REGIONS, NATIONS, AND EMPIRES
Although sociology is the scientific study of society, it is important to recognize that
societies are defined by boundaries. This chapter takes a macrosociological focus, examining the
differences and relationships among regions, nations, and empires and noting how they shape the
lives of the people who are living in them.
Although people may be scattered throughout the world, they are increasingly linked
through the forces of globalization, which seemingly shrink boundaries. It is noted that advanced
technology overcomes the obstacles created by temporal and spatial distance and plays a
significant role in establishing and maintaining relationships among people. Thus, relationships
are forged among people who, if it were not for the availability of communications technology,
would not have a chance to know each other. The blurring of distance increases familiarity and
in so doing, increases the chances of co-operation among separate geographic units.
The chapter points out, however, that despite the increasing interdependence of the world’s
cultures, conflict is still a feature of regions, nations, and empires, and this conflict can take
various forms, ranging from linguistic and cultural divisions to armed conflicts. While the
deleterious effects of conflicts cannot be overlooked, sociologists point out that conflict has been
the most important source of social and political change.
In this chapter, you will
• learn to describe the balance of power between nations;
• see the social and economic effects of globalization outlined;
• hear about the impacts of technology on interpersonal communication;
• come to understand the social implications of war and terrorism; and,
• become aware of the psychological and sociological effects of war.
Key Terms 2
core states: The governments of industrialized, rich, powerful, and relatively independent
societies; the dominant states in the world.
empires: Sets of nations, regions, and territories controlled by a single ruler.
globalization: The development of a single world market and the accompanying trend to
increased interdependence among the economies (and societies) of the world.
nations: Large land areas where people live under the rule of a national government.
non-governmental organizations ( NGO s): Legally constituted organizations that are
independent of any national government; often, mechanisms through which different nations try
to solve common problems.
periphery states: The governments of less developed, relatively poor, weak societies that are
subject to manipulation or direct control by
regions: Large land areas that may encompass portions of a country or extend over several
countries. They usually share a few distinctive topographical features (e.g., mountain, flatland, or
coastal terrain) and economic experiences.
semi-peripheral states: The governments of industrial or semi-industrial societies that, though
prosperous, are often subject to control by core societies because of their economic or political
terrorism: The calculated use of unexpected, shocking, and unlawful violence against civilians
and symbolic targets.
war: An openly declared armed conflict between countries or between groups within a country.
Wallerstein, I. (1975). The Modern World-System I: Capitalist Agriculture and the Origins of the
European World-Economy in the Sixteenth Century. New York: Academic Press.
This seminal work develops the world-systems theory, a theoretical framework to
understanding the current global capitalist economy and international relations. It outlines the
important historical changes that occurred since the sixteenth century to develop the modern
world. This theory allows for historically sensitive comparison between the nations of the
world and their interactions.
Garreau, J. (1981). The Nine Nations of North America. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. 3
This classic work argues that the continent of North America can be divided into nine regions
(‘nations’) according to distinctive cultural and economic features. Doing so renders the
conventional state and national borders insignificant. The author asserts that these new
borders are more historically relevant and provide a clearer way of understanding the
development of North America.
Grabb, E., & Curtis, J. (2005). Region Apart: The Four Societies of Canada and the United
States. Toronto: Oxford University Press.
This comparison between Canada and the United States explores the historical myths of each
of these countries. The authors argue that the original American colonies (which developed
into the United States) and English Canada were similar societies. The differences between
them emerged from internal regional divisions—the English and French in Canada, and the
North and South in the United States.
Siljak, A. (2008). Angel of Vengeance: The ‘Girl Assassin,’ the Governor of St. Petersburg, and
Russia’s Revolutionary World. New York: St Martin’s Press).
This book examines ‘terrorism’ as it developed at the end of the twentieth century in Russia.
It began with the assassination of a prominent Russian governor by Vera Zasulich, who
sought revenge for his brutal treatment of a political prisoner. Vera’s trial became famous
throughout Europe. After, she inspired a generation of revolutionaries who embraced
violence as a means for revenge.
Flashpoints: Guide to World Conflicts
Famous World Trials: The Nuremburg Trials
World-Systems Theory: Global Social Change in the Long Run
Natural Resources Canada
Multiple Choice Questions
1. __________ are large land areas that may encompass portions of a country or extend over
2. __________ are large land areas where people live under the rule of a national government.
3. Sets of nations, regions, and territories controlled by a single ruler are termed as
a) core states.
c) world systems.
4. The modernization approach to globalization is associated with the
a) critical perspective.
b) functionalist perspective.
c) symbolic interactionist perspective.
d) postmodern perspective.
5. According to Immanuel Wallerstein, after the sixteenth century, the world economy was
a) chronic warfare.
c) the capitalist mode of production.
d) both a and b 5
6. Which of the following statements is not true of core states?
a) They are the dominant states in the world.
b) A detailed division of labour led to their emergence.
c) The emergence of bureaucratic organizations was influential in allowing them to control
the periphery more effectively.
d) They typically provide cheap labour and raw material to peripheral states.
7. Which of the following countries was a core state in the sixteenth century?
d) all of the above
8. The governments of less developed, relatively poor, weak societies that are subject to
manipulation by core societies are termed as
a) periphery states.
b) semi-peripheral states.
c) dependent states.
d) low-income states.
9. The governments of industrial or semi-industrial societies that, though prosperous, are often
subject to control by core societies because of their economic or political dependency are
a) periphery states.
b) dependent states.
c) semi-peripheral states.
d) low-income states.
10. Which of the following statements relating to world systems theory is true?
a) A core-periphery relationship can also exist between regions or between cities.
b) Regions, nations, and empires are all characterized by exchange and domination.
c) The flow of news between core and periphery states is unbalanced, favouring the core
states over the periphery states.
d) all of the above
11. Which of the following statements is not true? 6
a) Often, regions are merely combinations of political or jurisdictional units.
b) All regions are ecologically homogeneous.
c) The Roman Empire did not interfere in the cultural and religious affairs of its colonies.
d) In some societies, the nation and the state do not coincide neatly.
12. The development of a single world market and the accompanying trend to increased
interdependence among the economies and societies of th