Core-periphery theory is based on the notion that as one region or state expands in economic prosperity, it must engulf regions nearby to ensure ongoing economic and political success. The area of high growth or former high growth becomes known as the core, and the neighboring area is the periphery. Cores and peripheries can be towns, cities, states, or nations.


Core expansion trends and methods

On a simplified scale, when a city grows in popularity, it must expand its borders to continue to supply the population with the standard of living they are used to (eg variety of products, standard of living, etc). Traditionally, the inner city core will first expand to areas of geographic similarity; for instance, a neighboring town may find itself becoming a suburb of the city.

When geographic peripheries become exhausted (either because resources have dried up or the economies of scale have balanced out), the core then seeks out peripheries that are culturally similar and share the same language as the core. Only when the core has exhausted all advantageous options of geographic and cultural similarity will it seek to expand to a periphery that is truly foreign. This is because a foreign periphery carries a high risk of not complying with requests from the core.

An example of traditional core-periphery theory exhausting regional options and adopting an international scale can be found in the European colonization of Africa. Core nations, such as England, Germany and France, sought to extract resources in the face of cultural disparity. Because these cultural differences were perceived as vast, military presence was necessary to ensure the expansion of these cores into Africa.

Whereas peripheries bearing geographic or cultural similarity to the core can often benefit in the long run, through what is known as trickle-down economics, peripheries that have vast cultural differences often lack negotiation rights in their colonisation. When this happens, trickle-up economics apply, and peripheries watch as their resources drain away towards the core. The more a periphery becomes colonised, the less it is able to resist the core. The probability of civil or transnational war then starts to slowly approach 1 (certainty).


Many experts contest that the core-periphery system is far too simple and hold that there is an additional aspect to society that has been markedly left out. They maintain that the semi-periphery is also an important middle ground between the core and the periphery. This is an area that is more self sufficient and developed than the periphery, but not to the extent of the core. Immanuel Wallerstein argues that the semi-periphery is important because it bridges the gap between the rich core countries and the poor periphery countries. It provides balance and order keeping the world from political and economic crisis in same way that the middle class does on the national level in stable core countries.

Dealing with inequality

Answers to the disparity between cores and peripheries are most complex on the international level. Some speculation holds that free trade is the answer because it could allow for periphery countries to concentrate on producing goods for which they have an aptitude. Nonetheless, critics of this claim still maintain that it would make little difference because the established core countries would still dominate.

On the urban level, responding to the inequality between core areas and periphery areas is also difficult, but not impossible. The key is to bring back to life the vitality of struggling neighborhoods and reestablish them as complements to the city. It takes knowledgeable foresight by city officials as well as action through the entire community to accomplish this. Each situation may require a different course of action whether it is a radical change or only a slight nudge in the right direction.

Since areas overlap or include each other and all have a middle and an edge, cores and peripheries are everywhere and on every level. Galaxies have a galactic core; vertebrates have a peripheral nervous system; communication systems have a core network; oceans have a shoreline and so forth. Growth and development in one area is going to have a counter affect in an adjacent area to some degree. This backlash effect causes an inequality between different areas and amongst the people who live in each area.

See also

External links

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