue to chapter 5. Chapter 6 represents an application by Frank of the common theoretic categories to the long-standing question and particularly of co-contributors Immanuel Wallerstein's reading of "the transition from feudalism to capitalism." Frank has made individual attempts, not included here, to apply the same theory to the historical place of Central Asia and Latin America respectively in the history of the world system. Gills has done so for the Eurasian regions and especially East Asia. All of these, of course, are no more than initial steps, to be pursued by further study especially of the long cycles and also many shorter ones within them, which are set out in Gills's and Frank's chapter 5. In the meantime, as Fairbank suggested, the perspective that stands out foremost is that of our ignorance.
The historian William McNeill, who now graciously contributes a fore- word here, is incomparably more erudite. He was writing his magisterial and now classic The Rise of the West: A History of the Human Community at the University of Chicago at the same time as the above-cited Marshall Hodgson worked there. The latter was writing his posthumously pub- lished, also magisterial three-volume The Venture of Islam and a manu- script on the ecumenical unity of world history (Hodgson 1993 ). Both stressed the word oikumene, and in their respective prefaces each acknow- ledged the influence of the other. McNeil1 went on to write many other books within the scope of his vision of one-world history .Then, returning to "The Rise of the West after twenty-five years," McNeil1 came to consider "the central methodological weakness" of his earlier emphasis on "inter- actions across civilizational boundaries and inadequate attention to the emergence of the ecumenical world system within which we live today ." As he was so writing, McNeill and Frank met at 1989 meetings of the World History Association.
The political scientist David Wilkinson still speaks in terms of "civiliz- ation." However, he stresses the emergence and development of a single "Central civilization," which was formed out of the relations between Egypt and Mesopotamia around 1500 BC and then spread successively to incorporate all other "civilizations" within the "Central" one, which has been dominant long since. In so doing, Wilkinson debated with all other "civilizationists" and drew a line that was first de facto parallel and then asymptotic to that of Frank and Gills -until they were joined in the present book. Like them, he denies that the "civilization" or "system" is necessarily the same as their "mode[s] of production." So do Chase-Dunn and Hall, who also suggest that Frank and Gills should rename what they are talking about as "the Central world system." Wilkinson leans increasingly in their direction and tests some of their hypotheses (see the epilogue to chapter 5 below). Nonetheless, in chapter 7 below he still maintains his more political and civilizational outlook and of course his reservations per contra Frank and Gills. Wilkinson and Frank first met at the 1989 meetings of the International Society for Comparative Study of Civilizations, of which Wilkinson is a very active member and to which Chase-Dunn had invited Frank in part to present his world-system ideas and to meet Wilkinson. The same year, Gills and he met at the International Studies Association (ISA) and discussed the idea of forming a group there to study world-historical systems.
Kajsa Ekholm and Jonathan Friedman work in anthropology and archaeaology, among other fields, In the postscript, republished here as chapter 2, of their 1982 article, they stress how they sought to counter the then dominant received wisdom of the Karl Polanyi school in anthropology and 'of Moses Finley and others in classical history .These writers deny any significant influences of Trade and Markets in the Early Empires (Polanyi al. 1957), Per contra, Ekholm and Friedman trace the same, and indeed e capital accumulation and core-periphery relations that later reappear in Frank and Gills, back even much further than Wilkinson's Central civilization. Like these three, Ekholm and Friedman also deny the eql parity of "system" and "mode" of production. However, with mo anthropologists, they stress greater multistructurality and multiculturali1 and, with some anthropologists, that ethnicity is circumstantial and relational rather than essentialist. There, however, they coincide with Fran and Gills, as they did in 1979, when they wrote that the so-called transition from feudalism to capitalism in Europe was essentially a shift in the center of capital accumulation from East to West. Friedman and Frank met a the former's university in Sweden and also with Gills at ISA.
The urban sociologist Janet Abu-Lughod returns to this theme in he: Before European Hegemony in which she stresses that "the Decline of the East preceded the Rise of the West." As a long-time student of cities in contemporary times, she describes a chain of city-centered regions that were interlinked all the way across Eurasia in what she calls a "thirteenth- century world-system" from 1250 to 1350. However, she regards this world system as discrete and different from any previous ones and from the "modern world-system" described by Wallerstein. It was Frank's above-mentioned critique thereof that led to a meeting with Abu-Lughod. In her contribution here in chapter 9, she reconsiders the extent and timing of the development of the "world system" and explicates her agreements and disagreements with both Frank and Gills on the one hand and Wallerstein on the other.
