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The above three facts of life have been around in all organized societies in one form or another since time immemorial. In the modern world system however,

(which began around 1492, after the founding of the Americas by and for the Europeans) the three facts of human societies also became the operating principles of the expanding interstate system. In other words, polarization, exploitation and hierarchy became dominant, not only amongst individuals but also between the various nation states of the world. To be sure, the forms the above three express themselves keep on changing from time to time and place to place, both at the level of the individual and the state.
The ‘world system analysis’(Immanuel Wallerstein, Samir Amin, Andre Gunder Frank, Giovanni Arrighi, et al) classifies the nation states of the world as core, semi-periphery and periphery. The core countries are the real bosses of the modern world system and they constitute the OECD countries. The countries in Africa, probably with the exception of South Africa are the core periphery, while the rest, (like the former socialists or the current BRICS (Brazil, Russia, China, India, and South Africa) are the in-betweens, i.e. the semi-peripheries. Those of us who find ourselves in the periphery always get the short end of the stick, so to speak, i.e. the three dominant features of the system (hierarchy, exploitation, polarization) are intensely applied in our case, while they are eased/tempered in the case of the semi-periphery.
Relational forms based on the above three and more (identity politics-racism, sexism, etc.,) tend to change through time. For instance outright racism and its economic manifestation-slavery ultimately became untenable and other forms were needed to keep entrenched economic relations going. In this regard, the systematic proletariazation of all works, not only of the ‘blue collar’ types, is a case in point. In the same vein, colonialism became neo-colonialism, etc. In all the above however, the underlining economic relations of the system remained relatively intact. Two hundred years ago polarization, measured as GDP per capita (in PPP- purchasing power parity) was only about 1 to 3 between the core and the periphery. Today it is about 1 to 80! This shows the global system has become even more polarized when it comes to the most important relations of them all- economic. After ‘flag independence’ and the pursuit of various alleged transformational ideologies, we in Africa remain particularly shackled to the unequal exchange of the system that underlies ‘polarization’ (i.e. in all our economic affairs – trade/investment/debt, etc.) See Hickel’s article on page 50.
The current regime of global economic management run by the IMF, World Bank, World Trade Organization, EU (for ex, Economic Partnership Agreement) etc., is not going to bring economic liberation to the periphery, despite all the useless rhetoric that is preached from the institutions of the core. The phony learning that pushes the blind acceptance of the global status quo is another of the prevailing impediments. By and large, the sterilized learning of economics intentionally cuts out concrete reality (political economy of the world system) from its curriculum. This is done to avoid serious debates on our predicament! From our perspective, which mostly rests on our massive learning at the prestigious/unique ivory tower, prominently named the kebele pub house; the whole exercise such rarefied learning obtained from establishment institutions (econometrics, blah, blah) is simply vacuous. As if this is not enough, the flood of graduating drones from the mills/universities, (mostly characterized as the unthinking types) continue to preach, not only useless knowledge, but also frighteningly subjugating narratives in order to secure acceptance by the institutions of the core! That is why we repeatedly say; ‘independent thinking is hard to come by!’ If the East Asians had adhered to the dominant narrative, they wouldn’t have come this far and we are not talking about China alone (Japan, South Korea, Taiwan.)
Naturally behind the economic management of the system there is also the aggressive military management of the modern world system spearheaded by NATO. If truth be told, NATO is mostly a political organ in uniform. By and large it is the various US Commands that actually engage in warfare all over the world. AFRICOM (Africa Command of the USA) is only the latest addition to the already formidable military might of empire. Military might has always been the main enforcer of the prevailing world order. In short, this is what the initiators of the world system analysis have labeled ‘exploitation.’ See Wallerstein’s articles next column and on page 50.
Hierarchy is best understood when looking at the functioning of the so-called International Organizations, the United Nations, etc. For example, however hard it applies itself to look representative, (General Assembly, etc.) balanced, (various development goals, etc.) sensitive, (human rights, food, health, etc.) even thoughtful (climate change, etc.) the UN system comes through (mostly) as one of the primary tools of the system’s bosses – the core countries. After all the UN is the creation of the victors of the Second World War! Hence and realistically speaking, it cannot all of a sudden change its true colors. It is the permanent members of the UN Security Council (USA, UK, France, Russia, China) that dictate (with veto powers) global affairs and not the grand standing/sounding/talking shop – that goes by the name General Assembly. Here is ‘hierarchy’ for you!
Be that as it may, the above three relational concepts are being challenged in subtle and nuanced forms every day and everywhere. From the look of it, this nuisance of the downtrodden is making the bosses of the system a bit nervous. Don’t forget the core also has its bosses and serfs as well, both within the collective and inside individual countries. Right now the serfs (even with all their democracies on earth) don’t have much of a say when it comes to rethinking their economic wellbeing that is based on all sorts of unsustainables! At times it seems we (all the serfs) are exchangeables as holders of the short end of the stick! Look at the current situation in Europe and the US and how the system bosses treat their beasts (human mass.)
Here is what a libertarian philosopher/investor has to say about the going-ons. “Rulers and would-be rulers view the rest of our species as milk cows, to be kept alive and milked for as long as possible, no matter how much joy is taken from them. The purpose of life, however, is to enjoy yourself. It’s not to be treated like part of a herd and be fed what your master wants for his own purposes.” Doug Casey. Good Day!