Geoculture: Missing in Action

Author: Gelis-Filho, Antonio
Almanac: Evolution:Evolutionary Trends, Aspects, and Patterns


Wallerstein defined geoculture as ‘a set of ideas, values, and norms widely accepted throughout the world-system and that constrained social action thereafter’. Its importance in the full development of the capitalist world-system was made clear many times. Nevertheless, geoculture is missing in literature. A new approach to the concept, aiming to set the basis for further discussion is presented in this paper. The author sustains that world-systems are in fact the assembly of two subsystems of unequal exchanges: the material and the symbolic ones. While material goods are traded, ‘symbolic goods’, of a psychological nature are also traded. The result of the first subsystem workings is a world-systemic structure consisting of a core, a semiperiphery and a periphery, with wealth accumulated in the first division. The result of the second subsystem workings is the acceptance of unequal exchanges as something normal, as ‘the way things work’. Thus, geoculture is the structure of such subsystem of symbolic exchanges at any specific moment. The author emphasizes the role of unconscious processes to the creation and stability of any world-system and discusses some implications of that framework: bounded complexity, radical freedom and the asynchronous evolution of the two subsystems.

Keywords: geoculture, world-systems analysis, unequal exchanges, bounded complexity.