SHACKMAN, GENE; PHD

                         STATE UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK AT ALBANY, 1994

                         SOCIOLOGY, GENERAL (0626); SOCIOLOGY, THEORY AND METHODS (0344); ECONOMICS, THEORY (0511)

                         What is it that accounts for economic growth? In particular, how can economic growth of the modern
                         industrialized system be explained. Typical economic theories focus on labor, capital and technology,
                         but economists also recognize the importance of institutional factors and social systems, notions more
                         usually considered from a sociological view. My intention here is to assess the utility of one sociological
                         approach, World Systems Theory, in explaining long term growth patterns. In particular, Wallerstein's
                         (1980, 1984, 1987) World System Theory uses mechanisms which are said to produce long waves, or
                         long cycles, in economic growth. In this dissertation, time series analysis is used to study long term
                         economic growth of the industrial system over a 120 year period. A repeated moving average, or
                         Kolmagorov-Zurbenko filter is applied to GDP and GNP data of various 'world' units to determine whether
                         this long wave exists, and how important it may be in the long term pattern. Time series analysis shows,
                         first, that almost all of the overall long term pattern can be described by an on average constant growth
                         pattern, with no reference to long waves. Further, after this long term constant growth pattern is
                         removed, the long wave does in fact exist, but accounts for a very small proportion (about seven percent)
                         of the remaining pattern. Long waves, it is argued, do exist, but are not particularly useful in describing
                         the long term growth patterns. This dissertation further suggests that World-System Theory, as it
                         depends to a high degree on long waves and associated mechanisms, is not useful in explaining long
                         term growth patterns of the industrial system. On the other hand, there are several economic theories
                         which are useful ways of explaining long term economic patterns. Theories which look at growth as a
                         more ad hoc process, depending on specific events and situations, are much more reasonable
                         explanations. Sociologists who wish to explain long term social processes including economic growth or
                         social change, should become familiar with these economic models of growth, rather than with
                         World-System Theory.


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