World system evolution may be viewed as a cascade of multilevel, nested, self-similar and Darwinian-type processes, poised on the boundary between order and chaos that allows for innovation. A framework developed by Devezas-Modelski opens the door to conceptualizing globalization as part of that evolutionary cascade, and as a process of system-building of which Portuguese enterprises of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries provide an illuminating case.

Analysis is focused on two components of that cascade: the Portuguese long cycle and the two (economic) K-waves and their related innovations. In this period preceding the Industrial Revolution, innovations focused on navigation and shipbuilding and formed the technical support for such activities. Quantitative analysis of empirical evidence on Portuguese expeditions and naval military campaigns, the global network of bases, and of scarce data on gold and pepper trades in this period supports the notion of long cycles and K-waves as system-building, and the more general conception of globalization as an evolutionary learning process.

Globalizations, Vol.3(2) December 2006, 507-524.