The systemic political, economic, and urban integration since the rise of cities

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I’d like to touch upon three issues:

1. The main phases of globalization and of the development of the Afroeurasian world-system in terms of the levels of spatial links.

2. The correlation between technological development, globalization, and political organization.

3. The correlation between urbanization and political development (statehood); the main phases of these processes.

I find it reasonable to start with periodization of globalization processes in terms of expanding spatial links.

Our ideas of the main phases of historical globalization are reflected in Table 1 “Growth of globalization level in historical process”. Here one can distinguish seven periods. The given periodization is based on the principle of expanding spatial links between societies (see Grinin and Korotayev 2013a, 2013b). We can point to the expansion and integration of interacting networks from local level trough the level of transcontinental links to the planetary one. Actually, one can speak about historical globalization starting from the third phase when the regional-continental links had originated. Since the Age of Discovery the intercontinental links started to develop and by the early nineteenth century they became truly global.

Table 1

Growth of globalization level in historical process

Period number

Type of spatial links
(globalization level)

Period dates


Local links

Till the 7th – 6th millennium BCE


Local-Regional links

From the 7th – 6th millennium till the second half of the 4th millennium BCE


Regional-continental links

From the second half of the 4th millennium BCE till the first half of the 1st millennium BCE


Transcontinental links

From the second half of the 1st millennium BCE till the late 15th century CE


Intercontinental (Oceanic) links

From the late 15th century till the early 19th century


Global links

From the early 19th century till the 1960s and 1970s


Planetary links

From the last third of the 20th century till the mid-21st century

Table 2 “Growth of globalization level and the rise of the Afroeurasian world-system” shows the correlation between the phases of historical globalization and the phases of development of the Afroeurasian world-system (for our approach, see Grinin and Korotayev 2009a, 2012a). The evolution of this world-system evidently provided the basis for the qualitative development of globalization. Since any periodization requires its own basis to distinguish a number of time periods (about the procedure of periodization see Grinin 2007; Grinin, Korotayev 2009a) the congruence between two presented periodization cannot be complete.

Table 2

Growth of globalization level and the rise of the Afroeurasian world-system

Type of spatial links (globalization level)


Phases of development of the Afroeurasian world-system

Local links

Till the 7th – 6th millennium BCE

Local- Regional links

From the 7th – 6th millennium till the second half of the 4th millennium BCE

the first phase: From the 8th – 4th millennia BCE – the formation of contours and structure of the Middle Eastern core of the Afroeurasian world-system.

Regional-continental links

From the second half of the 4th millennium BCE till the first half of the 1st millennium BCE

the second and third phases: The 3rd and 2nd millennia BCE – the development of the Afroeurasian world-system centers during the Bronze Age (the second phase).

From the first millennium BCE till 200 BCE – the Afroeurasian world-system as a belt of expanding empires and new civilizations (the third phase).

Transcontinental links

From the second half of the 1st millennium BCE till the late 15th century CE

the fourth and fifth phases: From 200 BCE to the 14th century CE – the Afroeurasian world-system is integrated by the steppe periphery; the Afroeurasian world-system apogee: world religions and world trade.

Intercontinental (Oceanic) links

From the late 15th century till the early 19th century

the sixth phase: from the 15th to the 18th centuries – the transformation of the Afroeurasian world-system into the planetary World System.

Global links

From the early 19th century till the 1960s and 1970s

the seventh phase: From the beginning of the 19th century to the 20th century – the industrial World System and mature globalization.

Planetary links

From the last third of the 20th century till the mid-21st century

subsequent phases: Mature and integrated World System

Again I want to mark the third period lasting from the second half of the fourth millennium to the first half of the first millennium BCE (which corresponds to the second and third phases of the development of the Afroeurasian world-system). It is important because this period was really crucial since it witnessed the main technological, urban, political, and cultural transformations which virtually triggered the historical globalization. In what follows, I will dwell on this.

I aim at revealing the important correlations between different variables. The most significant changes within the World System and globalization were definitely associated with crucial technological breakthroughs or production revolutions, namely, Agrarian (or Neolithic), Industrial, and Cybernetic (Grinin 2007; Grinin A. L. and Grinin L. E. 2015a, 2015b; Grinin and Korotayev 2015).

