What Are Periphery Countries?

The definition of which countries are core, periphery, or semi-periphery can evolve as countries develop.
The definition of which countries are core, periphery, or semi-periphery can evolve as countries develop.

Periphery countries are countries who possess a disproportionately small share of the world's wealth. These areas are less developed than the core and the semi-periphery. They have weaker state institutions, and are often dependent on more developed nations. Some critics argue that periphery countries are regularly exploited by countries in the core. Periphery countries may have an unstable government, inferior technologies, and poor health and educational systems. At times, the exploitations of these countries with regards to cheap labor, agriculture, and natural resources may help the core countries remain wealthy. This terminology comes from the World Systems Theory.

What Makes a Country Periphery?

There are several factors that factor in to determine whether or not a country should be considered to be part of the periphery or the core. Some of these factors include:

  • The stability of government.
  • The ability to participate in global trade activities.
  • The quality of education provided in the country.
  • The equality of the wealth in the country.

The Exploitation of Periphery Countries By Core Countries

The World Systems Theory asserts that the position of periphery countries means that they are vulnerable to exploitation by the richer, more powerful core countries. The theory states that the wealthy core countries rely on poor periphery countries for the production of cheap goods to aid in the industrialization of core countries and to help propel them forward. For many core countries, it is less expensive to produce goods outside of the country than to produce them within the country.

Can a Periphery Country Become a Core Country?

It is possible that a periphery country can become a core country. One of the ways in which this is possible is through diversifying industrial production. Many countries in the periphery have an economic system that is still predominantly agricultural based, which can be vulnerable and unproductive. Another pathway to attaining core country status is through stabilizing the government and improving access to education.

In the past, several countries have been able to make the transition from periphery to core countries. Examples of this include Russia, who industrialized rapidly throughout the 20th century. Definitions of what a periphery country is have shifted over time, with the list of periphery countries getting shorter in recent decades. A most recent list of periphery countries is available below.


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