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Robert A. Denemark
World system history is a perspective on the global sociopolitical and economic system with a structural, long-term and transdisciplinary nature. The intellectual origins of the study of world system history can be characterized by three general trajectories, beginning with the work of global historians who have worked to write a “history of the world.” Attempts were also made by scholars such as Arnold Toynbee to write global history in terms of “civilizations”. A second pillar of world system history emerged from anthropology, when many historians of the ancient world, anthropologists, and archaeologists denied the importance of long-distance relations, especially those of trade. A third pillar emerged from the social sciences, including political science and sociology. One of the central ideas put forward was that sociopolitical and economic phenomena exhibited wave-like behavior. These various intellectual strands became self-consciously intertwined in the later 1980s and 1990s, when scholars from all of these traditions began to cross disciplinary boundaries and organize their own efforts under the rubric of world system history. This period saw Gunder Frank and Barry K. Gills questioning the value of identifying a uniquely modern system based on a transition to capitalism that was said to have occurred in the West. Frank and Gills introduced the “continuity hypothesis,” which suggests that too much scholarly emphasis has been placed on the search for and elucidation of discontinuities and transitions. World system history faces two important challenges from determinism and indeterminacy, and future research should especially address the implications of the latter.
Joachim K. Rennstich
The global world system is essentially comprised of a variety of complex intraorganizational and interorganizational networks (or “webs”) intersecting with geographical networks structured around interconnected clusters of socioeconomic activity. These networks undergo major transformations as a result of technological innovations, especially in transportation and communication technologies. The advent of the information age raises a host of questions regarding the current and possible future development of the world system; for example, whether the evolution of the world system has come to a halt; how new, and especially digital, technologies (including information and communication technology) affect the system’s future development and structure; or whether systemic leadership continues to exert itself in a similar fashion as in the past. To put these questions in a proper perspective, it is necessary to understand the structural formation and development of the world system, with a special focus on the type of linkages (or networks) that mark the development of the world system as a global “web of webs,” along with the role of information in this development. Another debate revolves around the meaning of what constitutes power that would enable a state to exert influence over others. In this context, two themes are of interest: the effects of complex interdependencies on the rules of engagement in a new, transforming and globalizing new world system, and the rise of regional powers rather than the question of a possible challenge to the old hegemonic power status of the United States.
Marc D. Froese
After World War II, a body of rules and institutions have emerged for the purpose of regulating global flows of goods and services. These are known as world trade law, classified under international economic law, an expanding body of transnational regulatory treaties and institutions. World trade law has evolved within the global trading system following the Second World War, beginning with the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), which came into force in 1948. The Most-Favored Nation and National Treatment principles are the most prominent principles that give world trade law its distinctive form. The World Trade Organization (WTO) provides a vast store of literature which covers the waterfront of legal and political issues that animate the global political economy of trade. The WTO’s predecessor, the GATT, has also contributed extensively to the growing body of literature on world trade law. The WTO’s inclusion of agreements on the liberalization of services, investment, and intellectual property have begun lively debates about the possible trajectories of governance in new issue areas, such as anti-dumping and intellectual property rights. In addition to the issues raised by the inclusion of many small economies in the institutions of global trade governance, the rise of world trade law has simultaneously highlighted the many areas of importance to national publics in developed economies where trade overlaps with social priorities.
Jennifer Miller and Lars Rensmann
The emergence of widespread xenophobia and anti-immigrant politics has raised the following questions: What are the explanatory factors and cultural conditions for the relative salience of xenophobic attitudes in the current era—and why is there a varying demand in different countries? Which independent variables on the supply side explain the emergence and the diverging success or failure of “anti-immigrant parties” as well as variations of mainstream anti-immigrant discourses and campaigns in electoral politics? What causal mechanisms can be found between contextual, structural, or agency-related factors and anti-immigrant party politics, and what do we know about their emergence and their dynamics in political processes? These questions are addressed by demand-side, supply-side, as well as mixed models. Demand-side approaches focus on the conditions that generate certain anti-immigrant attitudes and policy preferences in the electorate, on both the individual and the societal level, as key explanatory variables for anti-immigrant policies. Supply-side approaches turn to the role of political agency: They explain the salience and variation of anti-immigrant politics mainly by the performance of parties which mobilize, organize, and (as “agenda setters”) generate them. Mixed models include both sets of explanatory variables and a “third” set of institutional and discursive factors, such as electoral rules, party competition, and ideological spaces in electoral marketplaces.