Production Revolutions



Industrial Revolution
(the last third of the 15th – the first third of the
19th centuries)

(12,000–10,000 –5,500–3,000 BP)

Fig. 1. Production revolutions in history
Each production revolution launches a new production principle (see ibid.). Every revolution passes through three stages: two innovative phases and between them – a modernization phase (see Fig. 2).

Fig. 2. Phases of production revolutions
For example the phases of the Agrarian Revolution can be presented in the following way (see Table 3).

Table 3

The phases of the Agrarian Revolution








Manual agriculture

10,000–7,000 BCE

Transition to primitive manual (hoe) agriculture and cattle-breeding



Diffusion of


3,500 BCE

Emergence of new domesticated plants and animals, emergence of a complete set of agricultural instruments



Irrigated and plow agriculture

3,500–1,500 (in Europe up to 500) BCE

Transition to irrigative or plow agriculture without irrigation

In Table 4 I present the correlations between the periods of globalization and such variables as spatial links, political organization and level of technological development.

Here I want to attract your attention to the point that every new phase of historical globalization closely correlates with a new level of development of productive forces. Thus, the origin of globalization and the formation of regional-continental links correlate with the final phase of the Agrarian revolution, which spread from the forth to the first millennia BCE to many parts of the Afroeurasian world-system. The Age of Discovery and the formation of intercontinental links correlate with the initial phase of the Industrial Revolution.

Table 4
Correlation between spatial links, political organization and level of technology

Type of socio-spatial links


Forms of political organization

Level of technology
(production principles
and production revolutions)

Local (Local-Regional) links

Up to the second half of the
4th millennium BCE

Pre-state (simple and medium complexity) political forms, the first complex polities

Hunter-gatherer production principle. The initial and middle phases of the Agrarian revolution

Regional- Continental links

The second half of the 4th millennium BCE – the first half
of the 1st millennium BCE

Early states and their analogues; the first empires

The final phase of the Agrarian revolution (from Mesopotamia to Europe)

Continental/ Transcontinental links

The second half of the 1st millennium BCE –
the late 15th century CE

Rise of developed states and empires

Agrarian production principle reaches its maturity

Intercontinental (oceanic) links

The late 15th century –
the early
19th century

Rise of developed states, first mature states

The initial phase of the Industrial revolution

Global links

The early 19th century – the 1960s and 1970s

Mature states and early forms of supranational entities

The final phase of the Industrial revolution. Maturity of the Industrial production principle

Planetary links

Starting from
the last third
of the 20th century

Formation of supranational entities, washing out of state sovereignty, search for new types of political unions and entities, planetary governance forms

The start and development of the Cybernetic revolution, whose final phase is forecasted for the 2030s and 2040s

Urbanization is closely connected with technological and political transformations and here we define this correlation. In the fourth millennium BCE, the Urban Revolution (the term was coined by Childe [1950; 1952]) took place in South Mesopotamia and at first in history urbanized societies had origin (e.g., Adams 1966, 1981; Bernbeck and Pollock 2005: 17; see also Pollock 2001: 45; Rothman 2004). This revolution, that later spread throughout the whole of Mesopotamia and wider, can be regarded as a multi-dimensional phase transition of the Afroeurasian world-system to a qualitatively new level of complexity (e.g., Berezkin 2007).

However, the very possibility of the occurrence of the Urban Revolution was undoubtedly provided by the final stage of the Agrarian Revolution in the Mesopotamia and resulting demographic changes.

The correlation between urbanization and political processes is also beyond any doubt. For example it appears necessary to note that the ‘urban’ pattern of the early state formation was one of the most wide-spread. Urbanization was connected with the concentration of people resulting from the forced merger of a few settlements usually because of the pressing military or other threats. Such a situation was typical in many regions: in Ancient Greece, Mesopotamia, (in particular in the period of the Urban revolution, i.e. in the late fourth and third millennia BCE), as well as in a number of European, Asian and African regions (e.g., in seventeenth-century South-East Madagascar several small states of the Betsileo originated in this way [Kottak 1980; Claessen 2002]). In Greece this process was called synoikismos.

