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This essay seeks to discuss the
structure of international system and its impact on the development of
societies, and how it is often seen as inherently unfair, therefore promoting
under-development. When discussing this topic, it is important to talk to structuralism,
which is a theory that views the society from the perspective of the oppressed
classes, poor and developing countries. According to them, the current economic
system is unfair and in need of serious changes. The structure in structuralism
refers to the global capitalist system, which shapes society’s economic,
political, and social institutions. For this reason, structuralists tend to
criticize capitalism. So, firstly, this essay examines structuralism in more
detail, discusses the importance of it and Marxist influence on it. Secondly,
it analyzes the dependency theory and the modern world system theory. Finally,
the conclusions are drawn.

The very main idea of structuralism
is rooted from the ideas of Karl Marx, but in its core, it is different from
socialism or communism. As a school of thought, structuralism highlights the
view that society is prior to individuals. It employs the nature of social
interaction as patterned behavior and uses it as a tool in all sociological
analysis. The elements which are basic to human mind and universally applicable
determine the possible varieties of social structure (Source: Sociology Guide).
Marxist sociologist Louis Althusser has adopted a structuralist framework in
explaining social phenomena by referring to the structure of mode of
production. He criticized Berger and Luckman because of their views that the
dialectical processes of human interaction in which meaning given by
individuals when institutionalized becomes social structure. He argued that the
human agency is only the agents of the structure of social relation. Social
relations should be the ones that form the basis of analyzing the social
structure. Karl Marx examined how social relations are structured to preserve
inequalities in the world. Marx used the concept of structure to denote the
distribution of resources. Therefore, structure is the symbolic, material and
political resources that the actors employ in their interactions and produce the
structure of their social relations. Marx used the concept of dialectics in the
interaction process which in turn tend to change and transform the nature of
social relations, at the same time altering the social structure (Source:
Sociology Guide). There are four Marxist ideas that are essential for
structuralists’ analyses of international political economy. However, it is
important to note that those four Marxist ideas are the ideas that were
improved and modified by neo-Marxists and structuralists to fit to the present
world situation. Those ideas are as follows: the definition of class, class
conflict and the exploitation of workers, capitalist control over the states,
and ideological manipulation.

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The definition of class: class is
determined from the ownership of capital. Ones who have the capital are often
referred to as the bourgeois. In this sense, capital means privately owned
assets used to produce the commodities or goods in the economy. People who are
referred to as the working class or those who do not have any capital were the
majority. Therefore, naturally this situation is very often criticized for
inflicting injustice. Class conflict and the exploitation of workers: since the
classes exist, it is natural that the working class has to work for the capital
owners in order to fulfill the needs of their life. Whether the capital owner
has a positive or negative power over the working class, depends entirely on
the capital owner. When the power is used in a negative way, it results in the
exploitation of the working class. In the end, however, the working class does
not have a choice. They have to either work for the capital owners, or starve
to death. Capitalist control over the states: this idea is closely related to
the idea that was discussed before. The power that the capital owner has, has
an impact on the political system. In addition, states also require capital
owner in terms of income for state because the capital owner produces income
from production itself. Structuralists believe that the superior financial
resources of capitalists and the difficulties inherent in forming large worker
or social movements give capitalists the advantage in most countries today
(Balaam, Dillman, 2011). In the last idea – ideological manipulation – an idea
is a belief and an ideology is simply a set of beliefs. Capitalists have the
goal of their own and that is to convince the public that the capitalist system
is the only good system to rule the world. Marxists again see an unfairness in
this situation, because the capital owner has a lot more resources to promote
their ideology than a person of the working class. This eventually results in
workers getting tricked into thinking that this system will give them benefit
and unconsciously they make themselves exploited (Balaam, Dillman, 2011).

There exists some quite recent
structuralist theories of dependency and the modern world system. According to
dependency theorists, nations in the world are divided into two parts: core and
peripheral countries. In the current global political economy, the peripheral
countries (less developed ones in the South) are dependent on the core
countries (the capitalist ones in the North). Developing countries can deal
with this in several ways, but the most extreme strategy would be to reform
international economy, known simply as the new international economic order
(NIEO). According to the modern world system theory, nations are divided into
three parts: capitalist core states, agricultural periphery states, and
labor-intensive industries semiperipheral states. The dependency theory can be
analyzed from three aspects:

theory puts the main focus on an integrated World System based on a network of
exchange relations in which centre and periphery fulfil different but
inseparable roles. In the historic terms, the periphery was related to world
system in different forms. Therefore, it is said that the backwardness of the
periphery is not due to the lack of capitalist development but to prevailing
international relations of capitalist exploitation and subordination (Alauddin,

poorer class is not only exploited by the central capitalists. Instead, the
dependence has created and sustained a social structure in the periphery where
the ‘comprador ruling class and lumpenbourgeoisie’
exploit the locals on behalf of the center capitalists. Since the local
bourgeoisie class have a high standard of living, it results in the periphery
lacking both resources and market for autonomous development. Dependence is
based on coincidence of interests between the elites based in the venter and
the peripheral comprador class, marginalizes and impoverishes the masses
(Alauddin, 2013).

is an unjust exchange and transfer of surplus from periphery to centers. Due to
those transfers, incomes, welfare standards and investment in the periphery
lowers, and a distorted growth pattern which favours the growth of primary
products for export and luxury goods domestic consumption is produced. This
process enchains the periphery towards a long term dependency relation
(Alauddin, 2013).

According to Andre Gunder Frank,
underdevelopment is not a transitional stage. The relationship between the
centers and periphery have generated a process of ‘development of
underdevelopment’. As Immanuel Wallerstein argues, the division of labor is the
main cause of unequal exchange between core and periphery. Samir Amin views
capitalism as a system that creates different social orders in the core and
periphery. They see dependent capitalism as non-progressive because it does not
lead to the systematic development of labour productivity and the satisfaction
in the periphery. Capitalism in the center is no longer progressive, as it is
parasitical on the periphery. Therefore, the developing countries can only
develop through radical political change which includes cutting any dependency
relations and the institution of socialism (Alauddin, 2013).

In conclusion, after analyzing the
ideas of structuralism, it is hard to deny the existence of rather toxic
existence of contrasting core and peripheral countries, and capital owning and
working class. There exists a historical legacy of underdevelopment and
domination and global hegemony of the rich over the poor. At the same time, of
course, the achievements of technological innovations and the enlightenment
movement which mainly comes from the developed economies cannot be denied as
well. From the structuralist perspective, the current economic and political
system in the world needs changing in order to stop inequality and the
promotion of underdevelopment.

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