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World Systems Theory & Career / Business Opportunities

Have you ever wondered why the resources, money and talent in the world heads toward certain economic hubs? Why the rich get richer? Why our children move overseas to cities like London and New York to further their careers? In the 1970s and 1980s an American named Immanuel Maurice Wallerstein spent a lot of time thinking about it.

Spoiler Alert: the reason you need to think about it is because it both governs your own career potential and your ability to attract and compete in the globalised marketplace. It rejects a Third World in favour of a One World social construct.

Wallerstein’s World Systems Theory (don’t be scared by the boring sound of the name) is easily explained with a series of three equally spaced concentric circles – an inner Core, surrounded by a Semi-Periphery and then an outer Periphery. The diagram displays several arrows pointing from the Periphery toward the inner Core.

The arrows depict movement of resources, talent and wealth from the Outer Periphery towards the Core.

In World Systems Theory the Core encompasses economic hubs like New York and London. The Core is not strictly a geographic definition. The Core are the world centres of business enterprise. The hubs of economic strength. The focal points of our wealth.

The Core is the pool where talent flows and amasses. The Core is where resources and wealth accumulate. The Core has high technological development and it tends to create complex technological products.

At the other extreme is the Periphery – this is the source of cheap labour, raw minerals and agricultural products that service the Core. The Periphery is where labour and inputs are cheapest; while the Core is where prices are high. There is an economic imbalance between the Periphery and the Core.

The Periphery involves the exploitation of people at low wages in crap working conditions to support the countries represented by the inner areas of the World Systems Theory diagram.

In the middle, between the Periphery and the Core, is an area called the Semi-Periphery, which acts as a Core to the Periphery and as a Periphery to the Core.

Enough of the theory (yawn)… here’s an example of the migration of talent.

My partner’s son Ross moved from Tasmania to Sydney (to the Core) about 10 years ago to attend the University of Sydney as a young undergraduate architect. Ross won the Sydney University Medal for Architecture in 2004 and was a winner of Realise Your Dream in 2005 – an initiative of the British Council of Australia. As a result, Ross moved to London and works as an architect in several European countries and has a special eco-project within Africa (he’s wearing the blue jacket).

Naturally, his architectural business and career are at the Core.

Ross is a talented and interesting guy. But why do Rhodes Scholarships and Realise Your Dream initiatives exist? The answer is simple, according to World Systems Theory: to suck talent to the Core. There is a socio-economic pressure that sucks our talent inward… it’s neither whimsy or flippancy… it’s the world of opportunity. It’s the same reason Tasmania’s Roaring 40s are leaking talent at the moment.

As business people we need to understand the migration of talent, wealth and resources. It affects how we operate, where we set up our shop… and the opportunities that will be open to us. It’s a primary influence on our ability to attract and retain highly talented individuals.

By the way, most of Australia is in the Semi-Periphery… in Australia, arguably, only Sydney (and maybe Melbourne) are represented in the Core.

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About the Author

Steven Clark Steven Clark - the stand up guy on this site

My name is Steven Clark (aka nortypig) and I live in Southern Tasmania. I have an MBA (Specialisation) and a Bachelor of Computing from the University of Tasmania. I'm a photographer making pictures with film. A web developer for money. A business consultant for fun. A journalist on paper. Dreams of owning the World. Idea champion. Paradox. Life partner to Megan.

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