The foundation of the modern world system can be traced back centuries to the collapse of the Roman Empire and the subsequent introduction of the feudal system in Medieval Europe which heavily relied upon peasants working the agrarian base of the economy. The landed gentry then extracted the wealth created by the peasants, and, using paid military forces, they commanded taxation or tribute which supported entire divisions of labor. Because these rulers didn’t have the necessary means to fund wars, they began to take out loans from merchants in Italian port cities. Thus, merchant capitalism, a primitive accumulation of capital, developed and placed emphasis on income from trade which was lucrative for the merchants who consequently became rulers of these powerful city-states that were protected by purchased military might.
The agrarian-based feudal states perceived the increasing wealth, power, and military strength of the merchant city-states as a threat, and, as result, the feudal states changed their structure to rely more heavily upon the new relationship formed between the feudal elite and merchant capitalists. Through this new relationship, capitalists generated wealth through commerce, and monarchs extracted the wealth through bureaucrats in order to provide military protection to ensure that capitalists could generate further wealth through commerce. As a response to the powerful city-states, major kings centralized authority and offered further protection of trade routes with their newfound income, resulting in the Treaty of Westphalia in 1618 CE, paving way for what came to be known as Westphalian Sovereignty. This sovereignty resulted in one government monopolizing decision-making and violence within a specific geographic boundary, a boundary that became clear, mutually exclusive, and shared contiguous borders. This sovereignty also ensured that states were legally equal with one another and didn’t interfere with others’ internal affairs (Fincher 2014d).
Then came the centralization of political power, the expansion of state administration and bureaucratic structures, an interstate diplomatic system, the emergence of standing armies, and sustained interest in overseas commerce. With this increased interest in overseas commerce and growth of military capabilities came the establishment of defendable ports abroad to protect trade routes. This was a strong step towards colonialism (Fincher 2014a) which can be defined as “direct political control of a society and its people by a foreign ruling state” (Go 2007).
“Mother” countries began to expand these ports abroad to increase profitability and accrue more wealth, natural resources, and cheap labor from the native countries they were located in, all of which were in high demand with the coming of the Industrial Revolution which acted as a catalyst for further colonialism. Industrial capitalism, also known as “factory capitalism,” arose from the innovations spurred in...