What's New

  1. Toppage
  2. What's New
  3. What's New Detail

What's New Detail

to Index

The 5th Research Seminar was held on Saturday, 2nd July. (Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research "Joint Research through Asian Studies and Asian International Relations for Constructing Theory of New Governance" 〔Basic Research (A)


Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research, Basic Research (A)

“Joint Research through Asian Studies and Asian International Relations for Constructing Theory of New Governance”

(Coordinated by Afrasian Research Centre)

The 5th Research Seminar


・Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) KAKENHI, Basic Research (A),

  Representative: Shimizu Kosuke


Research Project : “Joint Research through Asian Studies and Asian International Relations 

 for Constructing Theory of New Governance”


・Coordinated by: Ryukoku University Afrasian Research Centre (Phase 3)


Date: 2nd July (Sat), 2016. 13:00~17:00

Venue: The Meeting Room 2, Wagen-kan building 4th floor

                 Fukakusa Campus, Ryukoku University


=========Program (proposed) ===============

13:0014:00 Presentation: Professor Kohei Wakimura

                         (Graduate Scohool of Economics, Osaka City University)


14:0014:30 Q & A


14:3015:45 Break Time


15:45~16:30 Opinion Exchange Session


15:30~16:30 Opinion Exchange Session


16:30~17:00  Future plan of the research proram…etc.




On 2nd July (Sat.), the 5th research session of the JSPS was held at the Ryukoku University in Kyoto (co-organized by the Afrasian Research Centre in Ryukoku University).


In this session, we invite Professor Wakimura Kohei from Osaka City University (the graduate school of economics) and he made a presentation for about a hour. The title was “Rethinking the ‘North-South issues’ ——a Global History of Economic Discrepancies”. Prof. Wakimura is an economic historian, a disciple of Prof. Sugihara Kaoru who is famous for the argument on the history of Asian sea networks, and he has been to study abroad to India, Delhi School of Economics, University of Dehli.


The Afrasian Research Centre and the JSPS project, “the Joint Researchthrough Asian Studies and Asian International Relations for Constructing Theory of New Governance” have continued to hold researches and sessions to reformulate the epistemological presupposition of the international society based on the nation-states. Prof. Wakimura’s research in this time approaches to the purpose from the field of histories of world economies.

 As we can notice from the subtitle, his direct focus is to question why the disproportionate developments in world economies involved with economic disparities are brought about. In addition, the economic disparities are regarded not as the problem of inter-nation-states, but as the problem that is caused by ecological and structural factors which prescribe the global and regional levels beyond the nation-states. The problem, thus, is argued in the way of the “global history of economic discrepancies”.


The starting point of his presentation was the question, why did the term, “North-South issue”, stop to go current recently. The “North-South issue” or the “North-South gap” have been used to point to discrepancies in world economy between the economically developed “North” side (mainly western countries, Russia, and Japan) and the developing “South” side of world economy (or the “Third World”).


The term “North-South issue” started to be used in the 1950s ~ 60s, and the “Prebisch Report” which was submitted in the UNCTAD in 1964 and showed the view of “declining terms of trade” was representative of its context. Accoding to that “Report”, the “South” was the states which depended on the producing and exporting primary commodities to draw foreigh currency. And the “Report” pointed out that such the states would face difficulties to draw foreign currency through pressures of lower pricing and excess of imports, and as the result of it, be placed on disadvantageous positions in terms of trade. This problem is regarded as the structural problem in the world economy.


At the same time, Ragnar Nurkse and Prebisch made a cases about the argument of “Export Pessimism”. Exports of primary commodities could be the “engine of the growth” in the context of the international trade in the 19th century. However, in the middle of 20th century, the “engine of the growth” would not work in the cause of shrinking demands for the commodities from the states which attained industrializations. This is the so-called “Export Pessimism” theory.


As seen above, the “North-South issue” has been economic-historically regarded as the synchronically and diachronically necessary and serious result.



 Yet why did the perspective of the “North-South” accepted as the almost necessary process become uncurrent recently. Its context is transformations of international economy. And the transformations mainly include two factors. The first thing is that a new phase, so-called “New International Division of Labor” since about 1970s, appeared through oversea expansions of the multinational companies mainly in manufacturing businesses. The second thing is that the problem of economic discrepancy was dispersed into the world economy in more complicated way especially through Micro Electronics Revolution, Information Technology Revolution, and financial globalization since 1990s.


And turning eyes onto the Asian countries, these countries achieved the positions as the emerging countries by the export-oriented industrialization policies in the situation of the “New International Division of Labor”. And the dismiss of the Cold War structure made the alternative to capitalism impossible. In addition, the forming of the capitalistic order in the global level accelerated through the ME and IT revolutions. Furthermore, the political and economic presences of China and India were strengthened. These situational transformations made the perspective of the “North-South” a thing of the past.



