Immanuel Wallerstein's World-System Theory and the Disaster Relief Action: A Mixed-Method Empirical Study of the 2015 Earthquake in Nepal


  • Anup Adhikari Saraswati Multiple Campus, Tribhuvan University



Disaster Relief Action, Disaster Studies, Earthquakes, Nepal, Immanuel Wallerstein, World-System Theory


Disaster is an unexpected natural or human-generated catastrophe that ensues calamitous events and disrupts the functioning of the social spheres of individuals. It creates predicaments and vulnerability, damages lives and infrastructures, manifests the negative consequences as hazards and requires social resilience for recovery. Nepal is susceptible to natural disasters, and the genesis of emergencies in a specific time frame has transformed the social semblance in execrable circumstances. This article explores the disciplinary context of disaster studies. It examines whether Immanuel Wallerstein's World-System Theory fits into studying disaster relief action policy at the time of the massive earthquake in 2015 in Nepal, with empirical references. The research is conducted through mixed methods incorporating secondary data with a literature review. The significant findings present that earthquake management strategies and relief action policies are constructed in the aftermath of disasters, lacking preliminary preparedness—the dilemma and coordination between national agencies' dearth in great quantity during the post-disaster phase. As an underdeveloped country, the government of Nepal has sought international assistance due to the preliminary assessment that the Central Natural Disaster Relief Committee facilitated to manage the critical predicament fabricated by the devastating earthquake. After the seismic event, international support was immediately provided as humanitarian aid, but later, the pledge donation was delivered in the form of grants and loans from developed nations. Furthermore, the consequences conclude that an underdeveloped nation, Nepal, as a periphery country, depended upon other semi-developed and developed nations acknowledged as semi-periphery and core countries, respectively. Hence, Wallerstein's World-System Theory matches the disaster relief action policy in the 2015 earthquake in Nepal to prevent the problematic appearance of an earthquake-victimized population.


Adhikari, A., Hasset, B. E., Lamsal, R., & Sherpa, S. T. (2016). Nepal's 2015 Earthquake: Communication and the Marginalization of Dalits. An Interactive Qualifying Project, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Digital WPI, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Massachusetts. Retrieved March 7, 2024, from /212969119.pdf

Alesina, A., & Dollar, D. (2000, March). Who Gives Foreign Aid to Whom and Why? Journal of Economic Growth, 5(1), 33-63 . Retrieved March 8, 2024, from

Apodaca, C. (2017, April 26). Foreign Aid as Foreign Policy Tool. doi:

Bandyopadhyay, S., & Vermann, E. K. (2013). Donor Motives for Foreign Aid. St. Louis: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. Retrieved June 25, 2023, from

BBC News. (2015, June 25). Nepal earthquake: India and China pledge millions in aid. Retrieved March 7, 2024, from BBC News Services:

Buss, T. F. (2013). Foreign aid and the failure of state building in Haiti under the Duvaliers, Aristide, Préval, and Martelly. United Nations University, World Institute for Development Economics Research (UNU-WIDER). Helsinki: Retrieved March 8, 2024, from

Cassidy , J. F. (2016). Encyclopedia of Natural Hazards. (P. T. Bobrowsky, Ed.) Dordrecht, Netherlands: Springer. doi: /978-1-4020-4399-4_104

Central Department of Population Studies, Tribhuvan University. (2015). Nepal Earthquake 2015: A Socio-Demographic Impact Study. United Nations Population Fund and the International Organization for Migration. Kathmandu: Government of Nepal, Ministry of Population and Environment. Retrieved July 4, 2023, from

Chase-Dunn, C. (1996). World-Systems: Similarities and Differences. (S. C. Chew, & R. A. Denemark, Eds.) London, UK: Sage Publications. Retrieved July 5, 2023, from elopment0000unse_y7d4/page/n3/mode/2up

Cook, A. D., Shrestha, M., & Htet, Z. B. (2016). International Response to 2015 Nepal Earthquake: Lessons and Observations. Nanyang Technolog ical University, Centre for Non Traditional Security Studies: S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies. Nanyang Avenue: Nanyang Technological University. Retrieved October 18, 2023, from S_Report_4_Nepal_final_04Oct2016.pdf

Frank, A. G. (1967). Capitalism and Underdevelopment in Latin America (Vol. 93). United States of America: New York University Press. Retrieved August 8, 2023

Galtung, J. (1971). A Structural Theory of Imperialism. Journal of Peace Research, 8(2), 81-117. Retrieved March 8, 2024, from

Goda, K., Kiyota, T., Pokhrel, R. M., Chiaro, G., Katagiri, T., Sharma, K., & Wilkinson, S. (2015, June 22). The 2015 Gorkha Nepal Earthquake: Insights from Earthquake Damage Survey. (S. Tesfama riam, Ed.) Frontiers in Built Environment, 1(8), 1-15. doi:https://doi. org/10.3389/fbuil.2015.00008

Government of Nepal, Ministry of Home Affairs. (2013). National Disaster Response Framework. Kathmandu: Ministry of Home Affairs. Retrieved July 5, 2023, from http://drrportal/ ument/113.pdf

