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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 13: Dusko Sekulic: Meta-power and the Disintegration of Yugoslavia


439 C H A P T E R 1 3 Meta-power and the Disintegration of Yugoslavia1 Dusko Sekulic The usual critique of functionalism – also known as system theory – is that it is in- adequate in describing social change. In this paper, I will try to see if we can suc- cessfully apply the concepts, theoretical framework and vocabulary of meta-power (and its foundations in actor-system-dialectics (ASD Theory), to explain an eminent- ly dynamic event of recent history – the dissolution of Yugoslavia.2 In its early stages, the ASD framework was used to analyze the dynamics and basic conflicts underlying institutional and social development in Yugoslavia after WWII (Baumgartner, Burns, Sekulic 1986; Sekulic 1989). The question can be asked if the same conceptual apparatus can be fruitfully employed to capture the dramatic revolutionary transition from communism to post-communism in the context of the dissolution of the communist state and “war of succession”. Other approaches em- phasize mass movements or ideological tendencies – mainly the rise of nationalism and nationalist movements – to explain these events. ASD Theory instead postu- lates that the major struggles of human history evolve around the mobilization and utilization of meta-power in the formation and reformation of major rule systems. Through this lens the dissolution of Yugoslavia can be regarded as a result of the key actors’ struggle over rules and power to set rules. These actors were an “exclu- sive club” of the party leadership of the republics and the federal center, clustered around the “president for life” – Josip...

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