viernes, 1 de junio de 2012

Power with (versus?) Power over in a Lego World

The real revolution of social media has been the possibility that has been given to almost everyone to connect and have a voice. Thus, the international arena has dramatically changed from a State-centric world to a multi-dimensional network where diverse regional, sub-regional and personal actors interconnect and inter-act. As Anne-Marie Slaughter depicts it, we have left a world formed as a billiards set where only States/billiard balls played a role, to a Lego World, where still States are important, but their multiple components can also interact and play their own individual role. 
In this Lego World, new technologies allow everyone to interact, thus giving a chance to individual actors to add their own personal capital - and relatively small power - in order to reach collective goals. This, for Slaughter is collaborative power: the chance to mobilize and connect with others, adapting one own's preferences looking for a collective action before a problem. This is what she considers the new way to exercise "power with" others.
I believe that this is entirely true. We are living a time where States are almost obliged to engage with different other multiple actors - including individuals - because social media have empowered everyone. Nevertheless, I doubt whether the real goal of States would be reinforce this "power with" leaving aside their ultimate goal of exercising "power over" others. What I perceive is that some States - principally the United States - are able to utilize social media and new tools in order to give the perception that everyone is empowered and that they are open to a dialogue to work "with" everyone. As Alec Ross said in a recent discussion on Digital Diplomacy, technologies are value-neutral, but they are important when they allow the United States to make concrete their own foreign policy goals. A foreign policy objective of the United States is to promote democracy all around the globe. For this specific purpose, social media is a great tool. Where the jury is still out is how other State-actors (i.e. a European, Latin-American, African or Asian country) can benefit from these tools in order to promote their own objectives. 
What I mean is that the United States has seized the opportunity of social media and is working "with" many others in order to work out its influence and to have "power over" other actors. It still has a big chunk of the Lego game within. It is still to see if it also works for other States which are only learning to play with the Lego. In the meantime, every individual has the chance to have a little bit more of voice and power, That is already a good thing. But watch out! Lego can be built in a collaborative positive way but it can also be used for some other actors - I am thinking i terrorist groups, by instance - to create dangerous networks. 

And whether we like it or not, States are still the only actors that have the monopoly on the use of violence and a responsibility to protect. Those are still the rules of the game even in a Lego world.

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