Journal of Archaeological Research

, Volume 19, Issue 3, pp 233-279

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

World-Systems Analysis and Archaeology: Continuing the Dialogue

  • Thomas D. HallAffiliated withDePauw University Email author 
  • , P. Nick KarduliasAffiliated withDepartment of Sociology and Anthropology, College of Wooster
  • , Christopher Chase-DunnAffiliated withInstitute for Research on World-Systems, University of California


Many archaeologists have used world-systems analysis in precapitalist settings. Some have criticized it; others have dismissed it out of hand. Critiques include that it was developed for the “modern” world, that it is overly economistic, that it neglects individual actors, and that it inappropriately uses modern analyses in ancient settings. Although there is some validity to these charges when applied to Wallerstein’s original formulation, most are misdirected. The critiques are rooted in inattention to the last three decades of work on world-systems, especially modifications made with the explicit intention to make world-systems analysis useful in precapitalist settings. Newer comparative versions of world-systems analysis were initially developed to better understand the evolution of world-systems that gave rise to the modern world-system. These new advances are useful for the study of interregional interactions and long-term development. Archaeologists are well placed to contribute to the further development of world-systems analysis; they can shed light on ancient world-systemic processes and the origins of the modern world-system, provide empirical backing for hypotheses, and raise new theoretical and empirical questions.


World-systems analysis World-systems theory Intersocietal interaction Sociocultural evolution Social change Incorporation Negotiated peripherality