Released: January 1978
Most of Andre Gunder Frank’s early work on the nature of underdevelopment focused on one region: Latin America. Here he broadened his canvas and traced the world-wide effects of the process of capital accumulation from the period just prior to the discovery of America to the industrial and French revolutions. It is Frank’s thesis that “the world has experienced a single all-embracing, albeit unequal and uneven, process of capital accumulation centered in Western Europe,” which has been capitalist for at least two centuries.
In his studies of the effects of cyclical fluctuations in the process of capital accumulation, Frank connects the downswings or crises in accumulation to the changing leadership positions as they shifted from Italy to Spain and Portugal and then to Holland and Britain. He devotes particular attention to the successive incorporation into the single world system of Asia, Africa, and the Americas, whose economics and societies were transformed to contribute to the accumulation of capital in Western Europe and later in North America through exploitation, dependence, and unequal exchange. In this he re-engages in, and expands, the discussion about the decisive importance of internal production relations or external exchange relations in the process of institutional change at the center and periphery of the world system.
Each major historical period and phase of accumulation—the sixteenth-century expansion, the seventeenth-century depression, the cyclical swings between the Glorious Revolution in England in 1688 and the Peace of Paris in 1763, the depression and the American, French, and industrial revolutions between 1762 and 1789—is treated in one or more chapters. Frank relates the economic, political, social, and cultural developments around the world at each point in history and tries to show that the driving force behind the process was the cyclical fluctuations in the world accumulation of capital.
In a second volume, Dependent Accumulation and Underdevelopment, Frank examines the same process up to the present in the Third World.