While Prof. Wakimura accepted the fact that the “developing countries” could partly overcome the previous disadvantageous positions in international economy through the above economic transformations, he emphasized the point that this fact doesn’t necessarily lead to the dissolution of the “North-South issue”. This is obvious from the present situation in which there remains regions of relatively high poverty rate such as Africa, some parts of South-East Asia and South Asia, and Latin American countries. Although the so-called BRICS play their leading role in world economy, this didn’t totally resolve the problem of domestic economic disparities and structural discrepancies in world economy.


For a broader perspective than the terms of trades, Prof. Wakimura moves his eyes on the accumurated researches in “global history” which brings transformations of global orders into view. The term “global history”, despite of its ambiguity, has the common purpose in the sense that it tries to relativize the Eurocentrism as the perspective employed in the construction of world history. And then, Prof. Wakimura explains the doctorinal history of the “global history” in the following order: “World History”, “World-System Theory”, “Intra-Asian Trade”, and “Global History of the East and West”.


First, the Eurocentrism here means the historical point of view base on the schema that western modernization gradually expanded to non-western world. William H. McNeill typically employed it in his World History. Prof. Wakimua called the theory of modernization “historical view of diffusion”.


And we can understand that the “World-System theory” formulated by Immanuel Wallerstein is the view to overcome the problem of the “historical view of diffusion”. Nonetheless this theory draws the process in which the system of capitalism generated in the West incorporates other non-western worlds, which draws on the schema that the relations of the “Core” and the “Peripheries” have been fixed globally. Thus, we can say that this theory is a reversed Eurocentrism.

One of the outstanding arguments to overcome the “historical view of diffusion” was the studies of Sugihara Kaoru on the “Intra-Asian Trade”. Simply put, his argument clarified the historical fact that trades in the Asian regions had been more significant for Asian countries than its trades with the western countries. Indeed, turning our eyes on the comparison between the Asia-West trades and intra-Asian trades, we can see the fact that growth rates in the international trades inside Asia was higher than the Asia-West trades from 1883 to 1913, and it shows the higher importance of the intra-Asian trade. In addition, regarding the western impacts or the diffusions of western modernity, there exists the distinct economic dynamism inside Asian region to receive the impacts.


In the argument of the “Great Diversion”, Kenneth L. Pomeranz compared the levels of economic developments between Europe (Engrand and Flemish region) and the region of Yangtze River and demonstrated the historical fact that there had been no remarkably different levels of economic developments. We cannot recognize any significant disparities of their living standards, developments of social division of labor and handicrafts among two regions at that time. It was the end of 18th century when the “Great Diversion” occurred against this equal standards of economic conditions. The factor of the diversion was that some limitations in the population growths and the ecological resources had imposed pressures on these regions and whether they could response efficiently or not decided their paths of economic developments afterword. The European regions could overcome the pressure through the coal utilization and access to the New World. On the other hand, Asian regions around China and India could not overcome the environmental constraints. As the result of that, the economic disparity among these two worlds were generated after 19th century, argued by Pomeranz.



According to Prof. Wakimura, the arguments of Sugihara and Pomeranz were approaches to relativize the Eurocentrism by taking on a “West-East” perspective. While almost existing arguments of the global history were attempts to reformulate the history of world economy through the “West-East perspective, the professor’s concern on the global history is through the “North-South” as a recognition to the world.


 In this way, Prof. Wakimura problematizes not only the Eurocentrism, but also the historical viewpoint based on the “East Asia”. In other worlds, we need to break away from the Eurocentrism and a “East Asia centrism”. In this sense, it is meaningful to reconstruct the “North-South issue”. However, we also need to avert the schema of the South subordinated to the North. Because it is no more than the repetition of the “North-South issue” in its old way. Alternatively, Prof. Wakimura tries to reformulate the issue based on their distinctness of environmental and cultural dynamisms inside the North and South. 


In so doing, he refers to the characterizations of their economic activities based on their ecologies of the “temperate zone” and the “torrid zone”. First of all, the professor introduces the argument of “plural paths of developments”. The argument relies on the typology of economic activities based on the differences between the temperate zone such as western countries and East Asia and the torrid zone such as India. The West and East Asia which were placed as the opposing areas in the existing global history are included into same category here, and are placed on the opposite side to the “torrid zone”. And he defines the path of torrid zone as a “type of ensuring survival basements”. A “type of ensuring survival basements” means that people in the torrid have to do economic activities in the situation where some constraints such as water, diseases and ecological fragilities have severe influences. In this sense, it is thinkable that the zone would pass through different path of development from the temperate zone such as the capital-intensive industrialization (the West”) and the labor-intensive industrialization (East Asia).