The sociologist Immanuel Wallerstein comes from an Africanist back- ground. His study of a region in the Third World was influenced by its dependence in and on the "world-system" and by the writings on the same by, among others, Frank and Amin. This influence and his subsequent book on The Modern World-System has led many commentators and critics, both friendly and unfriendly, to put "dependence" and "world- system" theory into the same bag. Brenner, Brewer, and many others speak of a single Frank-Wallerstein theoretical bag, into which some also throw Paul Sweezy and/or Samir Amin and others who publish in Monthly Review. However that may be with regard to dependence, The Modern World-System of Wallerstein and World Accumulation 1492-1789 and Dependent Accumulation and Underdevelopment by Frank did refer to essentially the same historical unit, structure, and process during the past five hundred years. However, Wallerstein and Frank have since then come to a partial parting of the ways on earlier history .That has not prevented them from co-authoring in 1990 a book on social movements in the contemporary system, together with Amin. In his contribution to the present book in chapter 10, Wallerstein emphasizes the essential conceptual or theoretical difference between his 500-year modern and other earlier, and for a time also contemporaneous, "world-systems" (with a hyphen), on the one hand, and Frank and Gills's "world system," which extends at i least 5,000 years back (without a hyphen). The former are characterized by a particular "mode of production," which is "capitalist" in the "modern" world-system. The latter exists prior to and independently of any particular mode of production or combination thereof, be they suppos- edly feudal or other tributary, capitalist, or socialist.
Samir Amin, per contra, considers these differences to have been and to continue to be of both paramount scientific and political importance. The Egyptian-born and French-educated political economist wrote a draft of his Accumulation on a World Scale as his doctoral dissertation in Paris in the mid-1950s. Literally countless books and articles later and also in his contribution to this book in chapter 8, Amin still emphasizes the important difference between "politics and ideology in command" that he sees in precapitalist tributary systems and the economic "law of value," which is in command in the "modern world-capitalist system." Wallerstein also affirms this difference, wording it slightly differently. He asserts that what distinguishes capitalism as a mode of production and therefore the modern world-system is the priority given to the "ceaseless accumulation of capi- tal," whereas in the other historical systems, the accumulation of capital is subordinated to other politicocultural objectives. Frank and Gills, as well as Ekholm and Friedman and Wilkinson, dispute this difference and the related, supposedly fundamental break between the past and the "modern world capitalist system" around 1500. Abu-Lughod takes an intermediary position.
This book is devoted to elucidating this debate, and the introductory chapter 1 that follows details its far-reaching theoretical, political, and policy implications for some dozen-and-a-half social-scientific disciplines and philosophical positions ranging from archaeology and anthropology , via international and gender relations, to world systems theory .The intro- duction also supplies ample documentation of and detailed references to the above-mentioned discussions and publications, with which we did not wish to encumber this preface, seeking rather to focus on people and their ideas.
The publication of this book is meant to solicit and encourage the individual and collaborative work that we hope will diminish in the future the "foremost perspective, which is of ignorance." Our co-contributors, already named and introduced above, evidently have pride of place among the many people whose influence and help we would like to acknowledge in this enterprise. We are grateful also for their readiness once again to write or revise chapters of "discussion" for publication in this book. A related step toward altering the perspective of ignorance was the recent founding of, and already very encouraging collaboration in, the World Historical Systems (WHS) Sub-Section of the International Political Econ- omy Section of the International Studies Association, which emerged from the meeting between Gills and Wilkinson at ISA. Some of our co- contributors as well as we editors have been active members, and our agreements and dissensions are set out below. WHS has been organizing conference panels on which several of the chapters in this book have been presented and discussed. WHS has served as well as a forum of discussion of alternative and complementary perspectives of other friends and col- leagues, with whose work ours and others' in this book also interact. Some of these friends in turn helped us along the way in the preparation and revision of one or another of the chapters below, and we wish to acknow- ledge their cooperation on both counts. These include especially the above-mentioned Christopher Chase-Dunn and Tom Hall, and Roben Denemark. Moreover, their own comparative work on world systems and on trade-generated linkages respectively is very much related to our own. George Modelski and William Thompson merit special mention here for their work on "political" long waves since 1494 and their current interest both in relating them more to economic ones and in extending them funher back through history .They also served as panelists or discussants in WHS sessions. In addition to all these, Alben Bergesen, John Fitzpatrick, Mogens Larsen, K.P. Moseley, and Matthew Robenson have given complementary papers at WHS sessions. In turn, Michael Doyle, Joshua Goldstein, Frank Klink, and Mary Ann Tetreault have served as formal discussants on our WHS panels. We and some of our co-contributors have benefited from their insights and critiques. We would like to thank Sing Chew, Paulo Frank, Ronen Palan, and Peter Taylor who commented on one or more anicle manuscripts included as chapters here. We would also like to thank Sarah-Jane Woolley at Routledge for her constant assistance and Andrew Wheatcroft for his suppon. Of course, we have also benefited from the influence and help of many other people, known to us personally or not, too many to be able properly to acknowledge them here.
Andre Gunder Frank, Amsterdam
Barry K. Gills, Newcastle
16 May 1992
Hodgson, Marshall (1993) in Rethinking World History. Essays on Europe, Islam and World History, ed. Edmund Burke III, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Table of Contents||
Personal and Professional||
Global Economy in the Asian Age||On the New World Order|
AGF on the Internet|