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Lecture 9

POLS 2200 Lecture Notes - Lecture 9: Billiard Ball

Political Science
Course Code
POLS 2200
Janine Clark

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Introduction to Economic Structuralism
What is Economic Structuralism and how does it differ from Realism and Liberalism?
Realism: stability and order in an anarchic world
Liberalism: international collaboration and peaceful change
Economic structuralism focuses on exploitation
Why are some countries rich and others poor?
What is the relationship between rich and poor?
How do the rich contribute to the poverty of others?
Four Key Assumptions of Economic Structuralism:
Assumption Number One
In order to understand international relations, one must begin with the structure of the global system
Other levels of analysis are not neglected, however, they operate within a specific understanding of
the structure of the global system
Realists/neo-realists understand structure as defined by the distribution of power among states
Economic structuralists argue that the starting point for analysis is the capitalist world system
The distribution of capital determines the system for economic structuralists
They understand the system as comprised of capital rich and capital poor countries
The system is therefore defined by economic structures (such as economic classes)
Assumption Number Two
We can only understand the current structure by tracing the historical evolution of the global capitalist
The most important historical factor and the defining characteristic of the system as a whole is
capitalism (private ownership of the means of production and a free market)
The capitalist economic system (or mode of production) works to the benefit of some but at the
expense of others
Realists see the Cold War and the East-West division as extremely important
Economic structuralists see the North-South divide or the First World-Third World divide as
extremely important
Assumption Number Three
The world is marked by uneven development with the core being capital rich and the periphery being
capital poor
Capital-rich First World countries/ the global North are the core of global capitalism
Capital-poor Third World countries/ the global South are situated at the periphery of the global
capitalist system
Those countries that lie between are referred to as the semi periphery
The terms core, periphery and semi periphery are determined by the level of economic development
or the productive capacity a country has achieved
Dependency relations between the core and periphery prevent the periphery from developing
These are relations of domination
Assumption Number Four
Economic or material factors are critical is explaining the evolution and functioning of the
international or capitalist world system
They also have a very important impact on political, social, cultural, ethnic and gender issues
This means that there is no distinction between domestic and international politics (as in realism)
Class structure, for example, transcends the boundaries of states and their respective societies
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