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The Meta-Power Paradigm

Impacts and Transformations of Agents, Institutions, and Social Systems-- Capitalism, State, and Democracy in a Global Context

Edited By Tom R. Burns and Peter M. Hall

This work presents, elaborates, and illustrates what is arguably the most important concept in the social sciences: power. It focuses particularly on a major class of power phenomena, meta-power, that is, power over power, transformative and structuring power. This encompasses powers to establish, reform, and transform social systems (institutions, power hierarchies, cultural formations, and socio-technical and infrastructural systems). Understanding meta-power is essential to the effective analysis of the formation of societal structures, their dynamics and evolution. This collection presents numerous illustrations and case studies at local, meso, and macro levels, showing how meta-powering is mobilized and operates in different contexts. The book should be of particular interest to business and management researchers, anthropologists, historians, legal scholars, political scientists, and, of course, sociologists.


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C H A P T E R 4: Tom Baumgartner, Tom R. Burns, and Philippe DeVille: Meta-power and the Structuring of International Economic Institutions and Exchange


129 C H A P T E R 4 Meta-power and the Structuring of International Economic Institutions and Exchange Tom Baumgartner, Tom R. Burns, and Philippe DeVille The neo-classical models of international trade are based on almost the same as- sumptions as models of economic market exchange in general: only economic con- siderations enter the decision-making process and price is the valid expression of the exchange outcome; structural conditions of complete information and reasonable competition are assumed; instantaneous and correct investment, production, and sell- ing adjustments can be made by each producer; no national governments, interna- tional and supranational organizations have any influence on international exchange; historical and social constraints and limitations do not structure exchange and interac- tion opportunities.1 However, current international economic exchange is dominated by large oligop- olistic firms, multinational corporations, and state-trading organizations. Discriminat- ing trading arrangements in the form of common markets and free trade zones, pref- erential tariff agreements, and nontariff barriers, as well as massive mercantilistic state intervention for purposes of influencing exports and imports, capital and technological transfers, and foreign aid all combine to distort and bias world markets. The histori- cal emergence of “developed” and “underdeveloped” countries resulted in a differ- entiation of corporate and national abilities to establish new markets and to domi- nate selected old ones. In general, countries and their economic agents have highly differentiated abilities to exploit old and to create new exchange opportunities (Linder, 1961; Demas, 1965) and to meta-power the formation and transformation of economic...

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