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The End of Power

From Boardrooms to Battlefields and Churches to States, Why Being in Charge Isn’t What It Used To Be

By Moisés Naím
18-minute read
Audio available
The End of Power: From Boardrooms to Battlefields and Churches to States, Why Being in Charge Isn’t What It Used To Be by Moisés Naím

The End of Power makes the case for how advances changes in technology and society have caused the old fortresses of power to crumble. We now face a brand new paradigm of power, one that isn’t hoarded by an elite few, but rather split amongst us all. But what does that mean for society and government?

  • Anyone interested in foreign policy
  • Anyone interested in culture and social phenomena
  • Anyone interested in political science

Moisés Naím is the former trade minister of Venezuela, executive director of the World Bank, editor in chief of Foreign Policy and fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

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The End of Power

From Boardrooms to Battlefields and Churches to States, Why Being in Charge Isn’t What It Used To Be

By Moisés Naím
  • Read in 18 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 11 key ideas
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The End of Power: From Boardrooms to Battlefields and Churches to States, Why Being in Charge Isn’t What It Used To Be by Moisés Naím
Synopsis

The End of Power makes the case for how advances changes in technology and society have caused the old fortresses of power to crumble. We now face a brand new paradigm of power, one that isn’t hoarded by an elite few, but rather split amongst us all. But what does that mean for society and government?

Key idea 1 of 11

Power is crumbling everywhere.

Protesters have taken to Wall Street and other public places around the world to voice their concerns about the increasing concentration of wealth and power among the “one percent,” who in their view only grow more powerful as time progresses. Reporters and foreign relations experts have long made predictions about America’s decline and China’s rise to power.

Yet when we examine political relations more closely, we see that something much more fundamental is happening to the distribution of power in the world. But first, what is power exactly?

In essence, power is the ability to make others do what you want them to do. Parents exert power when they make their kids eat their vegetables before they can have dessert. Power is at work when Barack Obama motivated large numbers of young people to become engaged with party politics in the 2008 presidential elections.

But power is also relational, and the traditional barriers that reinforced the position of the mighty and prevented potential rivals from becoming significant challengers are weakening rapidly.

These barriers permeate our society. They are military arsenals, access to resources, available capital, brand recognition, the moral authority of a religious leader and the rules governing elections. Any challenger to power has to overcome them.

Yet while these barriers have always been present, they’ve become less and less stable over the last three decades. Capital moves more quickly, military weapons and training are increasingly available, the knowledge-base of academia is being democratized, and so on.

Consequently, the traditionally powerful are having difficulty maintaining their position. Today, even the most powerful people and organizations can be ruined in a heartbeat.

Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, for example, was trashed practically overnight. The once esteemed Tiger Woods had his reputation dragged into the gutter just as quickly.

One has only to look to the length of asymmetrical wars, such as Vietnam or the War on Terror, to see how flimsy something as seemingly cut and dried as military might can be.

But why has the nature and distribution of power changed so drastically?

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