Convulsions in the semiperiphery: Belarus, Kazakstan and Ukraine in the world economy

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

First Committee Member

Vendulka Kubalkova - Committee Chair


It should come as no surprise that in the first decade after the collapse of the Soviet Union into a multitude of independent sovereign states, the confusion and the lack of consensus of Western scholars about the nature of the tessera into which the Soviet Union broke up persists. In this dissertation I take two Western schools of thought from opposite ends of the political spectrum, both of which have dealt with the Soviet Union and its successors, and examine their similarities and differences in both theoretical and practical terms. The two schools of thought I examine are the mainstream US modernization economic theories of development of such authors as Walt Rostow, Albert Hirschman and Simon Kuznets, juxtaposed against the response to these theories and protest against them: the world-systems approach which is associated with authors such as Immanuel Wallerstein, Christopher Chase-Dunn, Andre Gunder Frank or Samir Amin. Having examined the two schools, I test their utility on three cases of former Soviet republics: Belarus, Kazakstan and Ukraine. I examine how the two schools answer five questions. First, what is the status in the world economy of these three new republics? Second, what is the character of their economic transition? Third, what are the likely prospects of these three countries within the world economy? Fourth, if economic growth and increased living standards are their stated goals, can these goals be achieved, and by what method? Fifth, does the concept of semiperiphery developed by world-system theorists to accommodate the peculiarity of the Soviet Union have any continuing utility?Although this dissertation is based upon a juxtaposition of two very unlikely approaches, world-system and mainstream economic approaches, I will argue that despite their differences, that there is a degree of complementarity in the two approaches. In my view, the world-system concept of semiperiphery places the current situations of Belarus, Kazakstan, and Ukraine in the much broader context of world economy but leaves out any specific policy advice. Development economics lacks a clear perspective on the origin and impetus of development problems but provides prescriptions, albeit of uneven quality, to achieve economic development. I will examine the answers of the two bodies of theory to the five questions around which this dissertation centers.


Economics, General; Economics, Finance; Economics, Theory

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