Crises, Long Waves and World-System Analysis

Author: Komlosy, Andrea
Almanac: Kondratieff waves:The Spectrum of Opinions

The article introduces the concept of long waves or business cycles. It argues that by framing business cycles in a world-system perspective, its initially Western centric character could be overcome and could be used for analyzing the polarizing tendencies of global capitalism as an uneven and combined economic system, constantly producing and reproducing cores and peripheries. Moreover, world-system scholars interconnected business cycles with hegemonic cycles, characterized by a primus inter pares among the dominant core powers. While the hegemon is acquiring an accepted leading position based on economic, military and cultural power, cyclical change is undermining this position, giving way for competing successors. Based on historical explorations of British and US hegemony, the article discusses the prospects of a hegemonic succession after the decline of the United States. It analyzes whether such a hegemonic change will take place in the framework of the capitalist world system, eventually leading to a period of presumably Chinese hegemony, or whether the current global turmoil will rather open a period of chaos, putting an end to the cyclical renewal of global capitalism, as we experienced during the last 500 years.

Keywords: long waves, Kondratieff cycles, business cycles, hegemonic change, core and periphery, capitalist world-system, world-system analysis, crisis, crisis-discourses.