Consider that our efforts towards creating our regenerative livelihoods and enterprises are taking place in a context. One characterization of this context, by Immanuel Wallerstein and colleagues, is as a world-system. This analysis deliberately places emphasis on a world-system rather than focusing on nation-states in order to raise our consciousness about the international (globalised) nature of trade that has been developing since at least the 10th Century.
Already you can see this is unusual – it is more common to see analyses that imagine that our current international economy only emerged after World War One or, even, after World War Two. According to Wallerstein these near-past analyses fail to show how the current world-system has much earlier roots and, therefore, when we seek to dismantle its peculiar logic we might just be deadheading the spent flowers rather than digging it out by the roots.
World Systems Theory proposes that countries function in categories determined primarily by a form of political and social design into groups of Core Countries, Semi-peripheral Countries and Peripheral Countries where the divisions, inclusions and exclusions are controlled largely by the dominant Core Countries.
This means that a country in the peripheral category, for example, has its economic functions in the world-system predetermined by the Core. Typically this means that it is confined to the role of extracting and exporting low-value raw materials that are then converted into added value products elsewhere (often by Corporations owned in Core Countries using cheap labour in Semi-peripheral Countries). These added value goods may then be sold back at high prices to the countries that provide the cheap raw materials and the low-cost labour.
It is, according to this theory, deeply challenging for Semi-peripheral and Peripheral countries to reformat their economies in order to become more self-determined and self-resilient as the Core frequently reacts with deadly hostility whenever such attempts are made. So-called Trade Agreements such as NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) and the proposed but now defunct TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) are examples of how the Core uses institutional powers (violence) to suppress dissent and promote increasing power.
We might just as well be looking at a social class system here in which the roles and functions available to a person are often determined (if not in whole, at least in part) by the social class in which they are born and raised. And, with a little imagination (and some awareness of the fractal nature of patterns that has them showing up at many levels) we could also notice that the class system patterns and the (deeply connected) World Systems patterns also show up inside countries.
That is, under the logic of the existing World System, rural parts of a country are ascribed peripheral functions by the larger cities whilst market towns show up as semi-peripheral elements. This means that rural areas and market towns do not have a great deal of power to determine their future unless they can muster the sustained energy to contradict and resist their dominant, larger neighbours.
Likewise, Counties, States, Cantons and other local geopolitical boundaries divide countries up into Core, Semi-peripheral and Peripheral zones.
By creating our own livelihoods we are choosing to make a constructive intervention towards ecological and social regeneration and away from the unscrupulous domination of the World System by the Core. It is helpful to understand that, as micro, small and medium enterprises we are, whether we intend it or not, a counter force that can expect very little help and probably some hindrance from the mainstream.
This is an important point to note as many of us (and our family and friends) imagine that, as a small business does so much to assist local economies to adapt and grow, there would be plenty of agencies with a good deal of resource on hand to support us.
That’s not the case – research in the USA indicates that 90% of cash earmarked for economic development goes to large national corporations despite small business providing the majority of new jobs in most areas.
It may be demoralising to know about yet another means whereby the Core captures the money at the expense of those of us who should expect some help and yet it is also helpful to tailor expectations to match reality.
It is for this reason that self, family, friends and community are such important sources of the various forms of capital essential to initiating an enterprise. All these informal sources of capital (other than your own) rely on good reserves of social capital and it may well be that we have to attend to becoming respected in our networks as a first step.
It is also the reason why it is critical for us to build our own supporting regenerative livelihood infrastructures and find genuine allies from amongst other folks committed to regeneration.
Sign up for our free course, “Creating Regenerative Livelihoods”, to learn more!