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core-periphery model

  A model of the geography of human activity based upon the unequal distribution of power in economy, society and polity. The core dominates (although it in turn may be dominated from outside) whilst the periphery is dependent. This dependence may be structured through the relations of exchange, production or evaluation (see economic geography; mode of production) between core and periphery. The power of the core was put down by Wallerstein (1974) to the strength of the state and to the links between the state and capital through which the processes of surplus extraction might be directed towards the core. In this, Wallerstein was following similar lines of argument on the significance of geographies of power to those of Amin (1976) on tributary modes of production in which tributes flow from producers to the ruling class — somehow understood (often on the basis of magical or religious claims) to be central to social reproduction (see, e.g., Godelier, 1988).

Although it uses similar terms to those adopted in world-systems analysis and accepts that geographically uneven development is a long-term process, exchange-based core-periphery models tend, nevertheless, to expect long-term spatial equilibrium if market forces are allowed to work their equilibrating effects. Thus core-periphery relations were seen by John Friedmann (1966), with whom the model is most closely associated, as the second in a four-stage sequence of the development of the space economy. The stages outlined by Friedmann are: (a) pre-industrial society with localized economies; (b) core-periphery; (c) dispersion of economic activity and, to a lesser extent, control into certain parts of the periphery; and (d) the emergence of spatial integration; in which the various and now more or less fully developed spatial parts of the economy relate in a more truly interdependent manner (see interdependence).

From such a spatially evolutionist perspective, exchange-based spatial equilibrium may serve as a reasonable policy goal. But such a policy fails to recognize the structurally uneven development of the division of labour in the capitalist world-economy and the constraints on equilibrium stemming from market interaction. Unequal exchange (see trade), the concentration of economic power, technical progress and productive activity at the core, and the emanation of productive innovations from the core, help to maintain the flow of surplus value (see Marxian economics) from periphery to core.

For example, increases in productivity in the core may, with an effective labour movement, be translated into higher wages. At the same time a more plentiful supply of unorganized labour in the periphery may serve to sustain a downward pressure on wages. If wage levels are reflected in the relative prices of the products exchanged between core and periphery, the consequence of higher wages in the core will either be to generate a balance of payments crisis in the periphery or to enforce increased exports from the periphery to finance the increased cost of imports. In either case autonomous development in the periphery is made more difficult and may, indeed, be subverted. Such unequal relations may also be maintained by the implementation of economic and commercial policies favouring the core at the expense of the periphery (see colonialism; neo-colonialism) and may be reinforced by migration and capital flows from periphery to core.

Although it implies inter-regional conflict rather than equilibrium and so emphasizes the uneven nature of economic development, the core-periphery model has several deficiencies stemming, in the main, from its reliance upon exchange relations (see Brenner, 1977) and the abstract nature of power in the model. Critics argue that it is false to assume that the social concentration of power necessarily leads to spatial concentration. A redistribution of power need not, therefore, be associated with more even development and the emergence of an integrated space-economy. Many insist that the spatial arrangement and transformation of a capitalist economy reflect, above all, the current geographical requirements of accumulation and the historical legacy of a landscape created by previous rounds of accumulation and layers of investment. Storper and Walker (1989, p. 183), for example, argue that \'the main shape of territorial development in capitalist societies\' is a product of the \'spatial expansion, integration, and division of growing industries and industrial ensembles\'. They stress that it is the geography of production rather than exchange that acts as the dynamic of geographically uneven development.

Thus Paul Krugman (1991) argues that increasing returns to scale in a particular location based upon geographies of production and demand may, through the mechanisms of cumulative causation and imperfect competition (see neo-classical economics), serve to sustain and intensify uneven development. But, Krugman argues, new conditions or even aggressive policies of local economic development may disturb the geographical concentration of growth and allow new sites of development to emerge.

By the same token, these new conditions also constantly expand and diversify the geographies over and through which such competitive relations of growth may operate. They thereby challenge the notion that interregional competition is structured merely by existing geographies of development in those regions. Thus the decline of a region like the Ruhr relative to, say, Bavaria in Germany, for example, is explicable in terms of new geographies of production, the influence of an attractive environment on mobile capital and a discriminating and mobile labour force, alternative — but locally embedded and, to a certain degree inevitably, path-dependent — industrial policies and the increasingly sophisticated potential within a globalizing economic geography for the evaluation (including the inter-regional evaluation) by capital of alternative conditions for profitable accumulation.

It may be argued that economic power stems less from its location than from the locus of control over the means of production and that it derives its specific historical characteristics from the nature of this control and the objectives to which it is put. Thus, although the spatial redistribution of productive activity and the decentralization of decision-making over the productive process may generate what appears to be a more highly integrated form of spatial organization, it does not necessarily shift power over the means of production to a more democratic base. Nor does it imply that the spatial location of control over the means of production has been decentralized. In fact, the concentration of control is more likely to be intensified (within financial centres, for example, located within global cities) rather than reduced as the economy becomes more highly integrated — and complex.

The second and third stages of Friedmann\'s model and the policies of regional development with which they may be associated (see growth pole) could lead to a less unequal exchange between core and periphery. But, within an integrated global economic geography, they offer the means of extracting the surplus more effectively from the economic geography as a whole rather than acting as a means of diffusing development more evenly across it. A more genuine redistribution of development would, necessarily, involve a transformation of the objectives of capitalist development involving — at the least — an effective form of regulation over the practice of power in order to ensure more equitable outcomes. But such an intervention would have to come to terms with the \'continual state of reconstitution\' (Knox and Agnew, 1994, p. 85) of the world economic geography, a reconstitution which affects not only the dynamics of its spatial structure (exemplified over la longue durée by the changing geography of world cities and, more recently, by the dramatic but crisis-ridden rise of the newly industrializing countries, for example), but the spread of prevailing economic norms and representations (the prevalence of the discourse of free markets and associated liberal economic policies during the last two decades or so of the twentieth century) and the disembedding that accompanies them. Cores and peripheries are social products and reflect the circumstances of their construction. (RL)

References Amin, S. 1976: Unequal development. New York and London: Monthly Review Press. Agnew, J. 1987: The United States in the world-economy: a regional geography. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 89-127. Brenner, R. 1977: The origins of capitalist development: a critique of neo-Smithian Marxism. New Left Review 104: 25-92. Dicken, P.E. and Lloyd, P. 1990: Location in space: theoretical perspectives in economic geography, 3rd edn. London and New York: Harper and Row, 239-46. Friedmann, J. 1966: Regional development policy: a case study of Venezuela. Cambridge, MA and London: MIT Press. Godelier, M. 1988: The mental and the material. London and New York: Verso. Keeble, D.E. 1989: Core-periphery disparities, recession and new regional dynamisms in the European Community. Geography 74: 1-11. Knox, P. and Agnew, J. 1994: The geography of the world economy, 2nd edn. London: Edward Arnold; New York: Routledge, Chapman and Hall, ch. 3. Krugman, P. 1991: Geography and trade, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Perloff, H.S., Dunn, E.S., Lampard, E.E., and Muth, R.F. 1960: Regions, resources and economic growth. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press; Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. Storper, M. and Walker, R. 1989: The capitalist imperative. New York and Oxford: Basil Blackwell. Wallerstein, I. 1974: The modern world system. New York and London: Academic Press.

Suggested Reading Agnew, J. (1987). Dicken, P.E. and Lloyd, P. (1990).



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