Population concentration contributed in a rather significant way both to urbanization and state formation processes and to the increasing complexity. In particular, the contact density within a polity is a very important factor of state formation. The population concentration leads to the spatial structuring of settlements, to which archaeologists pay much attention. The higher the population density, the more pronounced is the structuring of society. And, since the density in urban communities is usually higher than in rural societies, the politogenetic processes within the former have certain peculiarities in comparison with the societies where rural settlements predominate. The patterns of statehood development are also different due to the existence or lack of cities political dominance on rural neighborhood.

All these, by the way, explain why we strongly disagree with Robert Carneiro's circumscription theory, which ignores the urban pattern of state-formation and thereby neglects that in cities the population and resource concentration plays a different role than in the one described in this theory (Carneiro 1970, 2012; Grinin and Korotayev 2012b). In the agrarian polity the population density may lead to the land shortage, social tension and wars, while in the cities the increasing population density may rather bring the emergence of new forms of government and statehood.

In the following Diagram we can see a close correlation between urbanization and political integration.
Diagram 1. Dynamics of World Urban Population (thousands) and the Size of the Territory Controlled by the Developed and Mature States and Their Analogues (thousands km2), till 1900 CE, logarithmic scale

Source: Korotayev and Grinin 2013 (based on data from Taagapera 1978a, 1978b, 1979, 1997).
What can we deduce from the diagram? First. A relatively rapid process of emergence and growth of cities in the Afroeurasian world-system was observed in the second half of the fourth millennium and especially in the first half of the third millennium BCE. In the same period we observe the rise of the first states (early or archaic) in Mesopotamia, Egypt, in the Minoan civilization on Crete, in Phoenicia, and also in Harappa, Mohenjo-daro and other cities of ancient Indus Valley Civilization. However, urbanization played the dominant role in the state formation process not in all these civilizations. For example, in Egypt its influence was less noticeable while the process of political centralization here had started earlier than in Mesopotamia due to the unique natural environment of the Nile valley).

Second. After this rise, the urbanization process significantly slowed down by the first millennium BCE. At the same time, during this period we can observe a growing political integration between the Afroeurasian world-system core societies, which was a consequence of rather complex military-political and other interactions. As a result one could observe the increase of political complexity: from cities and small polities to large early and developed states (Grinin 2008, 2011, 2012). In the Diagram we can observe the rise of this new type of states starting from the late third millennium BCE (the grey curve raises almost perpendicularly to axis of abscisses). This rise of statehood and emergence of the first empires brought up the upswings and downswings of the cycles of political hegemony after the third millennium BCE (Frank and Gills 1993; see also Chase-Dunn et al. 2010). In the late third and second millennium BCE, in Mesopotamia one could observe the succession of the Akkadian Empire, the third Dynasty of Ur Kingdom, the Old Babylonian Kingdom, and the Assyrian Kingdom. In the second half of the second millennium BCE, one could see a vigorous hegemonic struggle between Assyria, New Kingdom of Egypt, Mitanni  and the Hittite Kingdom, yet some of these powers would unite against others (in the graph the period of oscillations in the second millennium BCE correlates with the period of the struggle for political hegemony).

So, the rapid urbanization in the fourth and third millennia BCE contributed to the emergence of new political structures (early states and their analogues [Grinin 2004, 2011, 2012a]). However, the transition to maturing political forms required no further increase in urbanization; thus, although the political integration in the third and second millennia proceeded rather actively, one does not observe any transition of urbanization to a new attractor. Yet, in the second half of the second millennium we observe a certain rise (this is mostly with account of Egypt where urbanization, unlike in Mesopotamia, actually followed the political process).

The slowdown of the urbanization process was also caused by the uncompleted Agrarian revolution in Europe. It could complete through the diffusion of the technology of plow non-irrigation agriculture based on the use of cultivation tools with iron working parts as well as iron axe and other iron tools (for more details see Korotayev and Grinin 2006, 2013; Grinin and Korotayev 2009a, 2009b, 2013). The diffusion of iron together with population growth in Europe and other parts of the Afroeurasian world-system brought a new increase both of urbanization and of state-formation (first, of the early states, and later – of the developed ones). As a result, in the second half of the first century BCE and in the first century CE we can also find a belt of expanding empires and new civilizations.

