So far so good. World system evolution has now assumed a fuller-bodied complexion and presents a more coherent picture. The "resolution" of its analysis - represented by its smallest phase period - is now reduced from two thousand to about 250 years, but it does remain quite a "wholesale" view of human history, and especially so for the modern period.

What is it precisely that we are trying to explain? Once again, our point of departure is a set of political data, namely the observed sequence of world powers exercising leadership in the world system in the past millennium. That sequence has been fully described, and commented upon i.a. by Paul Kennedy (1988), and while the particulars of that description vary among observers, in general outline, and in particular in the role of Britain and the United States, it is now hardly in doubt (Thompson 1988). An account of that sequence does not appear in our earlier analysis (e.g. in Table 4 and the active zone process). What we need is a causal account of that sequence on a more detailed scale, and an explanation of how it might relate to crucial economic, social, and cultural processes at that same level. In effect we are trying to explain globalization in its several aspects.

Global processes

Let us first make the analysis more fine-grained for the modern era. Standard treatments set the start of "modernity", or of the modern world system , at about 1500, give or take a few decades, and it is of course quite obvious that a "birth" of sorts did indeed occur at that time. But students of evolutionary processes may wish to go beyond birth, to the sources of such events and ask: when and in what situations did "inception" occur. That is why our world system model suggests that the "inception" (or "conception?) of the modern world must be sought earlier, as early as maybe 930, or thereabouts, and accordingly we shall assign the onset of globalization to that date.

Second, our model needs to take account of the increased organizational complexity of modernity: the rise of nation-states, multinational enterprises, even  international institutions. In that respect we know already that this modern era is one of "collective organization". We also know that the pre-modern world, organizationally speaking, was basically a two-tier arrangement, one that combined a glittering world of the "great tradition" based on cities, courts, and temples, with the multitude of the "little traditions" of the village peasantry (Modelski 1987:24-6). We hypothesize that the modern era produced (along the vertical dimension) a division of this two-tier set-up into a potentially four-fold structure comprised of local, national, regional, and global layers of organization, and that the inception of that process of vertical differentiation coincides with the beginning of that era.

In other words, at about 1000 we expect the world system to be generating the beginnings of an analytically distinct process that, in essence, gives form, in greater detail, to the world system at the global level. Or else, we might say, that global mechanisms (such as world powers competing for global leadership, or leading sectors driving the global economy) motivate changes in the world at large. The global system process, (that is, globalization) might in turn be refracted (or decomposed) into (nested) cultural, social, political, and economic elements (each subject to self-similarity) and giving rise to a new set structures at the global level. We label these processes as follows:



Globalization, in those terms, might be defined as the formation of global institutions, and might best be viewed as a spectrum of these four processes. We observe that the period of each of these structure-building processes at the global level equals one phase (that is, one quarter) of the world system periods discussed in the preceding section.

"Global system process" might be supposed to program the global system, much in the same way that we have observed the world system process to function. Its working depends on the more detailed specification of the world system priority of "collective organization", and its phases represent the steps by which such organization might be thought of as emerging at the global level:  Preconditions;  Global nucleus;  Global organization; Consolidation. Global community process" ; traces the evolution of community at the global level of organization. Two periods of that process might be distinguished: those of "experiments", and of "democracy". The terms are inspired by Robert Axelrod's (1984) previously mentioned  analysis of the evolution of cooperation. In it he proposes that, in a "nasty" world, cooperative behavior might arise in a "mutant" form, constituting an experimental exploration of the potential for community. We propose that reform movements in Sung China ca. 1100, and republican experiments in the cities of Northern Italy ca. 1300 constituted two sets of suc h trials, but that it was religious turmoil of the European Reformation, centering in particular upon the Dutch Republic that laid the foundation of cumulative growth of a nucleus of a global system, embodied in particular in the "liberal alliance" with England.  In that way we can say that some of these experiments succeeded, in conditions of clustering, and we propose that conditions particularly favorable to such clustering have arisen since about 1850, laying the groundwork for what might become a future a global democratic community, in a process first anticipated by Alexis de Tocqueville, writing in 1835, who postulated the ultimate success of the process of democratization on the basis of his American experience. Why not call the successive periods of global community formation "D-waves" (for democracy)?

