World System Perspective, Essay Example

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The world system perspective holds that, as global interactions have become a norm since the 16th century, these interactions take on the shape of an identifiable, common system.  Ultimately, commercial and political needs form the base of this systems, as individual nations and cultures become more dependent upon one another.  Economics essentially drive the interests of all societies in the modern world and, as the industrial and technological revolutions have dramatically encouraged trade and communication, societies increasingly merge into an entity that relies on more of the same.  This produces a world system which, if marked by variations in societal wealth and standing, is nonetheless a collective operating from the same base of needs, practices, and interests.

What this means to anthropology cannot be overstated, as such an impact radically redefines the subject itself.  Anthropology is traditionally the study of man’s evolution, and with a necessary emphasis on how these evolutions occur in varying cultures.  Societies come into being as the people develop ways unique to them, and typically motivated by the basic human needs to achieve satisfactory levels of living.  In individual cultures, then, marked by extreme differences in opportunity and assets, the evolutions are similarly varied.  This is the instrument by which anthropology draws conclusions, for the study is inherently one based on comparisons.  In a world system, then, cultural differences become less prominent.  As each society adapts to what is required by the world system, it is inescapable that homogenization occurs.  If, for example, a culture is unique by virtue of its asset of a single crop, modern systems will likely introduce to the culture new ways of taking advantage of that crop, as well as processes to grow others.  The culture is then “less” unique and resembles more others.  This then translates to less of a likelihood for the culture to establish an individual identity, because interaction at this level is better served by similarities.  Consequently, with a world system in place, the very bases for cultural individuality are reduced, and anthropology is left with a study of mankind as a less diverse subject.

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