Journal of World History 13.2 (2002) 475-477
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A World-Systems Reader:
New Perspectives on Gender, Urbanization, Cultures, Indigenous Peoples, and Ecology
A World-Systems Reader: New Perspectives on Gender, Urbanization, Cultures, Indigenous Peoples, and Ecology. Edited by THOMAS D. HALL. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2000. Pp. 339. $24.95 (paper).
In the last quarter of the twentieth century, world-systems theory offered scholars a new way of understanding the interconnectivity of the world's people. The new school of thought made modernization theory, which viewed capitalism and the West in a favorable light, look old-fashioned and obsolete. It was capitalist exploitation by the West, the new school emphasized, that explained both prosperity and underdevelopment in the modern world. The revolutionary new paradigm [End Page 475] owed much to the work of Andre Gunder Frank and Immanuel Wallerstein, both of whom identified a hierarchy among regions of the world that linked different societies into a single system. The spatial relationship between these societies largely formed the basis of world-systems analysis.
A World-Systems Reader, edited by Thomas Hall, is a collection of sixteen essays that brings together recent research in this exciting and still emerging field of intellectual endeavor, and in doing so shows how interesting and valuable world-system's analysis can be. The book's contributors come from a variety of academic disciplines, and thus the book should appeal to a broad audience. Several essays in the book offer new perspectives on old historical debates. They explore the impact of Western expansion on indigenous people, for example, and the changing role of women in the modern world. The book is largely designed for classroom use, and some instructors will no doubt want to adopt it.
The work is divided into five parts. Part One is an introductory section. The first essay in this section, written by the editor, offers an overview of major themes and concepts in world-systems theory and provides a useful survey of literature that embraces the world-systems perspective. The second essay by Peter Grimes also identifies major trends and cycles in modern history, shedding light on such topics as population growth, technological change, and state formation. Part Two explores the impact of world-systems theory on the social sciences. Essays in this section look at how different groups of scholars, including archaeologists and geographers, as well as feminists and political scientists, have contributed to world-systems theory. Part Three also links the theory to particular fields of historical inquiry. It considers the impact of the world-systems analysis on urban studies, for example, and on the history of art and intellectual thought. There is also a study of Canada in this section that asks how secessionist movements are linked to a nation's place in the world-system.
The essays in Part Four represent "case studies" that show how the capitalist world-system absorbed new areas and people. Two of the studies in this section focus on indigenous people of North America, and look at how the expansion of the world-system affected gender relations in Native American societies. A third essay examines the incorporation of East Asia into the world-system. The authors of the essay argue, in short, that the histories of Asian nations are more intricately linked than scholars recognize. An essay by the editor takes a broader view of the incorporation process, and considers how to compare frontier [End Page 476] experiences. Hall emphasizes that indigenous people did not sit by passively as capitalist development upended their lives, but rather resisted that development as best they could.
The final part of the book considers the limitations and the future of world-systems theory, and the future of the world-system itself. Terry Boswell and Christopher Chase-Dunn look at politics in the modern world, and consider the question of whether progressive reforms will ultimately lead to global democracy. Only "transnational politics," the authors argue, can protect global labor standards, environmental regulations, and women's rights...