The following is a section from the book manuscript GLOBALIZATION 1400-1800
by Andre Gunder Frank

Kondratieff Analysis

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 world trade."

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.