Government of Nepal, Ministry of Home Affairs. (2015). Nepal Disaster Report 2015. Kathmandu: GoN, Ministry of Home Affairs and Disaster Preparedness Network-Nepal. Retrieved July 5, 2023, from

Government of Nepal, Ministry of Home Affairs. (2019, February 12). National Policy for Disaster Risk Reduction 2018. Kathmandu: United Nations Development Programme. Retrieved June 24, 2023, from drrportal:

Government of Nepal, National Planning Commission. (2015). Nepal Earthquake 2015: Post Disaster Needs Assessment. Kathmandu: GoN NPC, A, 1-107. Retrieved July 3, 2023, from

Guha-Sapir, D., Hoyois, P., & Below, R. (2015). Annual Disaster Statistical Review 2014: The numbers and trends. Brussels: Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED), nstitute of Health and Society (IRSS), Université catholique de Louvain. Retrie ved March 8, 2024, from /files/ADSR_2014.pdf

Hall, T. D., Kardulias, P. N., & Chase-Dunn, C. (2011, September ). World-Systems Analysis and Archaeology: Continuing the Dialogue. Journal of Archaeological Research, 19, 233–279. doi:

Harvey, D. (2003). The New Imperialism. Oxford University Press. doi:

He, C., Huang, Q., Bai, X., Robinson, D. T., Shi, P., Dou, Y., . . . Daniell, J. (2021, December 21). A Global Analysis of the Relationship Between Urbanization and Fatalities in Earthquake-Prone Areas. International Journal of Disaster Risk Science, 12(6), 805-820. doi:

Humanitarian Country Team. (2016). Contingency Plan. Commissioner of the Department of Disaster Management Affairs and Resident Coordinator of the United Nations in Malawi. Retrieved July 5, 2023, from

International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. (2023). What is a disaster? Retrieved June 23, 2023, from IFRC:

Jaiswal, P. (2022). Changing Contours of Nepal-China Relations. In P. Jaiswal , & A. Ranjan (Eds.), South Asia Discussion Papers, Nepal’s Foreign Policy in a Changing World (pp. 23-30). Singapore: Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore and Nepal Institute for International Cooperation and Engagement. Retrieved March 7, 2024, from

Karkee, R., & Comfort, J. (2016, August 24). NGOs, Foreign Aid, and Development in Nepal. (E. Broughton, Ed.) Frontiers in Public Health, 4(177), 1-5. doi:

Karki, J., Matthewman, S., & Grayman, J. H. (2022, October 25). Rahat-Sahayog (Relief Support): Examining Disaster Emergency Response in the Aftermath of the Nepal Earthquake 2015. Disaster Prevention and Management, 31(5), 494-507. doi:

Keck, M., & Sakdapolrak, P. (2013, March 20). What Is Social Resilience? Lessons Learned and Ways Forward. Erdkunde, 67(1), 5-19. doi:DOI: 10.3112/erdkunde.2013.01.02

Lal, P. N., Singh, R., & Holland, P. (2009). Relationship Between Natural Disasters and Poverty: A Fiji Case Study. United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, International Strategy for Disaster Reduction. Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery . Retrieved June 24, 2023, from es/11851_11851R25PovertyAFijiCaseStudylowres.pdf

Letukas, L., & Barnshaw, J. (2008, December 1). A World-System Approach to Post-Catastrophe International Relief. Social Forces, 87(2), 1063--1087. doi:

Lindell, M. K. (2013, May 30). Disaster Studies. Current Sociology, 61(5-6), 797-825. doi:

Little, W., Vyain, S., Scaramuzzo, G., Cody-Rydzewski, S., Griffiths, H., Strayer, E., . . . McGivern, R. (2013). Introduction to Sociology - 1st Canadian Edition (1st ed.). OpenStax College Rice University. Retrieved June 25, 2023, from osociology/chapter/chapter10-global-inequality/

Manuelli, R., & Vizcaino, J. I. (2017). Natural Disasters and Growth: The Role of Foreign Aid and Disaster Insurance. 2017 Meeting Papers 1118 (pp. 1-31). Society for Economic Dynamics. Retrieved June 24, 2023, from 2017/paper_1118.pdf

Martínez-Vela, C. A. (2001). World Systems Theory. In D. A. Mindell (Ed.), Research Seminar in Engineering Systems ESD.83 (pp. 1-5). Cambridge: Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Retrieved June 24, 2023, from ldSystem.pdf

Marx, K. (1890). Das Kapital (4th ed., Vol. 1). (H. G. Ehrbar, Ed.) Retriev ed March 8, 2024, from 1.pdf

Ministry of Finance, Government of Nepal. (2019). Development Cooper ation Report. Kathmandu: International Economic Cooperation Coordination Division, Ministry of Finance. Retrieved October 25, 2023, from _2019_20200304043803.pdf

Nepalese Army. (2015). Nepal Earthquake 2015: Nepalese Army Experience and Lessons Learnt. Kathmandu: Ministry of Home Affairs, United Nations Development Programme, Nepal Administrative Staff College. Retrieved October 18, 2023, from /sites/default/files/documents/Col.NareshSubba.pdf