Prof. Wakimura takes notice the view that there had been a “great divergence” in the end of 19th century to the first half of 20th century along with the above typology. This view relies on an argument of William Authur Lewis who is a pioneer of the development economics. When it comes to the “great divergence”, we can find out a following question: why could countries in the temperate zone achieve industrialization and why were the colonized countries in the torrid zone fixed in exports of primary products, although countries in the both zones exported primary products. For instance, labors in the temperate zone could acquire higher salary which made some demands, and as a result of it, it leaded to the industrialization and urbanization. In contrast, those in the torrid zone worked as low-paid which didn’t make demands. As a result, the gap in wages leaded to the great divergence.


But the professor invited our attention to the fact that there are differences of environment inside the torrid zone. The natural environments of the torrid zone such as South Asia and South-East Asia are different from the ones of Sub-Sahara Africa in respect of water supply and condition of transportation. Thus a geographical determinism by the simple dichotomy such as the temperate zone/ torrid zone cannot prescribe the background of the North and South. Nevertheless, at least, we can open the view of global history which has been limited in the “East-West” epistemology by seeking out the distinct character of the “South”.



The one of the main purposes in our research project is ever to rethink the historical view of the Eurocentrism and state-centrism in the existing International Relations theory. In this light, attempts of global history in the economic history show meaningful and critical points of views for International Relations which often employs the historical model that the inter-states system had started in the Peace of Westphalia and modern nation-states system spread globally after that. And then, we need to seek out the historical and local uniqueness of globalizable concepts such as the “North-South issue”.


There were many questions to the above problems and ideas shown by Prof. Wakimura. Let us focus on four points here.


①  How can we think the historical local uniqueness which we cannot treat in the axis of the “North-South”?

②  Can’t we think the global history of economic divergences and disparities not only in the “North-South issue”, but also in the financial capitalism which generate the great disparity of wealth?

③  We can find out the conditions to influence on the economic policies and levels in each region not only in ecological conditions, but also in the conditions of political economy.

④  It is important for us to rethink the contents of concepts such as the “North”, “South”, the “West” and “Asia” which we unconsciously use.


Each point is explained below.


How can we think the historical local uniqueness which we cannot treat in the axis of the “North-South”?

In Prof. Wakimura’s presentation, Europe and Asia are the objects for his consideration to understand global history. Then, how can we understand the historical background of poverties in Latin America in the same age? Why didn’t countries in Latin America which relied on the exports of primary products same as Asian countries develop economically like China and India?  


And also, while his presentation considered the divergences of economic conditions based on ecological backgrounds, but how can we incorporate regions such as the arid zone and the semitropical region which cannot be categorized into the dichotomy of temperate and torrid zone. For example, Okinawa (Ryukyu islands) belongs to the semitropical region, and this islands were historically the important place of trading intermediate trade. And this islands recently evolves its economic activity in sightseeing, not industrialization or economies of scale. And we can think that economic disparity is not only the problem of “wealth” or “goods”, but also the “entitlement”. In this sense, we can regard the situation which is lack of some opportunities of economic activities, as an economic disparity.


Can’t we think the global history of economic divergences and disparities not only in the “North-     South issue”, but also in the financial capitalism which generate the great disparity of wealth?

As we witnessed Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century on the scene in Japan, the way of thinking that the problem of economic disparity is the problem of capital mobility which generate disparity of income distributions. Although this kind of problem is different from the “North-South issue”, how can we connect global history of the “North-South issue” with the problem of the hyper-flexible capital.

DSC_0148.JPG We can find out the conditions to influence on the economic policies and levels in each region not only in ecological conditions, but also in the conditions of political economy.

Economic situations are influenced not only by ecological conditions and cultures of labor, but also by policy directions employed by each state in international politics. In particular, this is typically the case in China. The evolution of Chinese economy after the WWII depended on the industrialization policies along with transformations of Cold War structure. We need to take this kind of political contexts for the dynamism of economic developments into account, when we try to connect global history with International Relations theory.

DSC_0154.JPG④  It is important for us to rethink the contents of concepts such as the “North”, “South”, the “West” and “Asia” which we unconsciously use.

Even if it is enable to go beyond traditional epistemology of International Relations theory through multifaceted reexaminations of global relations such as the “East-West”, the “North-South”, or the “West” and “Asia”, it is obvious that these sorts of geographical concepts doesn’t have the tangible meaning. The images of the “West” would be different depending on contexts of each period, and furthermore. the concept “Asia” is foggier than the “West”. Otherwise, provided that we consider historical characteristics of each region in terms of concentric circles and it enable us to find out some regularity in them, it is really difficult to clearly demarcate one from others. Simply put, we need to ontologically reexamine the “world” beyond sheer epistemologies. What kind of presupposed “world” do we presuppose when we unreflectively use those concepts.


As shown above, in this research seminar, IR theorists and economic historians shown their perspectives and argued to each other, a problem awareness were shared: how can we understand the whole dynamism of global society including historical processes? What we are required is to aware historical multiplicity and release the view to world from fixed frameworks, and also we need continuous attempts to understand dynamism of whole global society. In this sense, this presentation of Prof.Wakimura raised a question and encouraged us to form broad perspective against ahistorical and rigid IR theories.