Global polity process" has a period of 500 years that corresponds to one phase of the active zone process. Each such period therefore tends to center upon one region of the world system, and we name these periods provisionally after the phases of the active zone process as we may suppose that the locus of the global system is the active zone of the world system. That is we name the first period "Eurasian transition", followed by "West European" and Post-West-European" periods. The phases of that process consist of successive instances of the rise and decline of world powers, the mechanism whereby certain nation-states h ave been selected for the role of leadership at the global level.

Some key elements of this process are now well understood, and documented, in particular in its link to shifts in sea power concentration (Modelski & Thompson 1988), and its grounding in global economics (Modelski and Thompson 1995); the recognition of the special role of the United States, Britain, and also the Netherlands, is now shared by the several variants of structural-historical approaches to world politics (Thompson 1988). The present study extends the reach of that process back to about 1000 (as shown below).

Global economy process" describes structural changes in world-wide commercial and industrial arrangements with a period of some 225-250 years, within each of which four K-waves are nested. These changes reflect movements in the world economic process previously discussed, from "Market Economy" to "World Market", and spell out the finer structure of that transformation at the global level, through periods of "Sung Breakthrough", "Commercial-Nautical Revolution", "Oceanic Trade", and "Industrial Take-off". In other words, we see the Industrial Revolution of the 18th century as one, albeit dramatic, point along a long path of growth for the global economy, that is now being followed by the "Information Economy".


Some data

Table 5 presents a model of global system processes derived from these considerations, and adduces some data, since 930,  that help lend face validity to it. We note that the resolution of the evolutionary process is now down to 55 years (the length of one K-wave, in column four). Let us add a brief commentary on each of those processes, some of which are coming to be quite well understood.


Eurasian transition

There is no reason to expect that the breakthrough to a global system could have occurred at only one place. Table 4 presents a concept of an "Eurasian inception" of the global system, namely that such a breakthrough occurred, in Eurasia, at about 1000, both in China, and soon afterwards, in Mediterranean Europe. The developments in China looked, for a while, more substantial and promising and it was there that the technologies of printing, gunpowder, and compass navigation, so crucial to that breakthrough, first arose. There was a surge of sea power, and a notable expansion in water borne trade. "Between 1000 and 1450, China's social structure teetered on the verge of a fundamental change analogous to the rise of the bourgeoisie in medieval and early modern Europe" (McNeill 1963: 525).

But Sung China faltered, and failed fully to carry through to the global level. The Sung saw themselves as the bearers of China's classical tradition (recently reinforced though the printing of Confucian classics), but they had to contend with aggressive Sinicized dynasties of Inner Asian origin that ruled much of North China. In 1004 they reached a stand-off with the Khitans (whose regime is known by the Chinese dynasty name of Liao). But the Liao dynasty was destroyed, with Sung help, in 1125, by the Jurchens who took the dynastic name of Chin. By 1224 Chin rule in turn succumbed to the Mongols under Genghiz Khan who then took on the Southern Sung and, under Kublai Khan,  completed the conquest of China in 1279 (and assumed the dynastic name of Yuan). It seems that the task of mastering the nomadic threat from the North never allowed full energy to be devoted to activities of global scope.



Structural politics in China 930-1420 could be presented as a sequence of four dynastic cycles, each of about 100-120 years in length, and each composed of the four phases of the political learning process: agenda-setting, coalition-building, macrodecision, and execution. It will be seen that China's structural evolution over this period was timed by four macrodecisions: the war with the Liao; the war with Chin, that forced a shift of the capital from Kaifeng to Hangchow and inaugurated the Southern Sung; China's conquest by the Mongols, who established themselves in Peking; and the Ming rebellion that expelled the Mongols, and that coincided with the general collapse of Mongol power, in large part under the attack of Timur (+1405). Ming rule was first founded at Nanking, with a potentially maritime orientation, but despite the famed expeditions to the Indian ocean that followed, China soon turned inward, and the move to Peking in 1421 put a seal on that development.

