The following is a section from the book manuscript
by Andre Gunder Frank
In my previous book on the 1492-1789 period, I sought to identify
Kondratieff cycles beginning in the seventeenth century or earlier,
albeit in what I then thought was a European centered world
capitalist economy (Frank 1978a). Since then, Wallerstein, has also
organized the account of the rise and development of his also
European centered Modern World-System increasingly in terms of
Kondratieff "long" cycles. He started hesitatingly in Volume I on
"The Origins of the European World-Economy" in the generally
expansive "long sixteenth century" 1450-1640 (1974). He
increasingly introduced shorter Kondratieff [type?] "long" cycles
into his analysis into Volume II on its "Consolidation" 1600-1750
(1980) and in Volume III, on the "Second Era of Great Expansion
of the Capitalist-World Economy 1730-1840s" (1989). Goldstein
(1989) also organized his study of the timing of great wars in
terms of Kondratieff Long Cycles, which he pursued back into the
sixteenth century using the datings by Braudel (1992) and Frank
(1978a) for the early centuries.
More recently still, Modelski and Thompson (1995) have taken world-
wide Kondratieff analysis still much further back and seek to
identify these about 50 year long cycles back to 930 AD. That
would make the present one Number 19, and not just the 5th as for
most followers of Kondratieff, nor the so far last of about a dozen
as for Frank (1978a) and Goldstein (1989). Modelski and Thompson
find a set of four Kondratieffs in Song China between 930 and 1250
AD. Since then however, and that is in my view a major limitation
of their work, they see the technologically innovating motor force
and the world-economic center of their Kondratieff waves as
shifting to Western Europe. The site of the "technological
innovations" driving their 19 Kondratieff cycles shifts from China
to Europe, beginning with the fifth one after 1190: "After Sung
China, the leadership of change shifted to Genoa and Venice before
moving farther west to Portugal and more recent global system
leaders" (Modelski and Thompson 1996/1994:225 and Tables 7.2, 8.3].
Yet according to much of the evidence brought above, the world
economy and its leading centers, if any, remained in Asia until at
least 1800. The "resolution" of this apparent contradiction may be
sought at least in part by examining the "sectors" in which
Modelski and Thompson identify these "innovations." The first four,
beginning with printing and paper in 930, were in China. Beginning
with their Kondratieff [K] No. 5 in 1190, they are "in" Europe;
but let's see how European and/or technological they were: The
first beginning in 1190 was in the Champaign Fairs. Then came Black
Sea trade, Venetian galley fleets, Pepper, Guinea Gold, Indian
Spices, Baltic/Atlantic trade, and Asian Trade through K12 from the
1580s. Then in the seventeenth century, K13 and K14 center on
Amerasian trade (plantations) and Amerasian trade, respectively.
Finally only after 1740 comes cotton and iron [isn't that a bit
early since the British cotton technology inventions did not even
start till the 1760s?]. In the nineteenth century, they are steam
and railroads; steel, chemicals, electrics; and in the twentieth
century, autos, aerospace, electronics; and information industries.
Note however, how each one of the "innovative" sectors from K6 in
1250 to K14 from 1688 to 1740 were Asian trade related [Black Sea,
"Venetian" galleys, pepper, spices, "Asian trade" etc.]; except for
the Guinea gold that was to finance this trade, and the one
Baltic/Atlantic one. Moreover, none of them were in an industrial/
manufacturing sector until K 15, beginning [rather too early] in
1740. So are not Modelski and Thompson also suffering from
"misplaced concreteness" in identifying "innovations" in a European
"center" of the world economy, which were no more than reflections
of the long-winded European attempts to benefit from the real
centers of economic activity in Asia? Modelski and Thompson
(1996/1994: 217) themselves recognise that during their K5 to K9
"for another two-three centuries, until and including the time of
Columbus ... the Chinese market still served as the magnet for
Yes indeed, but they are cutting the powers of attraction of the
Chinese and other Asian magnets at least another three centuries
short! For "Portugal's route to India was a graft upon the maritime
trunk of that by then traditional network of long-distance trade"
and "because Asian trade was a critical component of the entire
Dutch network" and also before that (Modelski and Thompson
1996/1994:154, 113). It may be, as Modelski and Thompson
(1996/1994:97) claim, that "world powers, in their learning cycles,
account for the majority of basic economic innovations." In that
case, the Europeans were rather slow to learn, for the world
economic and political powers still remained in Asia at least three
centuries after the Europeans arrived there! It could be
instructive to attempt to find Asian centered evidence for their
world economic Kondratieffs.
Metzler (1994) also extends the search for Kondratieffs
horizontally and argues that Japan and apparently China experienced
about 50 year long Kondratieff waves whose timing at least was the
same as the "classical" European and American based Kondratieffs.
He suggests that they may have been systemically -horizontally in
Fletcher's terminology - related.
A. Gunder Frank
Braudel, Fernand 1992. The Perspective of the World Vol. III of
Civilization and Capitalism 15th-18th Century. Berkeley,
University of California Press.
Frank, Andre Gunder 1978a. World Accumulation 1492-1789, New York:
Monthly Review Press and London: Macmillan Press
Goldstein, Joshua S. 1988. Long Cycles. Prosperity and War in
the Modern Age. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Metzler, Mark 1994. "Capitalist Bomm, Feudal Bust: Long Waves in
Economics and Politics in Pre-Indusrrial Japan" Review,
XVII,1, Winter: 57-119.
Modelski, George and Wiliam Thompson 1996. Leading Sectors and
World Powers: The Co-Evolution of Global Economics and
Politics.Columbia: University of South Caronmia Press
[page references are to the 1994 manuscript].
Wallerstein, Immanuel 1974. The Modern World-System. Vol. I.
New York: Academic Books.
------ 1980. The Modern World-System II. New York: Academic
------ 1989. The Modern World-System III. The Second Era of
Great Expansion of the Capitalist World-Economy 1730-1840s.
New York: Academic Press.