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Comparative Civilizations Review

FLUCTUATIONS IN THE POLITICAL CONSOLIDATION
OF CIVILIZATIONS/WORLD SYSTEMS
DAVID WILKINSON
P O L I T I C A L SCIENCE, UCLA
[email protected]
Introduction

A previous paper showed that, as among the political models of several civilizationists, Toynbee's revised "Helleno-Sinic" model (from his "Reconsiderations") best fit the data of actual alternations between "empires" and "states systems" in civilizations. An examination of more closely observed political trajectories as seen in an evolving dataset on the power configuration sequences of several civilizations/world systems is consistent with this previous finding. Many scientific disciplines have a more or less customary division of labor between theorists and observationalists, experimenters, field workers and the like. Most theories of world systems and civilizations could do with a bit of independent testing. Some of these theories propose to describe, and perhaps also explain, predict or control, variation in the political centralization of such systems. It would seem helpful for researchers to collect data on different patterns of centralization in world systems, and changes in such patterns, and from sources independent of the theories to be tested. The current paper attempts to test some models of civilization/world-system history against some independently collected data on that topic. I have for some years been working on developing data and, to a much lesser extent, testing theory concerning the centralization history-the political structures or power configurations—of civilizations or "world systems," exploring typologies for such structures, locating the sequences of such configurations over very long durations, developing and testing hypotheses about the expected succession of such sequences.

Though the data remain incomplete, I now have enough sequences of power configurations within several world systems of the distant past to conclude that the most prominent existing kinematic hypotheses are largely inadequate, and that more sophisticated techniques and models will be needed to reduce the data to some better order.

What are these "civilizations" or "world systems?"

David Wilkinson

93

Figure 1.
The incorporation of fourteen civilizations into one "central civilization." 3500
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GRECO-ROMAN
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This figure illustrates the successive incorporation of autonomous civilizations into a larger, composite "Central civilization" tin grey). ???? = Transitions t...

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Keywords

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