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Volume 20, 2004

World-System Analysis: Contemporary Research and Directions

Denis O’Hearn
Pages 85-101

Path-Dependency, Stocks, Switching-Points, Flows
Reflections on Long-term Global Change and Local Opportunities

This paper examines the possibilities for peripheral localities to achieve upward mobility in the world-system by “hooking on” to larger processes of world-system accumulation. In particular, is it possible for economies that are dependent on foreign investment to receive a flow of investments that is high enough to overcome the negative impacts of a high stock of foreign investment, thus enabling them to cross a threshold and achieve upward mobility in the world-system? An analysis of the recent experience of the southern Irish “Celtic Tiger” economy during 1990-2000 indicates that such an upward movement is possible on the basis of massive foreign investment inflows. On closer examination, however, the Irish-type model appears to be highly deficient, because a high proportion of growth is illusionary and also on grounds of social desirability and lack of generalizability.