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World-systems theory (also known as world-systems analysis or the world-systems perspective), a multidisciplinary, macro-scale approach to world history and social change, emphasizes the world-system (and not nation states) as the primary (but not exclusive) unit of social analysis.
“World-system” refers to the inter-regional and transnational division of labor, which divides the world into core countries, semi-periphery countries, and the periphery countries. Core countries focus on higher skill, capital-intensive production, and the rest of the world focuses on low-skill, labor-intensive production and extraction of raw materials. This constantly reinforces the dominance of the core countries. Nonetheless, the system has dynamic characteristics, in part as a result of revolutions in transport technology, and individual states can gain or lose their core (semi-periphery, periphery) status over time. For a time, some countries become the world hegemon; during the last few centuries, as the world-system has extended geographically and intensified economically, this status has passed from the Netherlands, to the United Kingdom and (most recently) to the United States .
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4. Frank Lechner, Globalization theories: World-System Theory, 2001