We have already made note of the fact that the rule of the Mongols extended not only to China, but throughout a major portion of Eurasia, in an imposing structure that embodied a bid for world empire. But that bid soon crashed, in just the way that similar imperial bids, though on a more modest scale, also collapsed in the Far West at the same time. The same model that was just used to outline the evolution of East Asia could also be employed, with an identical time grid, to depict the salient developments in Mediterranean Europe. The first three cycles had the same imperial bent as those of the Chinese regional system: an attempt at Byzantine recovery that collapsed after the disaster at Manzikert; the Holy Roman Empire and the Hohenstauffen bid to rule the Mediterranean; and the French (Anjou-) and Papal bid for universal monarchy, launched at the peak of Mongol power, and whose defeat was signaled by the Sicilian Vespers. All three were carried through to a macrodecision, but failed to make good on execution.

Running parallel, though, to these imperial gestures was a series of bids for commercial supremacy by prominent Italian city states (Braudel 1984:106-111), beginning with Amalfi, a dependency of Byzantium, followed by Pisa, in league with the Holy Roman Emperors, and then Genoa, working with the Popes and the French, and indirectly coordinate, via Black Sea trade and alliances, with the Mongol world empire. Each city was in turn routed by its successor, at the time of, and synchronous with, the macrodecision of the imperial bids: Pisa sacked Amalfi; Genoa crushed Pisa, and Venice defeated Genoa after much bitter fighting, some of it at the entrance to the lagoon, and for a time  profited from the victories of Timur. But it was only Venice  that  stood  on its  own,  dominated  its  golden "quattrocento", and served as the regional prototype of a global power and a bridge to the next phase of the global system process.

The global polity process and the long cycle

It remains for us to spell out in greater detail what Table 5 has already shown, how the sequence comprised of the rise and decline of world powers (the long cycle of global politics) is the driver of the global polity process. Likewise, the sequence of global leading sectors that represents successive K-waves propels the evolution of the global economy.

In the global polity process (shown in Table 6) the Chinese antecedents, and Italian prototypes,  were inchoate, proto-global, political sequences, laying at the regional level the foundations of future global enterprises. With Portugal we move beyond laying the foundations, to building, first, the nucleus of the global system, and then adding to it with each successive cycle. We note that, too, the four-phase evolutionary structure remains the same but that, in contrast to its fumbling beginnings, the process is now more steady and, from the Dutch case onward, noticeably cumulative. In the "post-West-European" period, we see the beginnings of global organization.

This makes it clear that the long cycle, the sequence of world powers that we sought to explain, is in fact a mechanism of a global evolutionary process, wherein powerful nation-states, pursuing their own goals, forwarded the task of global political construction. We note, too, that the resolution of the analysis has now been reduced to 25-30 years, that is to what is usually considered to be the time span of a generation (the time it takes for a generation to replace itself).


The global economy process and K-waves

Our global economy process comes close to what Fernand Braudel (1984:76-88) identified as the "secular trends" in the European economy, each linked to four Kondratieffs (K-waves). It places less emphasis than Braudel does on the ups and downs of the economy and on its price trends than on ongoing transformations in economic structures at the global level. The two systematizations may be compared as follows:




As might be seen, Braudel's "up trends" start one or two generations later than the global economy process (that accounts for origins), yet the broad thrust his argument is not dissimilar, as might be expected, given the fact that Western Europe w as most of that time at the center of the global economy. It should be prefaced, though, with the surge of economic growth in Sung China (930-1190) that led into these developments.

The present analysis spells out these trends in greater detail (see in particular Modelski and Thompson 1995, and Thompson 1988) and shows that each of these major periods, in turn, is driven by four K-waves (Table 5). In that way we spotlight those global leading economic sectors that were experiencing the most significant growth spurts, acting as the moving forces of an emerging global economy. This work lays the groundwork of a full documentation of the systematic interdependence of K-waves and long cycles of the global polity.