Nunn, N., & Qian, N. (2014, June). US Food Aid and Civil Conflict. American Economic Review, 104(6), 1630-66. doi: 257/aer.104.6.1630

Pelling, M., & Uitto, J. I. (2011, June 15). Small island developing states: natural disaster vulnerability and global change. Environmental Hazards, 3(2), 49-62. doi:

Perry, R. W. (2007). What Is a Disaster? (H. Rodríguez, E. L. Quarantelli, & R. R. Dynes, Eds.) New York, United States of America: Springer. doi:

Rahman, M. T., & Majchrzak, T. A. (2022, December 26). Making decisions for effective humanitarian actions: a conceptual framework for relief distribution. Journal of International Humanitari an Action, 7, Article number 24. doi: 8-022-00132-z

Raut, K. B. (2016). Nepal Earthquake 2015: Lesson Learnt and Future Guidance. Health and DRR Conference. Bangkok: United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction. Retrieved October 25, 2023, from

Regmi, K. D. (2016, September 28). The political economy of 2015 Nepal earthquake: some critical reflections. Asian Geographer, 33(2), 77-96. doi:

Reliefweb. (2015, June 1). Post-Earthquake Relief, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Measures undertaken by the Government of Nepal. Retrieved July 5, 2023, from port/nepal/post-earthquake-relief-rehabilitation-and-reconstructio n-measures-undertaken-government

Sharma, K., KC, A., Subedi, M., & Pokharel, B. (2018, June 4). Post Disaster Reconstruction after 2015 Gorkha Earthquake: Challenges and Influencing Factors. Journal of the Institute of Engineering, 14(1), 52–63. doi:

Shaw, R., & Goda, K. (2004, February 27). From Disaster to Sustainable Civil Society: The Kobe Experience. Disasters, 28(1), 16-40. doi:

Shrestha, B., & Pathranarakul, P. (2018, August 1). Nepal Government’s Emergency Response to the 2015 Earthquake: A Case Study. Social Sciences, 7(8), 1-27. doi:

Siriwardena, N. U., Haigh, R. P., & Ingirige, M. J. (2007). Disaster! In Search of a Definition: Specific to Construction Industry. Proceedings of the 7th International Postgraduate Research Conference in the Built and Human Environment (pp. 249-259). Salford: Research Institute for the Built and Human Environment, University of Salford. Retrieved June 24, 2023, from n/iconda/CIB16562.pdf

Thapa, I. (2020). Foreign Aid: Positive and Negative Impact in Developing Countries. Public Administration Campus, Tribhuvan University. Kathmandu: Public Administration Campus. doi: /10.13140/RG.2.2.19155.81448

Thapa, N. B. (2016). Nepal Earthquake 2015: Lesson Learnt and Future Guidance. Phuket: Government of Nepal, Ministry of Home Affairs. Retrieved July 5, 2023, from cuments/01_Nepal_Nepal%20Earthquake%20ACDR2016.pdf

The Asia Foundation, UK Aid, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, Democracy Resource Center. (2016). Nepal Government Distribution of Earthquake Reconstruction Cash Grants for Private Houses. San Francisco: The Asia Foundation. Retrieved July 5, 2023, from

United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction. (2023). Disaster. Retrieved June 24, 2023, from undrr: inology/disaster#

United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. (2015). Humanitarian Bulletin: Nepal Earthquake. Kathmandu: United Nations. Retrieved October 25, 2023, from https://www.humanitar

Wallerstein, I. (1974). The Modern World System: Capitalist Agriculture and the Origins of the European World-Economy in the Sixteenth Century. New York, United States of America: Academic Press. Retrieved June 24, 2023

Wallerstein, I. (1974). The Rise and Future Demise of the World Capitalist System: Concepts for Comparative Analysis. Comparative Studies in Society and History, 16(4), 387-415. doi: 1017/S0010417500007520

Wallerstein, I. (2004). World-Systems Analysis: In World System History (Vol. 1). (G. Modelski, & R. A. Denemark, Eds.) Oxford, UK: Eolss Publishers. Retrieved July 6, 2023, from ooklib/bookinfo/world-system-history.aspx

Wallerstein, I. (2011). The Modern World-System I: Capitalist Agriculture and the Origins of the European World-Economy in the Sixteenth Century (1st ed.). University of California Press. Retrieved March 3, 2024, from

Wamba, S. F., & Queiroz, M. M. (2020, June). Blockchain in the operatio ns and supply chain management: Benefits, challenges and future research opportunities. International Journal of Information Manageme nt, 52, 102064. doi:

Wu, X., Guo, J., & Gonzalez, E. D. (2019, December 20). Determining the amount of international aid that countries should donate after a disaster to alleviate sustainable implications: A new framework for analysis. Journal of Cleaner Production, 241, 118285. doi:https://doi.o rg/10.1016/j.jclepro.2019.118285

Younas, J. (2008, September). Motivation for Bilateral Aid Allocation: Altruism or Trade Benefits. European Journal of Political Economy, 24(3), 661-674. doi: