Definitions and Understandings

Major props to Joseph Fouche of the Committee on Public Safety, for a series of great visualizations of the Generations of Modern War, xGW, and other buzzword-heavy systems that are popular around here.

The most humorous:

spec5

The most thought-provoking:

gw10

Joseph’s excellent visualizations made me think of the definition of “Core” or “Functioning Core,” which Tom Barnett adopted from Immanuel Wallerstein to describe those countries at the heart of the global capitalist system.

Tom’s previously given three different definitions for the term, and in the glossary to his new book, Great Powers, offers a fourth.

Readers of my blog know that my definition is different yet, as seen (among other places) in this visualization:

iran_and_the_central_seam

Is there a definition of functioning core around that would allow us to make predictions about whether specific states where inside or outside? Tom once gave an operationalized description, but I think that one is closer to describing states that happen to be rich than states that are interconnected.

5 thoughts on “Definitions and Understandings”

  1. ElamBend,

    Not nit-picky at all, but a comment that gets right to the heart of the matter.

    How do we know?

    It strikes me that in the same sense that South Africa, or Malaysia, or Turkey are in the “seam,” Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia are as well.

    I’m open to disagreement here, and indeed I welcome it.

    If we had a way of telling which country should be colored which color, instead of just relying on one or two persons’ take, I think PNM theory would be more useful for us and taken more seriously by others.

    So how can we know? And how might we know if we are wrong?

    Excellent, excellent comment.

  2. I think Tom’s original chapter in PNM (I don’t have the book in my hand right now so bear with me) was largely quantitative (GDP per capita, Internet hosts per capita, Freedom House ratings, ect) . Getting away from quantitative definitions is what led to someone justifying Russia’s place in the core based on the fact that they had a million + man army capable of of a combined arms invasion of a neighboring country.

    Perhaps a more solid quantitative model to understand which countries were and were not core and which direction a given country was moving in would include the following:

    Economic:

    GDP per capita

    Perhaps “diversification of GDP?” I know you were arguing that Russia was not in the core because a large percentage of the their GDP was derived from petroleum.

    General Welfare:

    Life expectancy?

    Infectious diseases?

    Population growth?

    Literacy?

    Security:

    Sovereignty of the national border?

    Murder or other crime rate?

    Political:

    Some measure of political freedom – number of parties, free press, ect

    I would imagine these factors would look pretty similar across the old core of the E.U., U.S. and Japan. We could then apply these measures to new core countries and attempt predict a county’s behavior based on the way each of these factors was moving.

    Also, rather than simply claiming that core powers do not go to war with one another, perhaps we could predict that IF two or more core powers go to war it will be extremely detrimental to several of the quantifiable factors listed above.

  3. Seerov,

    The map above — which is modified from the map included in my chapter of Threats in the Age of Obama – is created with the help of Wikipedia, Inkscape [1], and Paint.net [2]. I downloaded the SVG file for the map from wikipedia, and then loaded it into Inkscape. I selected the appropriate “shapes” (in this case, countries), changed the color, then exported it. I did the final touch-up work with Paint.net.

    If you’re really hard-core, a “svg” graphics file is actually just an HTML file with a whole lot of CSS. It’s editable with a text editor, such as Notepad++ [3]… which is exactly what I did for the book, when I needed to recode the colors to make them look good in black and white.

    Brent Grace,

    I think Tom’s original chapter in PNM (I don’t have the book in my hand right now so bear with me) was largely quantitative (GDP per capita, Internet hosts per capita, Freedom House ratings, ect) . Getting away from quantitative definitions is what led to someone justifying Russia’s place in the core based on the fact that they had a million + man army capable of of a combined arms invasion of a neighboring country.

    That’s my recollection too.

    Somewhere along the way, we went from the US’s largest public-sector export being security and the end of wars as we have known them — to being able to field a large army automatically making one an ally. Strange.

    Perhaps a more solid quantitative model to understand which countries were and were not core and which direction a given country was moving in would include the following:

    [snip list]

    I would imagine these factors would look pretty similar across the old core of the E.U., U.S. and Japan. We could then apply these measures to new core countries and attempt predict a county’s behavior based on the way each of these factors was moving.

    Also, rather than simply claiming that core powers do not go to war with one another, perhaps we could predict that IF two or more core powers go to war it will be extremely detrimental to several of the quantifiable factors listed above.

    This seems sensible. I think I would factor in the ability to generate wealth, as opposed to access it. Countries with large petrocarbon reserves, diamond mines, etc., essentially just have bank accounts under ground, which is a qualitatively different way of getting wealth than integraiton with the value chain of the global economy.

    (And no, trading hydrocarbons for economcially worthless tractor factories that don’t build tractors — or economically worthless Mercedes Benz, for that matter — is not meaningful economic integration!)

    [1] http://www.inkscape.org/
    [2] http://www.getpaint.net/
    [3] http://notepad-plus.sourceforge.net/uk/site.htm

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