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World region and their characteristics


As we all know that the world system is an interdependent system of several countries linked by economic and political competition. The world region emphasize on the interdependence of places and regions around the world where in the regions are further categorized as core, semi peripheral and peripheral regions.

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Immanuel Wallerstein, the founder of the intellectual school of world-systems theory, characterizes the world system as a set of mechanisms which redistributes resources from theperipheryto thecore. In his terminology, thecoreis the developed,industrializedpart of the world, and theperipheryis the “underdeveloped”, typically raw materials-exporting, poor part of the world; themarketbeing the means by which thecoreexploits theperiphery.

The above figure depicts the hierarchy of national societies divided into 3 world-system zones. The core countries are in dark black, the semi peripheral countries in the middle of the global hierarchy are in cross-hatch and the peripheral countries are gray.

Further we would study more about these regions which would help us understand their role and some of their characteristics.

Core region and their characteristics:

The core regions of the world system are the most economically diversified, wealthy and powerful (both economically and militarily) nations of the world. These nations are very high on industrialization and they tend to specialize in information, finance and service industries. Often they produce manufactured good rather than exporting raw materials to other nations which would not yield them high incomes. More often they are the front runners in high-technology electronics and biotechnology industries. They have sufficient tax base so that the government can provide better infrastructures and facilities for a strong economy internally and externally. Due to these factors, the core nations have more influence over noncore nations as a result of which they enjoy relatively high per capita incomes.

The trading hubs of England and Holland were the first core regions of the world system and they were later joined by other manufacturing and exporting regions in other parts of Western Europe and in North America. Japan too became a part of the core region as they were and are the market leaders in electronic science and technology.

The history of modern world system shows that the core nations has been competing with one another in order to access world’s resources, economic dominance and have control over peripheral nations. Accordingly to Immanuel Wallerstein, a core nation can be dominant over all if they lead in three most of important factors.

1) Productivity dominance which will allow them to produce goods and services of high quality at a cheap price as compared to any other country.

2) Productivity dominance will also lead to trade dominance which means that there is a favorable balance of trade since there is more of export trade than import trade.

3) This in turn leads to financial dominance which means that the inflow of the currency will be more than the outflow and this will lead to more control of world’s financial resources.

Semi periphery region and their characteristics:

Semi Periphery regions can be defined as a geographic area that lies just outside and area of key economic activity. They are considered as the mediocre regions which means they lay between the core and the periphery regions. For better understanding, they can also be called as developing nations. They are the nations moving towards industrialization and more diversified economy. They are neither as developed as the core society nor they are underdeveloped as the peripheral regions. “While they are weaker than core societies, they are trying to overcome this weakness and are not as subject to outside manipulation as peripheral societies.”

Semi-periphery regions play an important role in arbitrating political, social and economic activities that link core and peripheral regions. The possibility of reforms in social and organizational structure, innovative technology and dominance over peripheral nations is led through these regions. Hence, through these changes, a semi-periphery country is promoted to a core nation. Moreover, Semi-periphery serves as a position within the world hierarchy in which economic and social change can be interpreted.

As described by the World-systems theory, the semi-periphery region plays an important role in the world economy. The semi-periphery plays much important role than what the Spain and Portugal played in the 17th and the 18th centuries as intermediate trading groups within the European colonial empire.

As mentioned earlier, semi peripheral countries are industrialized and hence they are the hub of manufacturing and exportation of a variety of goods. They usually have above average land mass which means increase in market size and share, examples of which are China, India and Mexico. Though not all the semi peripheral nations are large, smaller countries such as Poland, Italy, Israel and Greece also exits with the semi peripheral region.

Since early period of globalized trade, the semi-peripheral nations of the world have played a vital role in world trade and interaction. This “middle ground” between the very powerful cores and the backwaters of the far periphery allowed those two zones to interact with greater ease.

Periphery regions and their characteristics:

Regions that have resisted and remained economically and politically unable to participate in this process of incorporation into the world system are known as Peripheral nations. These nations are least economically diversified and they tend to depend on one type of economic activity such as extracting and exporting raw material to core nations. Moreover they are often targeted by the multinational corporations from core nations which come with a mind set to exploit the cheap unskilled labor for export back to the core nations. The percentage of poor and uneducated people in these regions is too high and hence inequality tends to be too high for the fact that small upper class that owns most of the land and has profitable ties to multinational corporations. They are highly influenced by core nations and their multinational corporations because of which many a time they are forced to follow economic policies that favor the core nations and harm the long term economic prospects of periphery nations. Unlike core regions, they have relatively weak institutions with little tax base to support infrastructure development.

At the same time, it is important to recognize that core, peripheral and semi peripheral are not gigantic geographies. In other terms, there are peripheral areas within core regions and in core cities too, just as there are core areas with peripheral regions and peripheral cities. For example, Canada being the part of core region has some extensive areas such as Nunavut that do not have widespread access to advanced technologies and have low level of economic productivity. The same goes with the periphery region where some areas have more in common with the core region than they do with the areas that immediately surround them. For example, Rio de Janiero and Mumbai in India, both of which are core cities in semi peripheral and peripheral countries.

List of core, semi peripheral and peripheral regions of the world.

Core region Semi peripheral region Peripheral region
Australia Brazil Afghanistan
Canada China Bangladesh
France Greece Cameroon
Germany India Costa Rica
Ireland Iran Dominican Republic
Japan Israel Ghana
New Zealand Italy Haiti
Norway Mexico Jamaica
United Kingdom Poland Kenya
United States of America South Korea Yemen Republic.

The future of peripheral region:

Periphery region would not remain the same and will slowly move to the semi peripheral region for sure in the coming future. Here are some of the logical reasons behind it.

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Economical: As we all know that the core regions have always practiced to exploit the natural resources in the peripheral regions to earn more profits by different ways of investment, profit sharing etc. the economy of the country is bound to take a leap with more investment and with flow of financial resources which in turn will also help the society, infrastructure, medical aid and education system in the country. This has a direct effect on the foreign trade which helps the country to build a better economy. For example, India had opened their door for foreign investments in mid 90’s because of which, today the country is one of the super power in Asia and a leader in software industry.

Political: Globalization has made the world a small place to live due to which we often see two or more countries unite to sign trade and welfare agreements. These agreements also helps the country to make itself a better and safer place to live as the member nations are there to help each other in terms of political, financial or social needs. Also with growing economy, education system plays a vital role which indeed yields in better politicians and economists.

Social: The social aspect of peripheral region is expected to be high because of globalization and extreme competition in the world market. With more foreign investment and foreign trade, the social environment of the country will get better which in turn can promote many other factors of our day to day life.


After studying the history of the world regions, one can say that the time taken by a nation or a region to move from peripheral to semi peripheral is getting shorter and shorter with unexpected increase in foreign trade and globalization. Even super powers like United States of America and Japan were a peripheral region. Spain and Portugal, part of the original core in the 16th century, became semi peripheral in the 19th century but are now once more a part of the core region.

It is the people of the world who can change the region from peripheral to semi peripheral and from semi peripheral to core by making right and useful decisions which can help us and the generations to come.


* (0): World region in global context by Sallie A Marston, Paul L. Knox, Diana M. Liver man

* (1): Wikipedia site

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