It is worth to mention as a very remarkable phenomenon an East/West synchrony in growth and decline of the population sizes of largest cities from 500 BCE to 1500 CE in West Asia and those in East Asia (Chase-Dunn and Manning 2002). There is a similar synchrony in the territorial sizes of the largest empires (Hall, Chase-Dunn, and Niemeyer 2009).

One observes the third wave of an explosive growth of cities and states of a new – mature – type (Grinin 2008, 2011, 2012) in connection with the Industrial Revolution whose origin we date to the end of the fifteenth century and which completed in the early nineteenth century (that actually coincides with the transition to the true globalization [about this revolution see e.g. Cipolla 1976; Allen 2009; Goldstone 2009; Mokyr 2010; our view see Grinin 2007; Grinin A. L. and Grinin L. E. 2015a, 2015b; Grinin and Korotayev 2015]). The increasing number of developed states in the sixteenth century was connected with the so-called Gunpowder revolution and other changes in the military art which forced the European and Asian States to change their organization.

Thus, we may say that during the whole period of historical globalization one can observe a close correlation between such important processes as technological transformations, spatial expansion of contact area, urbanization, political integration, and struggle for political hegemony (about various theories of cycles of political hegemony see e.g., Modelski and Thompson 1996; Thompson 1988).


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Berezkin, Yu. E. 2007. On the Structure of History: The Temporal and Spatial Constituents. In Turchin P. V., Grinin L. E., Malkov S. Yu., and Korotayev A. V. (eds.), History and Mathematics: The Conceptual Space and Trends for the Search (pp. 88–98). Moscow: LKI/URSS. In Russian (Березкин Ю. Е. О структуре истории: временные и пространственные составляющие. История и математика: концептуальное пространство и направления поиска / Ред. П. В. Турчин, Л. Е. Гринин, С. Ю. Малков, А. В. Коротаев, с. 88–98. М.: ЛКИ/УРСС).

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Carneiro, R. L. 2012. The Circumscription Theory: A Clarification, Amplification, and Reformulation. Social Evolution & History 11/2: 5–30.

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Chase-Dunn, C., Niemeyer, R., Alvarez, A., Inoue, H., and Love, J. 2010. Cycles of Rise and Fall, Upsweeps and Collapses: Changes in the scale of settlements and polities since the Bronze Age. In Grinin, L. E., Herrmann, P., Korotayev, A. V., and Tausch, A. (eds.), History & Mathematics: Processes and Models of Global Dynamics (pp. 64–91). Volgograd: Uchitel.

Childe V. G. 1950. The Urban Revolution. The Town Planning Review, Vol. 21, No. 1: 3-17.

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Hall, T. D., Chase-Dunn, C., Niemeyer R. 2009. The Roles of Central Asian Middlemen and Marcher States in Afroeurasian World-System Synchrony. In Trinchur, G. (ed.), The Rise of Asia and the Transformation of the World-System (pp. 69–82). Boulder, CO: Paradigm Press.

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Author’s selected bibliography on the subject
Grinin, L. E. 2004. The Early State and Its Analogues: A Comparative Analysis. In Grinin, L. E., Carneiro, R. L., Bondarenko, D. M., Kradin, N.N., and Korotayev, A. V. (eds.), The Early State, Its Alternatives and Analogues (pp. 88–136). Volgograd: Uchitel.

Grinin, L. E. 2007. Production Revolutions and Periodization of History: A Comparative and Theoretic-mathematical Approach. Social Evolution & History 6/2: 75–120.

Grinin, L. E. 2008a. Early State, Developed State, Mature State: The Statehood Evolutionary Sequence. Social Evolution & History 7/1: 67–81.

Grinin, L. E. 2011. The Evolution of Statehood. From Early State to Global Society. Saarbrücken: Lambert Academic Publishing.

Grinin, L. E. 2012. Macrohistory and Globalization. Volgograd: Uchitel.

Grinin A. L., Grinin L. E. 2015а. The Cybernetic Revolution and Historical Process. Social Evolution and History 14/1: 125–184.

Grinin A. L., Grinin L. E. 2015b. Cybernetic Revolution and Forthcoming Technological Transformations (The Development of the Leading Technologies in the Light of the Theory of Production Revolutions). In Grinin, L. E., and Korotayev, A. V. (eds.), Evolution: From Big Bang to Nanorobots (pp. 251–330). Volgograd: Uchitel.

Grinin, L. E., and Korotayev, A. V. 2006. Political Development of the World System: A Formal Quantitative Analysis. In Malkov S. Yu., Grinin L. E., and Korotayev A. V. (eds.), History & Mathematics: Historical Dynamics and Development of Complex Societies (pp. 49–101). Moscow: KomKniga.

Grinin, L. E., and Korotayev, A. V. 2009a. Social Macroevolution: The Genesis and Transformation of the World-System. Moscow: LIBROCOM. In Russian (Гринин Л. Е., Коротаев А. В. Социальная макроэволюция: генезис и трансформация Мир-Системы. М.: Либроком).

Grinin, L. E., and Korotayev, A. V. 2009b. Social Macroevolution: Growth of the World System Integrity and a System of Phase Transitions. World Futures 65/7: 477–506.

Grinin, L. E., and Korotayev, A. V. 2012a. Afroeurasian World-System: Genesis, Transformations, Characteristics. In Babones, S., and Chase-Dunn Ch. (eds.), Routledge Handbook of World-Systems Analysis (pp. 30–39). London: Routledge.

Grinin, L. E., and Korotayev, A. V. 2012b. Emergence of Chiefdoms and States: A Spectrum of Opinions. Social Evolution & History 11/2: 191–204.

Grinin L., Korotayev A. 2013a. The Origins of Globalization. In Sheffield, J. Korotayev, A. & Grinin, L. (eds.), Globalization: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow (pp. 2–32). Litchfield Park: Emergent Publications.

Grinin L., Korotayev A. 2013b. Origins of Globalization in the Framework of the Afroeurasian World-System History. Journal of Globalization Studies 5/1: 32–64.

Grinin L., Korotayev A. 2015. Great Divergence and Great Convergence. A Global Perspective. New York: Springer.

Korotayev, A., Grinin, L. 2006. Urbanization and Political Development of the World System: A comparative quantitative analysis. In P. Turchin et al. (eds.) History and Mathematics. Historical Dynamics and Development of Complex Societies. Moscow: URSS.

Korotayev, A., and Grinin, L. 2013. Urbanization and Political Development of the World System. ENTELEQUIA revista interdisciplinar 15 (especial 2013): 197–254.

About the author

Leonid E. Grinin is Senior Research Professor at the Institute for Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow and Senior Research Professor at the Laboratory for Destabilization Risk Monitoring at the National Research University Higher School of Economics. He is the Editor-in-Chief of the journal Age of Globalization (in Russian), as well as a co-editor of the international journals Social Evolution & History and the Journal of Globalization Studies. Dr. Grinin is the author of more than 430 scholarly publications in Russian, English, and Chinese, including 28 monographs. These monographs include Philosophy, Sociology, and the Theory of History (2007, in Russian); Productive Forces and Historical Process (2006, in Russian); State and Historical Process (3 vols, 2009–2010, in Russian); Social Macroevolution: World System Transformations (2009, in Russian, with A. Korotayev); Macroevolution in Biological and Social Systems (2008, in Russian, with A. Markov and A. Korotayev); Global Crisis in Retrospective: A Brief History of Upswings and Crises (2010, in Russian, with A. Korotayev); The Evolution of Statehood: From Early State to Global Society (2011); The Cycles of Development of Modern World System (2011, in Russian, with A. Korotayev and S. Tsirel); From Confucius to Comte: The Formation of the Theory, Methodology and Philosophy of History (2012, in Russian); Macrohistory and Globalization (2012); Cycles, Crises, and Traps of the Modern World-System (2012, in Russian, with A. Korotayev), and Great Divergence and Great Convergence (2015, with Andrey Korotayev); From the Biface to Nanorobots. The World is on the Way to the Epoch of Self-governed Systems (History of Technologies and the Description of Their Future) (2015, in Russian, with A. L. Grinin).

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